Day in the Life:
Allyson Felix, Track and Field Sprinter
Running Through Life with Resilience
Having earned a total of nine Olympic medals so far, Allyson Felix has the chance to make history at Tokyo and acquire the most Olympic medals of any female track and field star (Bruton, 2020). Will she bypass Merlene Ottey, whom she’s currently tied with, in total Olympic medals earned (Bruton, 2020)? We at Team Owaves are cheering Felix on, and we look forward to seeing her hopefully make history! Yet, whether or not Felix breaks that record and makes it up on the podium, her spirit of fortitude and resilience deserves to be honored and celebrated.
Felix grew up in Los Angeles, California and played basketball under the nickname “Chicken Legs” during high school. She also excelled at track, becoming Track and Field News’ High School Athlete of the Year in 2003 (Biography.com Editors, 2019).
Straight out of high school, she won a professional contract with Adidas and forewent an opportunity to run track and field while at the University of Southern California (Biography.com Editors, 2019). She completed her degree in education in 2008 and says she would like to teach fourth and fifth grade once her athletic career comes to a close, having been inspired by her mother Marlean, who is an elementary school teacher (Stacey, 2016). As a former member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, she has advocated for staying active and eating healthily, on a national level (USA Track & Field, n.d.).
Not Staying Silent: Felix’s Pregnancy Journey
Felix’s Health Struggles and Her Daughter’s Premature Birth
In 2018, while Felix was pregnant with her daughter, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia. A chief characteristic of this condition is high blood pressure, and it is more common in African American females. As a result of Felix’s preeclampsia, her daughter Camryn was born early at 32 weeks and was only 3.5 pounds (Gregory, 2021).
Fortunately, Camryn survived and is now thriving as a toddler, but she had to battle for her life, and Felix had to hold onto hope that Camryn would make it, amidst the backdrop of a neonatal unit where not all were blessed with the same fate (Gregory, 2021). Felix’s experience with preeclampsia spurred her to speak out before Congress about the need for the eradication of racial prejudice in healthcare and the need for more thorough care and support for pregnant ladies of color (Gregory, 2021).
Before the birth of her daughter, Felix was content to focus on running and refrain from speaking out about injustices (Gregory, 2021). Yet, with Camryn’s arrival, not only did she receive the most priceless gift in the form of her daughter, but she also received the gifts of finding her voice and having the fortitude to use her athletic standing to stand up against injustices in society.
Taking a Stand for Pregnant Women
Interestingly, from the get-go in her pregnancy, even before being diagnosed with preeclampsia, Felix encountered adversity. Aware that Nike, her sponsor–which was already proposing a 70% reduction in pay to Felix–had a history of halting or threatening to halt pay to pregnant female athletes, Felix went to great lengths to hide her pregnancy. For instance, she trained when it was still dark out and asked her baby shower guests to leave their phones at home (Gregory, 2021).
After Camryn came into the world and was eventually able to come home from the neonatal unit, Nike said it would not lessen Felix’s pay, due to performance, for the duration of a year. However, the company refused to specify in the contract that these protections were on account of maternity, a petition Felix had made (Gregory, 2021). When Nike asked Felix to take part in an ad campaign centered around female empowerment following the contract disputes, Felix reached her personal breaking point as she grasped the irony of the situation. She then concluded she needed to sound off on the subject (Gregory, 2021).
In May 2019, Felix wrote an Opinion Piece for The New York Times advocating for maternity protections for Nike-sponsored female athletes (Felix, 2019). While Nike responded by pledging pay and bonuses for pregnant athletes for 1.5 years surrounding pregnancy, Felix moved on to be sponsored by Athleta in July 2019 (Gregory, 2021).
Producing A Positive Ripple Effect
In the end, Felix’s decision to call out Nike has resulted in a positive ripple effect for women athletes. Bianca Williams, a sprinter from Britain who gave birth in spring 2020 and who is sponsored by Nike, notes, “Without her [Felix], I wouldn’t be where I am now,” says Williams. “I’m so grateful for her for speaking up, because she has changed a lot of women’s lives” (Gregory, 2021). Allyson Felix shows us all that in making our voice heard, we can make many others’ voices heard, in turn.
“When you speak your truth, on the other side of that fear is freedom.” ~Allyson Felix (Gregory, 2021)
Making Taking Care of Her Body Her #1 Priority
As Felix, 35, gets older, she has learned that being kind to her body needs to be her ultimate priority. States Felix, “Now that I’ve been in this sport for so long, taking care of my body is the No. 1 thing. I place such high importance on that, listening to my body. It’s better to take an extra day to rest…Sleep is super important” (Bruton, 2020).
“People always say, ‘No days off’ — that’s not OK! You need to take days off, and you need to rest— it’s just as important as training. It’s time to take away this idea that you’re really tough [if you] power through.” ~Allyson Felix (Ferraro, 2021)
Encountering Athletic Adversities
Her Olympic Journey, From Athens to Rio
Beyond all that she went through with her pregnancy and birth of her daughter, Felix has not had a smooth journey when it comes to the Olympics, either. The year 2004 saw Felix competing in the Olympics for the very first time, and she fell just short of a gold medal in the 200 m at Athens, earning a silver (Gregory, 2021). In Beijing four years later, she also got a silver medal. In the 2012 London Games, Felix triumphed and secured a much sought-after individual gold.
As the next Olympics approached, her expectations for Rio were high: She was aiming to attain golds in the 200m and 400m alike. Unfortunately, an ankle injury prevented those expectations from coming to fruition. While she made it close to securing a gold in the 400m, she fell just short. Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas beat her to the finish line in an out-of-the-box display that consisted of her diving over the line (Gregory, 2021).
2020 and the Road to Tokyo
On top of all of the adversity she has encountered in life thus far, Felix had to deal with the ramifications of a global pandemic in 2020. To adapt to closed facilities, Felix made the world her running track. She didn’t let COVID stop her from lacing up her sneakers; instead, she literally hit the ground running on the cement adjacent to UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, grassy land by the beach, trails, and neighborhood streets (Gregory, 2021).
Allyson’s Day Plan (Tokyo Training Regimen)
- 7AM – Wake Up, Spend Some “Me” Time
- 8AM – Eat Breakfast (Yogurt and Granola) and Spend Time with Daughter Camryn
- 9 AM – Prep to Leave for Training
- 9:30 AM – Grab an Acai Bowl or Smoothie & Leave for Training
- 10 AM – Carry Out Endurance and Interval Training
- 1 PM – Eat Lunch (a Salad with Protein and Fruit)
- 1:30 PM – Rest
- 2PM – Carry Out Strength Training at the Gym, During Which She Does Weightlifting with Plyometric Exercises (including weighted front squats, deadlifts, push presses, pull-ups, and high pulls)*
- 4PM – Recovery Work
- 5 PM – Head Home
- 6PM – Eat Dinner (Fish, Brown Rice or Sweet Potatoes, and Veggies)
- 7PM – Spend Time with Family
- 10:00 PM – Pray
- 10:30 PM – Go to Sleep
(Mazziotta, 2021; Mittal, 2021; and Pridgett, 2020)
*Plyometric exercises condition muscles to generate power (strength and speed). In these exercises, you stretch your muscles and then contract them right after (8fit Team, n.d.).
Looking Ahead to the Olympics
Taking into account all of the challenges that 2020 and 2021 have wrought upon our own nation and world, and all of her own personal trials she’s faced, Felix reflects that the Olympics seem to hold a deeper value and purpose this year. She imparts, “I think it [the Olympics] takes on this much bigger meaning of healing and moving forward. Everyone has their own story of what they’ve [sic] overcoming…the Olympic spirit will be magnified. It’s always about that, but obviously circumstances are much different. I think it’s going to be so much bigger than running fast or jumping high and any of those things we are used to” (Bruton, 2020).
Biography.com Editors (2019, April 12). Allyson Felix. Biography. https://www.biography.com/athlete/allyson-felix
Bruton, M. (2020, December 18). Allyson Felix has a new training regimen—and perspective on running—heading into Tokyo Olympics. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michellebruton/2020/12/18/allyson-felixs-new-training-regimen-and-perspective-on-running-heading-into-tokyo-olympics/?sh=1458f4e970c4
Felix, A. (2019, May 22). Allyson Felix: My own Nike pregnancy story. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/opinion/allyson-felix-pregnancy-nike.html
Ferraro, K. (2021, July 1). Allyson Felix is not a fan of the phrase “no days off.” Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/wellness/sprinter-allyson-felix-2021-olympics-training-self-care-running-lessons
Gregory, S. (2021, July 8). Motherhood could have cost Olympian Allyson Felix. She wouldn’t let it. Time. https://time.com/6077124/allyson-felix-tokyo-olympics/
Mazziotta, J. (2021, June 21). Allyson Felix fueled her way to her fifth Olympics with yogurt, fish — and cinnamon rolls. People. https://people.com/health/tokyo-olympics-allyson-felix-fueled-with-yogurt-fish-and-cinnamon-rolls/
Mittal, B. (2021, July 5). How USA’s 400m sprinter Allyson Felix is training for Tokyo Olympics 2021? Essentially Sports. https://www.essentiallysports.com/how-usa-400m-sprinter-allyson-felix-is-training-for-tokyo-olympics-2021-news/
Pridgett, T. (2020, December 17). These are the arm and leg exercises Olympian Allyson Felix does for strength and power. PopSugar. https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/allyson-felix-tokyo-olympics-strength-training-exercises-48067444
Stacey, O. (2016, August 15). Allyson Felix’s family: 5 fast facts you need to know. Heavy. https://heavy.com/sports/2016/08/allyson-felix-family-parents-paul-marlean-mother-father-brother-wes-sibling-photos-together-faith-hometown-age/
USA Track & Field. (n.d.). Allyson Felix. https://www.usatf.org/athlete-bios/allyson-felix
8fit Team. (n.d.). What is plyometric training: definition and exercise. 8fit. https://8fit.com/fitness/what-is-plyometrics-definition-and-exercise/
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