The weather may be cooling down in many parts of the world, but that didn’t stop us from diving right into some questions with former competitive swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones!
We discuss what health and performance changes come with retirement and age, as well as his emotional reasons for starting Make a Splash, his successful water safety initiative. As a Mikra ambassador, we truly value his insight as a decorated, dedicated athlete when it comes to performance and overall health.
What were some of your favorite and most effective health and wellness routines that you think specifically helped you with your swimming career?
As athletes, we have no problem working hard and pushing ourselves to whatever our bodies can handle; even then we go beyond. Where we struggle, is doing what it takes to recover. Many times the recovery process is overlooked or dreaded because we consider it precious time we could be doing something else; dining, meeting friends, or of course, sleep! But recovery is in many ways just as important as training. I forced myself to do ice baths, cross referenced supplements to see what I could take and tried my best to get as much sleep as humanly possible so I could recover enough to be ready to push my limits at my practice.
You mentioned in a previous interview that at the time, your son was loving the water! Have you continued to cultivate that in the hopes to share a love of swimming with your son in the future?
My son definitely caught the water bug, he loves it just like his dad! I am a devoted advocate for swim lessons and swim literacy. For that reason my son has been in lessons since he was 6 months old; also because water was one of his first words. I knew I needed to get him lessons immediately!
You have done work with special programs focusing on water safety, swimming knowledge and more. What are some of your proudest moments with these initiatives?
As a person who almost drowned at the age of five, it has always been something very important to me. I knew I never wanted to see other parents go through what my parents went through, when they explained to me in detail how they almost lost their only child that day.
It’s no surprise that as an athlete, health and wellness is of the utmost importance. But beyond just performance markers and endurance, what does long-term health look like to you.
I believe the hardest thing for me was the adjustment after I retired. As a swimmer burning so many calories daily, my body was used to eating everything that was in my path. Now I can no longer eat the way I used to. I began asking myself questions like: for long term health, do I diet? Personally, I hate that word. I just had to make a lifestyle shift and change my relationship with foods. I still eat what I want, but I am much more conscience of what I am eating and how much.
Have you experienced any major setbacks in your career that challenged you to shift your perspective or make a big change? How did you tackle it?
After missing the 2016 Olympic Team I knew I needed to make some changes. I’m 33 and definitely not in the shape I was at the 2012 Games. However, I also knew I wasn’t finished and I needed to finish on a high note. So I went back to training, and cut down on a lot of junk foods and excess calories. I realized in my pursuit to be a better athlete at my age, that I felt better overall. I decreased the amount I was eating, but increased the value and quality of my fuel, and that was a big shift for me.
As a decorated athlete, it may be cliché, but what would you consider your most impactful life moment, even if that doesn’t involve a podium or a medal?
After receiving the gold medal in the 2008 games, I co-created the water safety initiative Make A Splash with USA Swimming and Phillips 66. In 2009 while I was racing for the 2009 World Championship Team, seven kids in Shreveport, Louisiana, drowned trying to save each other. I was horrified and devastated that those lives perhaps could have been saved if they had received swimming lessons. That year we went to Shreveport, and I got to work with some of the children in the water. In the beginning they were terrified, but after 30 minutes, they didn’t want to get out because they were having so much fun. Being able to give that community something to smile about meant the world.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone feeling both physically and mentally apprehensive about approaching their 30s, what would you tell them?
I would honestly tell them there is nothing to worry about. The aging process is a wonderful experience. It’s just more times you circle this blue ball we call home, and with each rotation you become a year wiser. But, if you do feel like you are suffering from brain fog or, like me inflammation when working out, give CELLF a try. I have been consistently taking it, and I have seen great improvement in my overall mood and performance.
What about Mikra stood out to you, and made you want to be a part of it?
I am a new dad, I have a full time job, and an ambassador. When Mikra approached me around partnering, I was most excited about CELLF. Why? Because for me, brain fog is a real problem when juggling so many responsibilities. After a long day at work, my first responsibility is to be with my son; he is charged up and ready to play, so I need energy! CELLF has been a great addition to my daily routine.
We hope you enjoyed this installment of Mikra Moments -- we're honored to be able to collaborate and learn from so many different inspiring, talented individuals.
Whether you're a competitive athlete or an aspiring entrepreneur, your body is capable of amazing things when cared for right. Remember to rest, recover, and reset when you need, so you can go for gold when the moment strikes.