Michelle Kwan and Dominique Dawes on Avoiding Fitness Fails

Michelle KwanMichelle KwanDominique DawesDominique DawesWhen you're talking about Olympic athletes, it's safe to say that fitness has always been part of their lifestyle. But even gold medalists like skating legend Michelle Kwan and gymnastics champion Dominique Dawes say they've gone through not-so-healthy times.

"There are many moments when I haven't made smart decisions and it's affected me," Dawes told Yahoo! Shine. She retired from professional gymnastics competition in 2000 and now works as a motivational speaker. "There have been months when I was not working out, when I was feeling depressed, when I was putting on pounds, when I wasn't feeling good about myself, when I wasn't productive in any aspect of my life. If I get out there, moving and eating right I feel better, can be more productive."

"I'm guilty of some of the things everybody else is guilty of," admits Kwan, who travels the world as a diplomatic envoy with the State Department now. "Eating sweets and fattening foods and not cutting out salt. Over time, you create better habits. But when you're traveling or have a busy schedule, it's so easy to stick with snacks that are bad with you."

"If you don't eat right you don't perform well," Kwan told Yahoo! Shine. "I found that it carries on throughout life--in grad school, if I wasn't eating well, I didn't perform well either."

Both Kwan and Dawes serve on the President's Council for Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, but in spite of their many work commitments and hectic travel schedules, the manage to make exercise a priority-it's just not the same type of exercise they used to do back when they were constantly preparing for competition.

"I do enjoy yoga," Kwan says. "It tends to give me a time where I can just get away from everything and just be in the zone. Skating used to be the place where I'd get on the ice and for an hour no one's in my space. I had the freedom, I had the time alone to really get in to it."

"Lately, I rollerblade around DC, but I seem to be the only one," she adds. "I never see any one else doing it. Maybe I could start a trend!"

Dawes has to change up her regular routine in order to keep it interesting. "I need a variety of different exercises. I'm someone who gets bored very easily, in many aspects of my life!" she says. "I love walking my dog. I love jogging, but I can't do it often because my ankles are bad from gymnastics. I love yoga. When I need an extra stretch, I love Pilates." Conditioning classes at the gym help build muscle, she says, and when she feels like she needs extra toning, "I jump into a cardio kick boxing class at my gym, but I can only take it once a week or my joints hurt."

Her workout routine is much easier these days, but Dawes says that she still misses some aspects of the grueling, dedicated lifestyle of an Olympic gymnast. "I miss the day to day regimen, believe it or not," she admits. "The five to seven hours a day of training with my teammates and challenging myself not only physically but psychologically, doing things I never thought I could do. … You overcome that doubt or that fear and you feel like the sky is the limit."

The two champions offered a few tips on how to help yourself stay fit and motivated:

Think ahead. Pick out healthy options ahead of time, Kwan suggests, and keep and eye on portion size. Her go-to healthy snack? "I prefer something easy, like fruit," she says. "I love berries." its a great choice: they're low fat, high fiber, and totally portable.

"I'm not a snacker, though I think snacking is very important for many people, because it really does keep your metabolism moving," says Dawes. "If you are going to snack, focus on fruits and vegetables and healthy trail mixes, because those snacks are really going to fuel you with the kind of energy you need."

Write down what you eat. Consider keeping a food diary, Kwan suggests. "Sometimes when you eat poorly or you're not feeling so good, you look at what you ate previously," she says. "You can really see how it effects you."

Look for easy ways to exercise. "Everyone has no time to work out," Kwan laughs. "Who has 30 minutes to get ready to go to the gym and then wash up after an hourlong work out?" When you're a kid or in college, it's easier to make working out part of your daily routine (just walking to and from class every day counts), "but in the real world, when you're working, you have limited time," Kwan points out.

But workouts don't have to be an hour long--and they don't have to be at the gym. "Going for a run, playing ball with kids, walking the dog," Kwan says. "Little things like that add up over the year."

"Find little pockets of time throughout the day," Dawes suggests. "During your lunch hour, instead of sitting at your desk, go for a walk. After dinner go for a walk or a job or interact with your family in some type of physical activity. It's good for you good physically, good for you emotionally, and it gives you time to bond."

Try to stay motivated. "There were times when I doubted myself," Dawes says. "I would always have these negative thoughts and worries--not comparing myself so much, but fearful at times." While traveling to compete and staying in hotel rooms, she would write positive notes to herself. "Positive things like, 'I can and I will', 'remove all doubt',' 'D3: Determination, dedication, desire.' I still do it today."

Another option is PALA+, a six-week program offered by the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. You sign up online by yourself or in a group, pick your challenges, log your activity, and win Presidential Challenge awards as you reach your goals.

Pala+ "Makes that connection between physical activity and nutrition," Kwan explains. "Energy in is as important as energy out."

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