Ep 73 – RISEing to the Occasion with Olympic Swimmers Caroline Burckle and Rebecca Soni

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“I counted my confidence as a swimmer to be the main reason that I was able to win the races that I won.  I’m not super tall, I’m not super strong. I had very interesting technique, but I’m sure there are people who had better and stronger technique…So, it played a big role in my career, and my success, so why couldn’t I help teach this to the next generation?” – Rebecca Soni

Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle is a highly decorated freestyle swimmer whose achievements include winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and a gold medal at the 2007 Pan American Games.  She swam for the University of Florida on an athletic scholarship, where she was awarded 2008 NCAA Swimmer of the Year.  A two-time National Champion, Caroline also broke the oldest standing swimming record in the 500-yard freestyle.  After her retirement from competitive swimming in 2010, Caroline went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Sports Psychology & Motor Behavior.

Rebecca Soni, a breaststroke specialist also known as ‘Reb,’ holds 6 Olympic medals, three gold and three silver, spanning across two Olympics- the 2008 Beijing Games, and the 2012 London Games.  She’s a former World Record Holder in the breaststroke, and is well known for her distinctive swimming technique. Rebecca has a B.S. in Communications from the University of Southern California, a certificate in Positive Psychology, and is also a certified Health Coach.

Following their illustrious careers, Rebecca and Caroline both struggled with burnout and a loss of structure and routine.  Eventually they joined together to found the RISE Elite Athletes program, where they use their unique blend of knowledge and experience to mentor young athletes in a variety of sports.

I recently caught up with Caroline and Reb to talk about their Olympic experiences, how they processed their retirement from their swimming careers, and how they’re using positive psychology to set a future generation of athletes up for success.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How Caroline and Rebecca first met
  • Their respective introductions to swimming
  • At what point they realized swimming at a higher level was possible, including the birth of their Olympic dreams at a relatively late age
  • Some of Caroline and Rebecca’s favorite moments from their swimming careers
  • What their preparation for the Olympics looked like
  • How training camps and working with different coaches gave them different perspectives
  • Things they would do differently looking back on their swimming careers, including Reb adjusting her diet, and Caroline focusing on recovery
  • How Reb processed the challenge of losing structure and routine in the post-Olympic period, and used the mental toughness she learned from swimming to overcome those feelings
  • How Caroline dealt with burnout toward the end of her swimming career, and struggled to find an identity after retirement
  • Positive psychology: what it is, and how it can be used to build and develop a mindset
  • How mental work can impact and improve performance
  • How Caroline and Reb combined their experiences and visions to mentor younger athletes through RISE Elite Athletes
  • The RISE program: how it works and how it and mutually benefits both young athletes and former Olympians through shared knowledge, experiences, and the normalization of heroes
  • The common themes and obstacles Reb and Caroline see amongst their athletes that hold them back, and the techniques they teach to help overcome these challenges
  • The impact of social media on athletes today, and the pitfall of constantly comparing yourself to others
  • How Reb and Caroline apply the techniques they use during their mentorships in their own daily lives
  • Caroline’s CrossFit experience, her love for the community, and the importance of the team atmosphere
  • What it’s like for Caroline to watch the CrossFit athletes swim, and the benefits of skill practice
  • How athletes can implement swimming into a regular training practice, starting with a solid warm-up, and incorporating intervals
  • What Rebecca and Caroline are currently doing for their own movement practice
  • Three things Caroline and Rebecca do on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on their health

You can follow Caroline and Rebecca’s program, RISE Elite Athletes via their website, and on RISE’s social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can find Caroline Burckle on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her website, and you can find Rebecca Soni on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her website.


Related Episodes:

Ep 28 – James Hobart on Teaching, Competing, and the Real Purpose of CrossFit

Ep 36a and 36b – Dominique Moceanu on gymnastics, healing, and health

Ep 43 – Jason Wachob: Founder and CEO of mindbodygreen and Inspiration To Live Your Best Life

Ep 48 – Jen Widerstrom: Health, Habits and Why You Are Enough

Ep 56 – Katrín Davíðsdóttir and Ben Bergeron on the Process of Creating a Champion

If you like this episode, please subscribe to Pursuing Health on iTunes and give it a rating. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below and on social media using the hashtag #PursuingHealth. I look forward to bringing you future episodes with inspiring individuals and ideas about health every other Tuesday.

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Disclaimer: This podcast is meant to share the experiences of various individuals. It does not provide medical advice, and it is not a substitute for advice from your physician or health care professional.

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