Emilie Kaufman has been breaking records throughout her career, and the only thing that has kept her from competing in the Olympic Trials has been unfortunate timing with coaches. She has been making sacrifices for most of her life and throughout all of her career showing total dedication to her sport. In this interview, Emilie explains why she might not try out for the Olympics, the impact of diet on performance, records she has broken throughout her career, how her timing improved, and she provides a tip for tri-athletes and distance swimmers on form.
How did you get into swimming?
Kaufman: Growing up in Kirkland, WA, I loved being in the pool. Around age eight I joined a synchronized swimming club. I loved synchronized swimming and found success with it. Although, once I reached high school I was ready for change. At Juanita High School, I joined the school swim team where I discovered that I was decent at racing. Soon after joining the school team, my assistant coach convinced me to try out for the local club team- Wave Aquatics.
What events have you competed in and what are your primary strokes?
Kaufman: I have competed in my events over the years, but I can only consider a select few as my specialty. Typically, I would train and compete Breaststroke and Individual Medley (IM) events. Specifically, my events are the 100/200 yard Breaststroke races and the 200 yard IM. Also, there were many opportunities for me to compete on relays. In my case, I would swim the Breaststroke leg of the 200/400 yard medley relays. These are similar to IM events only there are four swimmers each with their own leg of the race to swim.
You’ve mentioned your stroke has become increasingly fast over the past few years. Can you explain how this has happened?
Kaufman: The improvement or speed of my stroke (Breaststroke) has increased over the past few years due to a handful of reasons. First of all, I transferred programs. My initial university team was not a good fit training-wise. Once I transferred to my second university, with an appropriate training style for me, I quickly saw improvements. Much can be attributed to my coaches and their knowledge. I began Olympic weightlifting for the first time and resistance training often in the pool. In addition to resistance training in the pool, I also did a lot of race-pace or sprint training. This simply means that I trained in a way that simulated racing.
Your best time qualifies you for Olympic trials. What is your present obstacle holding you back from preparing to compete in the next Olympic trials?
Kaufman: Right now I’m transitioning to postgraduate life, and I’ve recently moved from coast to coast and acquired a new job. I’m currently swimming on a master’s team, and I may decide sometime in the near future to train more seriously to re-qualify for Olympic Trials in 2016.
What event would you compete in if you did go to the Olympics?
Kaufman: The 100 meter Breaststroke is the event that I have a shot at re-qualifying in. My best time in the event is 1:09.97, and the qualifying time for the 2016 Olympic Trials is 1:11.49.
Your last coach made your team follow some pretty extreme diet regulations. Can you describe the diet and what it was like to follow it?
Kaufman: On my college team, our coaches encouraged us to follow a Paleo diet. When it came to travel competitions or our training trip, where our school was paying the bill, my coaches heavily controlled what we ate. It was harder for some than others, although I never had complaints. Their strict guidelines were in the best interest of the team. Swim teams do not become conference champions by following the average American diet.
How does your strict training diet enhance your performance, and how did you feel in general while on this diet?
Kaufman: Diet has a huge impact on my performance. For about five months leading up to my conference championship competition, I ate a very healthy and limited diet. I simply ate baked broccoli/brussels sprouts and fish for dinner every night. It was uneventful, although I allowed myself to cheat once a week with a slice of pizza or a cookie.
Tell us about the records you have been breaking throughout your swimming career.
Kaufman: Over the course of my swimming career I have had the fortune of breaking various records. I currently hold a handful of my high school team records (100 yard Breaststroke, 50 Freestyle, etc.), college team records (in my main events and relays), pool records (100 Breaststroke), and Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association conference records (main events).
What other types of sports and training have you done for cross training to enhance your swim performance?
Kaufman: Over the years, I have done a number of different cross training exercises to support my swim training. In high school, I did a lot of yoga to stretch out. In college, I did some cross fit, although I mostly did Olympic lifting to gain strength, endurance, speed, and flexibility. There were also a handful of times that I did stationary cycling and jogging.
*45lb weight vest chin ups. 5 sets of 3.
To achieve what you have has taken a huge amount of dedication to the sport. A lot of times, it’s easy for people to overlook the incredible amount of sacrifice it takes to be an elite athlete. What are some of the sacrifices you have had to make throughout your swimming career?
Kaufman: I have made a decent number of sacrifices over the years. Moving to the east coast for college meant that I would miss out on many family events. On average I was home for less than two weeks a year. Instead of having a month for Winter Break, I had five days before shipping back east for our yearly training trip. I transferred to Liberty after my sophomore year at Rutgers University, leaving behind friends and academic passion. Although, I was willing to give it all up to find success in swimming.
Do have any quick tips on improving form and swim time for tri-athletes to train for their competitions?
Kaufman: To improve form in the water, my main tip would be to be aware of your body position. Keeping your head in line with your body is crucial. When turning your head to breathe, when swimming freestyle, it is important to keep the head in line and avoid lifting it.
What would be one diet change recommendation for people training to compete in swimming to help performance?
Kaufman: I would not recommend a specific diet. I am an advocate for people being self aware of their own dietary needs. I have former teammates that need to consume huge amounts of calories per day to perform, while others need fewer calories. Generally, I would recommend staying hydrated, avoiding added sugars and processed grains, and eating protein directly after workouts to optimize recovery.
Where can we follow you and find out more?
You can find me on Twitter: @EMILIEkaufmam
More information on my swimming career: http://www.liberty.edu/flames/index.cfm?PID=10872&TeamID=16&RosterID=9021
Emilie is also featured on Live Relentless’ Instagram and YouTube!
Ab Workout Video: http://youtu.be/0ygL1ksXRoA