DECEMBER 1, 2010

Once again I am joining the blogosphere.  Even though I’m a Twitter-addict (follow me at NatalieCoughlin!) and I do a decent job of updating my Facebook page, it’s been a while since I have kept a true blog.  Since I’ve been out of school for over five years, it’s probably a good thing to force me to write and help keep my mind sharp.  It’s amazing how dumb one starts to feel when you’re no longer forced to write or study.
So a little bit about me... 
I’ve been a swimmer my entire life.  That’s not hyperbole; I’ve been involved in swimming, whether it be lessons or team, since 8 months old.  I joined a local swim team when I was 6 and have swam competitively ever since.  I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005 and continue to train at Berkeley with the college team.  I have one of the best jobs in the world: professional athlete!  
I know how fortunate I am to be in the position to call myself a professional athlete and I love it.  I love training, I love traveling and I love pushing myself.  Do I wake up every morning before the crack of dawn with a smile on my face?  Absolutely not.  After the rude awakening of the alarm and the initial shock of diving into a pool at 6AM wears off, I can honestly say that I love it.
There’s more that goes into my daily routine than a full schedule of swimming, running, Pilates and weight training.  One of the components of being a full-time athlete that often gets overlooked is rest and recovery.  This can mean any number of things to different athletes.  For me, it means lots of sleep, lots of “down time” and generally taking good care of my body when I’m not actually training.  I was once told that you’re training 24/7 whether you choose to accept that or not!  This means that I have a lot of time to fill when I’m not at the gym or in the water.  
Although I am constantly tired from training, my recovery time is the part of the day I look forward to the most.  This is the time that I get to dedicate to one of my favorite hobbies: EATING!  Although the actual eating part of a meal is great, I love the entire process.  Choosing the ingredients (either from the market or my garden), prepping them, and combining them to create a nourishing meal for me and my husband.  My interest in cooking and gardening all started when I got my first apartment in Berkeley following my Freshman year of college.  After a year of horrendous dorm food (I’ve heard that it’s improved quite a bit since then) I vowed to become a great home cook.
My first experiences in the kitchen were not nearly as successful as my swimming career, but the beauty about cooking is that it doesn’t matter.  You learn from your mistakes and improve the next time.  One of the first dishes I made called for a clove of raw garlic and I misread it and put a head... oops!   Other than reeking of garlic for a couple days, who cares.  I still probably use too much garlic, but it’s because of my proclivity for garlic not because I’m not paying attention.  Cooking for myself, my family and my friends is what relaxes me and what helps me decompress from a long day of training.  Since I do most of my training throughout the morning, I get a lot of afternoon practice hours in the kitchen.  We all need to eat, so why not make it an enjoyable, pleasurable experience?
What I’m trying to say is that I will not only blog about my swimming experiences (my training, traveling and competing) but also my other passions that help me stay balanced in my life.  Without my cooking, gardening, photography, my friends and family, I wouldn’t love being an athlete as much as I do.  They help me stay grounded and give me something to occupy my thoughts other than the day’s yardage, or my times at the last meet.  Without these needed distractions I would go crazy.  
I’m excited to share my passions in and out of the pool with you as I approach the Olympic year.  Thanks for joining me on my journey!