What 3-Time Olympic Track Athlete Emma Coburn Eats in a Day
You may have wondered, what is it really like to be an Olympic athlete? Could us regular people even relate? Well, we got a chance to catch up with three-time Olympic track athlete Emma Coburn. Not only is she an Olympic bronze medalist in the steeplechase (the track event that involves hurdles and water jumps), world champion and more, she also wrote a fantastic cookbook: The Runner's Kitchen (buy it: $17.19, Target.com).
Emma takes her training and nutrition to her peak potential, making it as delicious as possible along the way. This screams EatingWell to us! We caught up with Coburn about her daily routine, her kitchen go-tos and how she is preparing for this upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, where she will be representing Team USA yet again.
Can you tell me a bit about your morning routine? What is a typical morning like for you?
"I take my dog out, then have a cup of black coffee, a glass of Nuun Sport (buy it: $5.99, Target.com) and a piece of toast with peanut butter and honey. I usually have practice at 9 a.m., so I have about an hour or so to chill and watch TV or be on my phone. Then, I start doing drills and exercises for practice."
What does a typical day of eating look like for you? What are some of your go-to meals?
"I love breakfast food, I could eat it for three meals a day. After practice, I usually go out to a big brunch or I make it myself. French toast, two eggs and breakfast sausage is my go-to. I usually run twice a day, so between my brunch and my P.M. run, I just have a light snack—something like yogurt, fruit or a plate of veggies and lunch meat. After my run, I make sure to get more protein in. I try to get 100 to 120 grams per day, so at every meal, protein is a priority. I might have yogurt after the run while cooking dinner. Then for dinner, I might have pasta with Bolognese sauce, or a big salad with chicken, depending on my training that day and how hungry I am."
Talk me through a typical training day for you. What is your schedule like?
"Practice is at 9 a.m. most days. In a usual week, I'll have three "workouts," which are more-intense sessions. Sometimes those workouts are on the track, sometimes they are just a long 15-mile run with a faster finish. So, every day is a little bit different. On non-workout days, I run 8 to 12 miles. Sometimes 8 miles easy in the morning, then 4 miles easy in the evening. If it is a workout day, we meet for practice, then conduct our workout. The workout usually adds up to 12 miles. Then, we head to our gym and lift weights for an hour. Then off to brunch.
After brunch, I shower and nap and then a few days a week I have a massage or chiropractor appointment. After that, I go on a 4-mile easy run. Then dinner, TV and bed. Workout days are filled with running and eating. An easy day, a day where I just have one 8-mile run, for example, will have more variability with what I do in my regular life. Those days I might have Zoom meetings, a photo shoot, plans with friends or catch up on work."
What are some ways you make sure you are fueled and recovered from your training?
"Eating enough calories is really important for staying healthy. I think a lot of endurance athletes are chronically underfueled. One easy thing I do to make sure that I am properly fueled is to always bring my protein shake with me to every run (even after an easy run). I also always finish my plate of food, always. It is my job to eat enough food, so I commit to it."
I saw that you wrote a cookbook, The Runner's Kitchen (buy it: $17.19, Target.com). What inspired you on this venture? Also, what is your favorite recipe from the book?
"I love cooking and baking. My mom is a great cook and once I went to college and had to cook for myself, I started to get more into making up recipes and trying to improve. When I graduated and became a professional runner, I had a lot more time on my hands than I was used to, so I cooked a lot more. I would share some of my cooking on Instagram and would receive so many requests for the recipes that I was creating. When the publisher reached out with the offer to write a cookbook, it was a no-brainer for me. It was a really fun way to share what I like to cook and what I like to eat. Two of my favorite things in the book are the Best Friend Bolognese and the Baked Fried Chicken Sammy."
What is one kitchen tool you can't live without?
"Knives. Is that too obvious? Beyond that, I use my KitchenAid stand mixer almost daily. My mom bought this KitchenAid in a garage sale from an elderly neighbor back in the 1980s. Now it's mine, and it still works great!"
Here are the best chef's knives, according to our Test Kitchen.
What is one food that is always in your fridge?
Spruce up your yogurt by adding crunch and fruit. We have ample parfait recipe inspiration.
What is one food that we will never find in your kitchen/that you can't stand?
"I hate fish. I always have. Maybe once a year, I'll cook a piece of salmon for my husband, but really, you will never find fish in my fridge."
Favorite meal/drink/dessert for celebrating?
"I love a good margarita. I also love chocolate ice cream, cheesecake or chocolate mousse."
Last but certainly not least, here at EatingWell, we ask everyone we interview: what does "eating well" mean to you?
"EatingWell to me means giving my body the fuel it needs to be healthy and do its job. Eating food that fuels me, makes me happy and makes me feel good."
Fuel is a crucial part of getting the most of your workout, and it's important to be strategic with what you eat before, during and after. Emma's dedicated training schedule inspires us, and her love of food is super relatable. From protein-packed meals to enjoying a margarita every now and then, her diet strikes a nice balance of nutritious, sustainable and delicious. Follow along on her Instagram for more on her road to the Olympics. We can't wait to cheer her on in the 2020 Tokyo Games!