I’m really excited to talk to Caroline Stilwell Burckle, former competitive swimmer and Olympic bronze medalist of the Beijing games. Most well known for her success in the pool, she is currently making waves as a health and wellness coach while obtaining a Masters Degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Sport Psychology & Motor Behavior at at the University of Tennessee. Caroline has dedicated her post-athletic career to mentoring athletes succeed in life through believing in themselves, developing healthy lifestyle habits, and creating lasting physical and mental change. You can follow her personal journey and get great tips for athletes of any level at her blog, Stilwellness.com.
Q: What does the mind/body connection mean to you? Did you have a ritual or routine before and after your races? Are there any that you continue to use in your daily life?
A: This is such a crucial question, because mind/body connection is what I am specializing in, and what my “framework” is with my Masters Degree! This is my number one focus in my studies, with an emphasis on how we can utilize these not only in sports, but in life. When we have our minds under control and in “flow”, then our bodies directly reflect this feeling. Our minds are powerful things. When we channel what we truly want, our bodies will rise to the occasion. As humans, we can pretty much talk ourselves in and out of anything…
My routine before races revolved around “putting my blinders on”. When I learned how to block out “extra outside noise”, I was able to focus and hone in on the task at hand. I would use positive self-talk and affirmation statements, as well as connect my breath to my body appropriately. Deep breathing techniques calmed my nervous system. I also was very big on having a eucalyptus rub down on my neck/shoulders before a Finals race. By releasing the tension in this area with an essential oil that kept my nasal passageways open and relieved soreness, I was able to engage in the competitive mindset. Plus, scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, so every time I smelled this at each competition, I was able to connect to that power within myself and remember what it feels like to perform well!
In my daily life, I pretty much just use Lavender Oil now! I find it super relaxing, and i put it on everything! My clothes, sheets, carpets, towels, and dab it on my pulse points.
Q: You are a huge fan of organic natural products, was this always important to you or was there a pivotal event or moment in your life that made you more conscious of the benefits?
A: It has always come natural to me to steer clear of products with chemicals in them. I never was a fan of foods with chemicals, either! Luckily, I have lived in locations where it has been easily accessible to grab organic or natural products. There was a time in my life when I used more over-the-counter beauty products, and they would irritate my skin and make me break out. I switched over to natural body and hair products, and noticed such a HUGE difference in the way my skin absorbed the nutrients. My skin was yearning for the nutrition! SKIN IS OUR LARGEST ORGAN! We must not forget.
Q: Do you have favorite Natura Culina products and scents and why are they your favorites?
A: YES YES YES! My favorite is the Rose Oil for my face. I have never found an oil that soaks into my skin like this oil does. I apply it every evening before bed, almost a eye dropper full. I am HUGE on Vitamin C to repair my face, and when you told me that rose oil has the highest Vitamin C content of pretty much anything, I became even more obsessed! I apply a natural Vitamin C Serum every morning (Anne Webb brand–from Sydney’s studio!), and so the combination of both of these things has increased elasticity and GLOW in my skin!
Q: If we were to find you at a local farmer’s market, what would we find in your basket?
A: I LOVE FARMER’S MARKETS!! I went a few weeks back, and I got some fresh Fennel, Parsley, a few golden and red beets, some 100% pure lavender oil, and some Chaga Mushrooms for tea! I wanted to get some succulent plants, but decided to wait.
Q: What words of advice or inspirational quote would you pass on to those graduating from College today or for female athletes?
A: To listen to your intuition…with everything. It is rarely wrong. Trust it, and trust YOURSELF that you have the abilities to be anything you want to be. Start now….train your mind to see the GOOD in everything.
Q: Summer is upon us, are there any tips you would like to share on how to combat the effects of chlorinated water before and after you jump in the pool?
A: AHHH, the dreaded chlorine! Unfortunately, it has been a part of my life from the time I could walk! It is hard to avoid in the summer, but some tips are to wet your skin and hair with regular shower water prior to jumping in the pool. By doing this, it forms a barrier so the chlorine does not penetrate into your skin first. Also, I can’t live without Coconut Oil (to eat and to put on my body), and I feel that the properties it contains can be a wonderful way to stay healthy from the inside and out!
Q: Now that your focus has shifted from swimming medals to a masters degree, how has your diet and training changed?
A: It was SO tough being done swimming, not only mentally but physically too! I felt so lost without structure…no doubles? NO weights? Luckily, being regimented and routined in my daily life for as long as I can remember paid off, and the transition was smoother than I would have expected. I only took a 1 week break, and then I began to train as if I were training for something in particular. Not only did I acquire that mindset, but I began working for Lululemon Athletica on Beverly Drive, which was EXACTLY what I needed…to be a part of a TEAM again! Living in California makes it easy to workout, so I would mix up my activities daily. I would do the Santa Monica Stairs, runs by the beach with my roommates, yoga with the lulu girls, a few circuit workouts with the lulu crew, as well as some Pilates and Physique 57 and/or Bar Method Classes. I am a firm believer in keeping your body guessing in order to produce results, so the combination of multiple workouts was awesome!
As far as my diet, I have always eaten very clean! I eat TONS of vegetables, either raw or steamed, as well as plenty of fruits. I don’t eat a ton of meat, although I do snack on turkey slices or chicken during meals. I prefer salmon or the fresh catch of the day (fish) when eating out at restaurants.
I love green juices when I can, and I also swear by protein smoothies, KIND and Quest Bars for snacks. I munch on raw almonds and hard boiled eggs for protein and sustained energy when hungry, and I can hardly go a day without sweet potatoes and avocados! I stay away from starchy foods, such as white bread, potatoes, and pasta. Instead, i gear more toward grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and 5-grain breads. I LOVE coffee, so I make sure I drink lots of water alongside of that. With My rule of thumb is to stick to foods with 8 ingredients or less (if it is a bar, dry food, etc.)
Q: If you were to do the Olympics all over again, are there things you would do differently based on what you have been learning in your studies?
A: GOOD QUESTION!! This is hard, because being a perfectionist, I find it fascinating to look back and assess how I could have done things differently, NOT to be unappreciative of my success, but to learn so that I can pass along my knowledge to future generations. Studying Sport Psychology now, I have learned so much in regards to visualization and imagery. I wish that I would have utilized The Law of Attraction a bit more in my preparation….visualizing what I wanted and how I would get it instead of thinking about what could potentially go wrong. What we think….we GET!
Q: And my last Q is what words of wisdom as far as beauty and healthy lifestyle would you leave all of us with.
A: Less is more. Keep it SIMPLE! And skip the diet….JUST EAT HEALTHY!