Olympic fencer Kat Holmes’ training routine has been shaken by the pandemic

By July 27, epee champion Kat Holmes will have finished competing in the 2021 Olympics, just four days after their debut. But when I ask her how she plans to celebrate after the summer games, Holmes laughs: she’s going to relax for a few days in Hawaii, then start medical school in August.

Holmes, 27, has been practicing fencing since she was a teenager in Washington, DC Tokyo will be her second Olympic Games, after Rio in 2016. She is the anchor of the fencing team, which means she is responsible for protecting the advance of his team, making points lost, and being excellent under pressure. She sees her future career as an extension of this role: “I spent so much time with sport. [medicine] orthopedic doctors and surgeons, and I want to help this next generation of athletes emerge, ”she told Bustle. When not competing or preparing for med school, she usually trains – with the help of her cat, Trainer Tiger. “He constantly encourages me to reach his level of perfection,” she laughs.

As the Olympics (and the start of her medical school) draw closer, Holmes has some tips for staying graceful when things aren’t going your way.

I say Olympic Games. What’s the first word you think of?

Gold medal.

As you prepare to earn your gold, what does your training regimen look like?

I have changed the way I train 11 times in the past year during COVID. I was in Budapest, Hungary preparing to compete for the final Olympic qualification in March 2020 when Trump announced the travel ban. My teammates were staying at an Airbnb and we got a call saying, “You have to go back to the United States. It looked like if we didn’t come back within 48 hours, we were going to have to swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

For months I was lifting in my living room and taking the lifting class in my coach’s basement. I am immensely grateful to my trainer for welcoming me to his house for so many months, but a piece of my soul has died in this basement. It was about as wide as my arms span, and the ceiling had these little moss tiles that they have in the ceilings of elementary schools – they kept raining down on me.

I also started working with the virtual trainer fitness app Future. With this you can do awesome workout no matter where you are. So I used this year to become a better athlete all around.

Is there an exercise that you always find so difficult that you need the help of Trainer Tiger?

There is this exercise that I do called pillbug rolls, where you will hang gymnastic rings from the ceiling. You curl your body into a small ball and straighten yourself up. When those rings come out, Trainer Tiger is on my chest, adding an extra 10 pounds to make sure I do it perfectly.

How do you get through tough workouts or tough days?

It’s really about self-talk. For a while my goal was to bench 135 pounds. I was frustrated to miss it. But instead of thinking, “I’ll never do it,” I tried to think, “I’ve done more than I could last time.” I try to ask myself how I can turn the feeling around when I’m not feeling inspired. So instead of “what’s the point? It’s like, “Okay, we’ve got this rep, we’re going to get stronger now.”

Aside from self-talk, how pumped up are you before entering a competition?

I have a high adrenaline level when I compete. I was listening to supporting music like rap or something super intense. But more recently I’ve actually listened to a lot of country music, like Rascal Flatts and Kenny Chesney, which is more lighthearted and upbeat and can clear my mind.

What about your post-game recovery?

First, I eat. Right now I’m on a Special K kick – I love all Special Ks, but the blueberry genre is my go-to right after my stretching and foam rolling routine. Before going to bed, I take my lacrosse ball and use it against the wall on my painful spots. I always take an active recovery day to hike, canoe, or rock climb. I meditate, because we must also recover the spirit.

Do you have a favorite stretch?

I love lower back stretches. I first cross my left leg over my right, in the Bretzel variation where you have your knees in that position and then drop them to the opposite side. I like a good low back pop – it’s heaven.

Last thing: is there any common fitness tip that you think is BS?

Any kind of hack where it’s like “get abs in 30 days.” Fitness is a way of life. You do fitness because it’s good for your body and your mind. Try to be the best you can be and you’ll get to where you want to go.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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