As you cheer on the U.S. national women’s soccer team in London, keep an eye out for Alex Morgan. The 5’7″, 140-pound forward—at 23, a youngster on the team—attributes her success to her dedication. “It’s easy to push yourself when people are watching, but hard to put in the work when nobody’s there.” Morgan runs up to 60 miles a week and does plenty of strength and core work—she can squat 195 pounds and hold a plank for 4 minutes. But she’s no fan of unwanted attention at the gym, and red-carded this tactic: “Don’t come behind me and fix my posture unless I ask you to.” She did cite a simple approach that might work at a bar, though. “A guy walked past me, turned around, and told me my perfume smelled really great and asked what kind it was.”
In Beijing, Lolo Jones was favored to win the 100-meter hurdles. And in the final, she was flying, her perfect legs a beautiful blur. Then the unthinkable: The 5’9, 140-pound sprinter’s trailing knee clipped the ninth of 10 hurdles. Robbed of her rhythm, she stumbled to the line, placing seventh. Since then, Jones, 29, has worked even harder on the track, in the gym, and on Twitter. Reading @lolojones you glimpse the drive—and mental approach—that could help put her on the podium in London. For instance: “100 days out from Olympics, if he’s not a Licensed Foot Massage Therapist he’s not getting a date” or “Def have a cavity . . . Not fixing it. The surging pain in my mouth will keep me from gaining weight.” Jones will be something of an underdog in London having battled injuries in 2011. But if anything, the setbacks have only made her stronger—and wiser. “When you get injured, it’s usually because your body is fatigued and you’re pushing it to the max,” says Jones. “Rest is just as important as working hard—you need a good balance of both.”
It’s easy to be distracted by the wonders of Kim Glass’s body—those long, muscular legs, that perfectly toned stomach. But behind this 6’2″ athlete’s rocking body is a hell of a lot of hard work. She’s an outside hitter for the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team—that means she hits the court 5 days a week from 9 a.m. to noon during training, and often follows up with afternoon strength or agility sessions. No doubt, it’s this dedication that helped earn her a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics. But Glass, 26, also knows how to relax and reward herself. Her guilty pleasure: pancakes.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Heather Mitts treats her workouts like her marriage: by shunning routine. She alternates P90X, the elliptical, and the treadmill, aiming for 90 percent of her heart-rate max. “Either I’m fully on or I’m resting,” says Mitts, 33, who’s also a defender for the Atlanta Beat. “There’s no in between.”
Winner of all-around gymnastics gold at the 2008 Games, Nastia Liukin, 22, has an old-school fitness secret: Work your butt off. Liukin, who is 5’4″ and 110 pounds, trains 7 hours most days, combining calisthenics, core work, and lots of apparatus-specific drills. “I also run six times a week—about 3 miles each time,” says Liukin. “Running keeps me strong.” To speed recovery, she sees a masseuse twice a week, receives regular acupuncture treatments, and uses a foam roller. “The foam roller is a good way to hit your hamstrings, quads, and IT bands—and you can do it yourself anywhere.”
Swimming hundreds of laps can get repetitive. Which is why swimmer Kim Vandenberg, who won a bronze in Beijing, isn’t afraid to cross train on terra firma. “I like to mix things up with hiking, yoga, pilates, dancing, and biking,” says Vandenburg, a California native who’s also an avid surfer. She readily admits to being competitive, but don’t try to win her heart by puffing out your chest. “Be humble and humorous,” says Vandenberg. “Together, those two qualities show a man’s true character.”
United States gymnast Alicia Sacramone is no stranger to the Games. In 2008, she helped the women’s team win silver in Beijing, although critics suggest that her falls on both the floor and the beam held the team back from the gold. After retiring briefly from competition in 2009, she returned with a vengeance, winning first place in the vault and the beam in the 2010 U.S. National Championships and the gold in the vault and a silver in the team competition in the 2010 World Championships. After winning the gold in the team competition in the 2011 World Championships, she became the most decorated American gymnast in the history of the competition. How does she feel about London? “I’m in better shape now than when I was at the last Olympics,”
Model and Miss Paraguay runner-up. This stunning javelin thrower became an internet sensation at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and caused a stir when she graced the pages of the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. The brunette beauty won the South American Junior Championship in 2001 but missed out on a medal at Beijing. She is becoming as well known for her beauty as she is for her sport.