Natalie Coughlin gears up for the Games

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

(ARA) – Have you ever wondered how the top athletes stay in such great shape? Wonder no more – Gold Medalist and World Champion swimmer Natalie Coughlin is sharing her top training tips – from stretching to eating.

As the most decorated female athlete of the 2008 Beijing Games and 2004 Athens Games, Coughlin is training hard for another shot at bringing home a medal this summer. She knows that the only way to add to her 11 medals is to maintain peak performance in and out of the pool.

Coughlin’s first tip: don’t forget the basics. It may seem obvious, but never underestimate the benefits of a good night’s sleep and a tall glass of water. Being well-rested and hydrated will help your body and mind function at their best. And always remember to warm up before any workout.

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“People often forget that one of the most important elements of training is eating well,” says Coughlin. “Eat foods that will provide key nutrients that help you achieve peak performance.”

You can’t perform well on an empty stomach, so pay attention to what you snack on. After all, nutritious snacks can make all the difference. Coughlin enjoys California Dried Plums, which are a convenient, healthy, superfruit snack to nibble on between workouts.

Fuel your workout with simple, seasonal, nourishing foods, including an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Coughlin’s recipe for Indonesian Fried Rice is a great training meal that combines lots of good-for-you ingredients, including dried plums, brown rice, carrots, cucumbers and tofu. Not to mention, the recipe is easy enough to whip up for the perfect weekday lunch or dinner.

Indonesian Fried Rice with Dried Plums


3/4 cup chopped onion

1 Serrano chile, chopped

2 tablespoons California dried plum puree (For puree recipe, visit

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon tomato paste

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cups cooked brown basmati rice

8 ounces firm tofu, diced

1/2 cup diced California Dried Plums

1/2 cup peas

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts

1/4 cup julienned carrot

1/4 cup peeled, seeded cucumber cut into thin half-moons


In a food processor or blender, process onion and chile to make a paste. In a small bowl, whisk together dried plum puree, soy sauce, sugar and tomato paste. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over high heat. Add onion mixture and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add dried plum mixture, rice and tofu; stir-fry about 5 minutes or until hot. Add diced dried plums, peas and scallions and stir-fry 2 minutes more. Transfer to a serving bowl or individual plates and garnish with peanuts, carrot and cucumber.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 556 calories; 0 mg cholesterol; 19 g total fat; 1.7 g sat fat; 5.2 g mono fat; 8.7 g poly fat; 0.3 g trans fat; 321 mg sodium; 83 g carbohydrate; 14 g protein; 8.2 g fiber; 587 mg potassium

Looking for another fantastic training recipe? Nutrient-packed kale and dried plums are a delicious combination, and coconut, mustard seeds and fresh ginger add a whole new level of flavor.

Sauteed Kale with Dried Plums and Coconut


1 bunch smooth or curly kale (about 8 ounces)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon brown or yellow mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 cup diced California pitted dried plums

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)


1/4 cup toasted unsweetened flaked coconut


Remove stems from kale and discard. Cut or tear kale into bite-size pieces; wash and drain (do not dry in a salad spinner; there should be some moisture clinging to the leaves). In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add mustard seeds; when they start to pop, add cumin seeds and toss for a few seconds. Add dried plums, ginger and pepper flakes; after ginger sizzles for a few seconds, add kale. Cover skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until kale wilts but is still bright green. Season with salt and mix well. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with coconut.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 153 calories; 0 mg cholesterol; 7.4 g total fat; 5.9 g sat fat; 0.6 g mono fat; 0.5 g poly fat; 0 g trans fat; 100 mg sodium; 21 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 3.3 g fiber; 450 mg potassium

For more of Natalie’s signature recipes and cooking videos, visit and on Facebook at