Beard Aiming For Fifth Olympics

by Sarah Kezele

At 29 years old, former Arizona Wildcat Amanda Beard is ancient. For an Olympic swimmer, that is.

But she won't let that stop her from pursuing her fifth consecutive Olympic Games.

Beard wasn't sure if she would continue her swim career after becoming a mom in September 2009, but she kept an open mind about it. Five weeks after giving birth to her son Blaise, she returned to the pool to get back in shape. She soon decided she wasn't ready to give up the sport.

A resident of Tucson, Ariz., Beard jumped back into training under then-Arizona swim coach Frank Busch. She still trains at Arizona's Hillenbrand Aquatic Center with a group of about 20 professional swimmers, including former Wildcats Darian Townsend and Annie Chandler.

Beard re-emerged on the swim scene the following August at the 2010 USA Swimming Nationals, where she took second place in the 200-meter breaststroke and finished sixth in the 100-meter breaststroke. That's when she set her sights on London 2012.

"I didn't have any crazy injuries and I still had been doing very well, so I looked at it as, 'If I swam through 2012 and tried to make another Olympics, would I regret doing that?' No, I don't think I would," she said. "But would I regret not doing that? Yeah, I definitely would. So why not? Let it go as long as it will take me."

Beard has maintained that simple mindset in setting her goals for next summer. Number one: make the Olympic team. Number two: win gold medals.

The seven-time Olympic medalist will take another step toward her first goal when she competes in the FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China, the last week of July. She will swim the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, the two events she plans to swim at the 2012 Olympic trials. Beard will compete in a meet every two months leading up to the trials in June 2012.

Beard made an appearance on May 18 at ASU's Mona Plummer Aquatic Center to hold a Q&A session and sign autographs for the 56 participants in the Western Zone Select Camp. The camp is a four-day clinic for the top 12-15-year-old swimmers in the Western states. After answering the campers' questions about her success in the sport, Beard sat down with the Pac-10 to discuss how she's preparing for her run at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Always On The Move
Beard adopted an all-new workout regimen with more focus on the weight room a couple months after giving birth to her son. Of her 18 hours spent training each week, she dedicates four of those hours to working with her personal trainer on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. What she does in the weight room varies by day, but includes military-style exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and dips; Olympic lifting, like snatches, jerks and squats with heavy barbells; and CrossFit, a brand of workout programs that uses gymnastics, kettlebells and jump-roping, among other things, to improve overall fitness rather than specialize in one area.

Beard mixes up her pool workouts as well. On Mondays, she focuses on her aerobic conditioning with a 2.5-hour workout of longer swims rather than sprints. Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for power workouts, which focus on speed and strength in the water. On Wednesdays, she gets on the blocks and races her teammates for 2.5 hours, and wraps up her week with a three-hour practice on Saturdays. Sunday is her one day off.

She manages to get even more exercise when she's home with her 20-month-old son, swimming with him in their backyard pool, teaching him how to ride a bike, running around at the park or kicking around a soccer ball.

"That's a whole extra workout, an all-day long workout," Beard said. "It's sometimes more exhausting than my training."

Eat Like A Caveman
Beard follows the paleo—or "caveman"—diet. It promotes clean eating, which means she avoids almost all processed foods. On a typical day, she has hard-boiled eggs and coffee for breakfast, a salad with grilled chicken and avocado for lunch, steak or chicken with vegetables for dinner, and grazes on strawberries, blackberries and raspberries between meals. But she occasionally strays from the diet to enjoy pasta or an ice cream sundae.

"I think as long as you're eating 80 to 90 percent healthy and clean, then it's totally fine to splurge and let yourself have a goodie every now and then," she said.

Priorities In Line
Swimming was Beard's top priority for 15 years of her life. But now that she has her son with her husband, professional photographer Sacha Brown, that is no longer the case. Beard used to swim nine times a week and train for a total of 36 hours before having Blaise. Now, she has fewer practices and half the hours.
And even with the decreased workout time, Beard said swimming "goes out the window" if her family needs her.

"[Being a mom] changes your priorities completely. Swim is not my number one focus anymore," she said. "It's something that I get to do and I enjoy doing, but my family and my son are by far my number one priority. It takes huge pressure off of my swimming because it's not the most important thing in my life. My family is."

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