Here’s What It’s Really Like Behind the Scenes at the Olympic Training Camp

As Americans all over the country prepare to cheer on Team USA at the Rio Olympics, the athletes are in the midst of last-minute preparations to compete on the world stage. While most support and love the Olympic movement, many don’t have a full picture of what it takes to be an Olympic hopeful and what day-to-day life is like.

My name is Lauren Gibbs, and I’m a member of the USA Women’s National Bobsled Team. I am in the middle of my second off-season (which means I won’t be going to Rio because bobsled is a winter sport!). Right now, I am preparing for my chance to qualify for the next Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018.

I am excited to give you a glimpse into my daily routine, but before I get into that, a few facts you should know:

  • The U.S. is one of two countries that does not receive government funding to support athletes in preparing for the Games.
  • All funding comes from corporate sponsorships and donations from the public.
  • 87 percent of Olympic athletes and hopefuls live below the poverty line while training and competing in their sport.
  • There are three dedicated training centers in the United States: Chula Vista, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Lake Placid, N.Y.
  • Many athletes can train at these centers but only the top 5 to 10 percent in each sport are granted residency there.

Pretty crazy, right? Anyway, as I mentioned before, I am a bobsledder. Since bobsled is not a sport you can practice or compete in year-round, the off-season is a time to get stronger, faster and healthier. Bobsledding requires pushing a heavy object quickly, and the ride is anything but smooth.

To give you a quick lesson on bobsled, men have two disciplines: four-man and two-man. Women, on the other hand, only compete in two-woman (don’t get me started on why). Our sleds weigh more than 365 pounds, we reach speeds up to 95 mph and get hit with up to 5 G-forces as we fly through the track.

It is quite the thrill ride!

The combination of pushing a large sled and getting rattled back and forth wreaks havoc on our bodies, so the off-season is a crucial time to recover and rebuild. I am currently spending part of my off-season living and training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Being in this environment, especially with Rio right around the corner, is inspirational and sometimes heartbreaking. You cheer for your friends who make the team and do your best to console those who don’t. That said, living here is an amazing and humbling experience; it affords me the opportunity to focus on my training, recovery and proper nutrition.

I hope you enjoy this quick glimpse into my world:

Today is Tuesday. Tuesdays are my favorite! They’re by far one of my longest training days of the week, which is why I love them. By the end, I am completely physically and mentally exhausted. While tiring, it means that feeling of sore is helping to improve and strengthen my muscles. I love that feeling!

7:30 AM: Breakfast

What some may not know about bobsled is that there is a maximum weight allowed for both the athletes and the sleds. Since I am on the heavier side of the team, watching my weight is an unfortunate necessity.

I walk around comfortably between 177 to 180 pounds, but in order to make weight and compete, I have to get down to 169 pounds. To get there, I am on a pretty strict diet that requires me to count my macros (I work with a nutritionist on-site at the training center as well as a company called Working Against Gravity—check them out). I start my day off with 8 ounces of oatmeal, Cream of Wheat or Malt-o-Meal (depending on what the cafeteria has that day), five hard-boiled egg whites, 8 ounces of water and a cup of green tea.

10 AM: Time to sweat

It’s always important to warm up your body before having a difficult workout. Here’s what I do:

  • Foam roll (10 to 15 minutes)
  • Bike (5 minutes)
  • Torso activation (5 to 10 minutes)
  • Dynamic mobility (5 to 10 minutes)
  • Sprint drills (10 minutes)

My workouts are always a good mix of speed work, technique work and then moving something heavy quickly to build explosive strength.  It takes about 2 1/2 hours to complete. Here’s what it might look like:

    • Bike sprints
    • Quick rehydrate/ refuel (water and some kind of carb: core power or Powerade) Carbs are also great to take in between cardio and weight lifting to replenish energy stores!
    • Sled work
    • Heavy lift

1 PM: Lunch

Lunch is when I take in a good percentage of my carbs for the day.  The cafeteria also supplies me with low-calorie weight loss shakes made with fresh fruits and vegetables. These shakes serve as snack in between lunch and dinner and help avoid snacking on foods that don’t fit into my macros.

3 to 6 PM: Recovery time

I use the late afternoon for recovery, including sports medicine and sports psych appointments. Soreness (while I enjoy it) can be counterproductive. With the amount of heavy lifting and sprinting that I do, it is important to flush out the lactic acid form my legs to make sure I am fresh for the next day.

Here are some recovery tools I use:

  • Foam roller
  • Lacrosse ball
  • Voodoo floss
  • Cold tub/hot tub
  • Compression boots

Sports medicine:

  • Soft tissue work
  • Dry needling
  • Massage (not the relaxing kind, but the hot stone kind)
  • Rehab (Pilates, stretching)

Sport Psych:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Sleep study

6:30 PM: Dinner

How many macros I have left will depend on what I have but are always a good mix of protein, carbohydrates and fat.  I have started eating a higher percentage of my fat macros in the evening. Fat satiates you. Eating more fat at night means I go to bed satisfied and ready to take on the next day.

11 PM: Good night!

I am not the best sleeper. With the help of sport psychology and an app called Sleep Rate (which utilizes a heart rate monitor), I closely track the hours of sleep I get to ensure that I am getting the quality and volume needed to be effective in my training.

I hope you enjoyed my story. To continue to follow my journey to the 2018 Olympic Games, you can find me on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. Now it’s time to join me in cheering on the Team USA athletes in Rio as they test the last four years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Go, Team USA!



Former Volleyball Star Lauren Gibbs Is On A Bobsled Fast Track

Lauren Gibbs thought she’d hit the peak of her athletic career at Brown University, where she was a four-year member of the volleyball team. She was the team captain, with more than 1,000 career kills, and her awards included All-Ivy League Academic and Second Team All-Ivy League.

But then, in 2014, USA Rugby national team member Jillion Potter mentioned Gibbs’ powerlifting numbers to two-time Olympic bobsled medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, who suggested Gibbs give the sliding track a try.

Gibbs, a three-sport athlete back in high school — soccer, volleyball and track and field — attempted to make the rare switch from volleyball to bobsled. Previously, Bree Schaaf and Katie Eberling were the only two notable names to successfully make the switch between those two sports, with Eberling having also been approached by Meyers Taylor.

Two weeks after impressing coaches at a combine test — where Gibbs said she shocked even herself with her performance — she went to a weeklong push camp in Lake Placid, New York.

There, she learned how to push — and how not to push — the sled, and she spent a lot of time just hoping and praying she’d make it down the track in one piece.

“It’s like if you fall asleep in an airplane and hit really bad turbulence,” Gibbs said of a bobsled run. “Imagine it’s like that for a minute.”

After her first run, Gibbs, who claimed she’s not the most coordinated person in the world, said she’d never do it again.

But that thought was quickly eradicated by those around her.

In no time, she was back at the top, fretfully awaiting another trip down the track.

And again after that.

And again.

She couldn’t stop.

That adrenaline snowballed to the point where she became hooked.

“I thought I’d go to the push camp and just have a cool story to tell about being at the training center for a week,” Gibbs said. “But now, it’s turned into just another day at the office for me.”
Gibbs performed well enough in her new job, per say, that she finished second at the 2014 U.S. National Bobsled Push Championship behind Lauryn Williams, an Olympic silver medalist with Meyers Taylor in 2014 and the only U.S. woman to medal at both a summer and winter Olympics.

The Southern California native, now living in Denver, then earned a spot on the world cup team in her first season in the sport, pushing pilot Jamie Greubel Poser to two bronze medals, including one on the Sochi 2014 Olympic track.

She and Greubel Poser also finished fifth at the world championships.

A curveball was thrown all of the athletes’ ways during the offseason, when the IBSF – bobsled and skeleton’s international federation – reduced the maximum sled weight for two-woman events this season to 325 kg. (717 pounds) from 340 kg. (750 pounds) in an attempt to level the competition among nations. The minimum sled weight is now 165 kg. (364 pounds), while the combined weight of the two women must not exceed 160 kg. (353 pounds).

It’s hoped that the new weight restrictions will increase the participation of women from a wider range of body types and draw more athletes from the smaller Eastern European countries.

Further weight reductions will be made for the 2016-17 season, dropping the minimum sled weight to 160 kg. (353 pounds) and the maximum weight of the two-woman crew to 150 kg. (331 pounds).

Because of this, Gibbs lost 15 pounds during the offseason and has already been working to shred more weight before next season begins.

“I don’t really care about having to lose the weight,” Gibbs said. “I think it’s great.”

What she’s been more concerned about is maintaining her strength while losing that weight, and also working to increase her speed.

But so far, she hasn’t had to worry too much.

In September, while still nursing a hamstring injury, Gibbs won the USA National Bobsled Push Championships as a second-year competitor, edging out rookie Kehri Jones by a mere hundredth of a second for the title with a two-run push time of 9.53.

Teaming up with Greubel Poser once again in November for the first world cup of this season in Altenberg, Germany, the pair took bronze as the only U.S. athletes to medal in either bobsled or skeleton at the event.

Gibbs did not compete in last weekend’s world cup event in Winterberg, Germany, but she will partake in the world cup this weekend at Koenigssee, Germany, as well as January’s world cup events in the United States, which include stops in Lake Placid (Jan. 4-9) and Park City, Utah (Jan. 11-16).

The world championships are then slated for Feb. 8-21 in Igls, Austria.

Gibbs, always looking ahead, has already raised more than $10,000 on her page, which she started last year to fund her way to her ultimate goal, the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

But will she have enough experience by then to make it there?

“Absolutely,” she said, with leaps and bounds more confidence than she had nearly two years ago, after her first trip down the track.

Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.


Gibbs, Meyers Taylor, Holcomb win US bobsled push title

Elana Meyers Taylor and Steven Holcomb started a new bobsled season in familiar fashion – by winning.

Lauren Gibbs won the women’s USA National Bobsled Push Championship on Friday, while Meyers Taylor and Holcomb won the pilot push titles. The push championships are a prerequisite for any athlete who wants to be on the national team this winter, and help decide who will slide in what sled when team trials start in Lake Placid next month.

 “‘Winning gives me more of a boost to go harder in my workouts to get ready for ice and I’m confident that my work this summer paid off,” Gibbs said.

The second-year slider finished her two pushes in 9.53 seconds. Rookie Kehri Jones finished in 9.54 seconds, and Lolo Jones – one of 10 Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, first in track and field before she started in bobsledding – was third in 9.58 seconds.

Lolo Jones doesn’t plan on bobsledding this season, focusing instead on her plans to make the U.S. team headed to the Rio Olympics next summer. She competed after just one day of push training, following the recent end of her outdoor international hurdling season, and said it’s easy to find ways that bobsledding helps her track career.

”Pushing a 400-pound bobsled really helps me have an amazing track start,” she said.

Meyers Taylor – a two-time Olympic medalist – topped Katie Eberling and Jamie Greubel Poser for the women’s pilot title. It was the seventh start title for Meyers Taylor, the fourth since she transitioned to driving.

Holcomb, a three-time Olympic medalist, beat Geoff Gadbois and Hunter Church in the men’s pilot event. Codie Bascue had faster times than Holcomb, but was disqualified for stepping over the start line.

Nick Cunningham, John Napier and Justin Olsen – an Olympic gold medalist as a push athlete in Holcomb’s sled at the 2010 Vancouver Games who is now starting his driving career – did not race Friday because of their respective U.S. Army commitments. They competed in a preliminary push championships last month to meet their qualification to race this season.

The men’s push athlete championship is Saturday.