Kim Conley is a professional runner who qualified for the 2012 US Olympic team by accomplishing a dramatic comeback during the final lap in the Women’s 5000 meter qualifying race. She accomplished that feat by dogged pursuit of continuous improvement when she refused to give up: her 2009 5000m personal record was almost a full minute slower than the 2012 qualifying standard.
On her website, Conley says that her pre-race meal is Spaghetti Bolognese, that her post-race favorites are hamburger or pizza with bear, and that her end-of-season treat is a Guinness float. We love hearing about all kinds of habits, so we were eager to learn more about the rest of her training philosophy!
How do you start your own day? Do you have any daily rituals or routines?
I wake up around 7am and take my resting heart rate before getting out of bed. For breakfast I have steel cut oats made with milk and fruit and 1-2 cups of coffee. My first training session of the day is usually at 9am.
What are your eating habits like? Do you follow any specific program of eating?
I strive for a healthy, well balanced diet. I like to include a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. I don’t limit any food group nor emphasize any one in particular.
There’s so much research being done and advice being published, how do you tell what’s real and what’s fake? How do you decide what’s relevant and what isn’t?
I consult with a muscle scientist, Dr. Keith Baar out of UC Davis, who helps guide the decisions I make in regards to nutrition. The work we do focuses mainly on nutritional interventions to elevate performance, but he is always a great resource for general nutrition questions I have as well.
Is there any current thinking about diet and fitness that needs to be challenged?
I firmly believe in balance, so anything that advocates for the restriction of an entire food group ought to be critically examined. As far as fitness, I am all for anything that inspires the general population to get out and move!
Is there anything new you’ve started doing recently, or anything you’ve quit?
At the end of every season my coach and I meet to evaluate the training and refine it so that I can continue to improve. It means that the structure of what I do is constantly evolving, although there are rarely any drastic changes we make. This winter I am preparing for a half marathon so I have been running more mileage than I ever have before. To compensate for the extra workload we have scaled back my strength routine in the weight room a little bit. I am still lifting twice a week, but the exercises are mostly related to injury prevention, and with the few Olympic lifts I perform I am using less weight than in the past.
How do you make adjustments to your workout? It’s hard to know what to do when you’re tired or having a bad workout.
My coach is at all my training sessions, so it is his decision to adjust a workout. It usually depends on how the training and recovery leading up to a specific day has gone. He would never try to have me complete a workout that he didn’t believe I was capable of doing, so even if I am feeling a little tired, once the workout is underway I trust that I can do it.
Can you share some of the specific things you notice top performers doing differently in their fitness routines than the average person?
There is a lot of variety in our training. The nature of getting in shape is to stress the body and then have it adapt to the stress. If you keep doing the same workouts over and over then the effect of that stressor isn’t as great because the body has already adapted to it. We hit a wide range of paces and distances throughout a training cycle to keep the body guessing.
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