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Santa Clara Olympian Gears Up for Rio Games

Santa Clara Olympian Gears Up for Rio GamesSanta Clara Olympian Gears Up for Rio Games

Alysia Montano doesn’t think about the competition. When gearing up mentally to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, she sets her sights on personal goals.

“The biggest thing is taking it one step at a time, focusing on the task at hand … I don’t think about the next day until the next day comes,” she said. “I’m not worried about everybody else … The biggest thing is not to compare yourself to everybody else … If I am able to look at me … to get better a little bit every day, that is a success.”

Montano, a Santa Clara native, is one of five athletes on Team 24-hour Fitness, each of whom is vying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the 2016 summer games to be held in Rio de Janeiro.

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Mike Carney, vice president of marketing for 24-hour Fitness, said Montano typifies the sort of competitive spirit 24-hour Fitness aims to foster in each of its members, whether they work out once a week or are training for the highest level of competition.

“There are hurdles. There are setbacks. There is a renewed commitment each time you face one of these challenges,” he said.

Fitness is all about “small unique victories,” he added.

Victoria Hoe, senior manager, campaign marketing for 24 Hour Fitness, echoed Carney’s sentiments. She said athletes of all levels can use the same approach as Montano because dedicating yourself to physical fitness takes the same characteristics regardless of one’s level of competition.

“It is hard work. It is discipline — day in, day out focus,” she said. “It is one moment and one day.”

Montano, 30, has an older brother, Eric, but said she grew up around several male cousins. They were all very active and very competitive with one another. They would turn everything — even something as mundane as who could be the first to the front steps of a museum they were visiting — into a competition, she said.

But there was always an air of camaraderie in the games, Montano said. It was never mean-spirited. That is when she realized fitness doesn’t have to be an arduous task. It can be fun.

Growing up, Montano was always the fastest kid in any sport she played. So, she said, it seemed like a natural fit for her to go into track, where she became  a middle-distance runner specializing in the 800 meter.

In 2006, while attending University of California, Berkeley, she finished third at the NCAA Women’s Track and Field Championships. In 2008, Montano turned pro before going on to finish fifth at the 2012 Olympics.

Her training regimen is something she takes very seriously, working out roughly six hours a day. Whether downing a smoothie of apples and beets or an antioxidant-rich protein shake chock full of blueberries, strawberries, peanut and almond butters with the occasional pumpkin seed or quinoa, she replenishes energy as she expends it, something to which she attributes her success.

But success isn’t all mechanics and workout. A lot of it is how you think about competition, she said. Mentally, she sets small goals for herself such as showing up for a workout on time. She said she thinks of those small goals as boxes on a “to do” list.

“If you check most of those boxes, you can say you won the day,” she said. “That is how to start a winning attitude. That is how you set yourself up for success.”  

Despite her dedication to running on the biggest stage in the world, Montano said it isn’t her only goal. One of the reasons she is so stringent about her training is because time management is so important to her. With a husband, Louis, and a 20-month-old daughter, Linnea Dori-Montano, it is important to Montano to make time for her family.

“I want to be a family woman,” she said.

Carney said Team 24-hour Fitness represents a wide array of athletes from different backgrounds, and each of those backgrounds brings a unique perspective to the team.

Hoe said Montano having a a daughter and husband shows that fitness enthusiasts don’t have to choose between exercise and family.

“A lot of gym-goers have kids, have responsibilities,” Hoe said. “A lot of people think Olympic athletes don’t.”

Finding a balance between family and her athletic goals is important to her, Montano said. No incident exemplifies that better, perhaps, than the 2014 U.S. track and field championships where she ran the race while eight months pregnant.

Although she said she is “bad at favorites” and that everyone in her environment influences her, Montano said her grandmother, Doris May Simpson, has a lot to do with how she views the world. Now deceased, Simpson turned 100 the same day Montano turned pro. She was the matriarch of Montano’s family.

“She was the first in the long line of amazing strong women who showed me that my gender doesn’t have anything to do with my leadership,” Montano said.

The 2016 summer Olympics will be held Aug. 5 to 21.

Photos courtesy 24-hour Fitness

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