(Living Well With)
Professional Volleyball Player Alix Klineman Reveals What Actually Goes Into Training For The Olympics
It’s as strenuous as you think.
Seven months in and 2021 has already been an epic one for Alix Klineman. In addition to getting engaged this year, the 31-year-old professional beach volleyball player also just won the gold medal in beach volleyball at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. And while high-profile competitions and championships are not exactly new for the decorated athlete, this event hit differently, perhaps because it was coming off of an 18-month period of quarantine. Or maybe because, well, it’s the Olympics.
“For a long time I wasn’t nervous,” said Klineman to TZR in a pre-Olympics interview in May 2021. “It just felt like this thing that I was trying for that’s going to happen. But now it’s feeling so imminent. I’m starting to develop nervous energy, but it’s good energy.”
The award-winning volleyball player said she channeled said energy into preparation for the highly-anticipated event. “We train about five days a week,” said Klineman. “We have practice for a few hours a day, we lift weights for a couple hours, I see [a physical therapist] for my body and movement training, so that’s another hour of therapy or deep tissue massage. So, it can add up to four to seven hours of commitment [a day]. But, because a lot of these things are very physical, it can be very taxing.”
That said, this type of routine has been the norm for Klineman for some time. Growing up in Manhattan Beach, California, volleyball has been a fixture in her life since childhood. During her college and and early professional career her focus was on indoor volleyball — she played for Stanford University and Team USA before moving abroad to play in Italy and Brazil for some time. In 2017, Klineman made the decision to leave the indoor sport for a full-time career in beach volleyball. The shift seems to have been spot-on, as she’s won a number of awards since, including the silver medal at the 2019 Beach Volleyball World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. And, now she’s an Olympic gold medalist.
Despite her arduous training, Klineman explained she’s learned the importance of rest and taking time for herself, even during high-pressure seasons like this. “I love cooking and the creative aspect involved, so I always try to carve out time for that,” she said. “I live close to the beach, so you’ll find me there on the weekends. Although, I’m one of those people who, on my off time, will never be caught playing volleyball. When I play, it’s really hard for me to do it leisurely, and just relax and have fun [with it] without worrying about winning. So, [if my friends are playing] I’m the one who sits on the towel on the sidelines.” Fair enough.
Ahead, Klineman discusses her life as a volleyball star, how she stays in shape, and how she treats herself when she’s not in training.
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What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
I drink a huge glass of water. I’ve read it’s great for your digestion, especially on an empty stomach. Also, as a beach volleyball player, being hydrated is so, so important. We’re always training in really hot conditions, so it’s a way for me to start the day on a more hydrated note.
When you have the chance to treat yourself, what do you do?
My indulgent meal is Italian food, 100% — so, some sort of homemade pasta. I played in Italy for three years and I fell in love with the food and culture there. Anytime I have a chance to celebrate, it’s always kind of trying to replicate their food and way of life. I think [Italians] really figured out how to live a good life.
What are you listening to these days?
We listen to a lot of mellow stuff at home. We recently discovered Ziggy Alberts, who’s got an acoustic, rock, laid-back vibe. We turn on a lot of stuff like that at home. I also like James Bay and The Lumineers. I don’t really stick to one genre, though. I listen to a lot of pop and R&B to get pumped up for volleyball.
One thing you can’t live without is...
Where are you dreaming of traveling to? Why?
I’m itching to go to Europe again. Summers in Europe and Italy are so magical, and I’ve made a point to always visit those places. I’ve never been to Greece, so I really want to go there. I have some friends in Italy and I played there, so I obviously want to go back. The Mediterranean countries are definitely calling me.
What’s your go-to secret weapon when you want to look and feel good?
Probably a good facial. Nothing makes me feel more indulgent than good skin care. There’s a little spa in town that I love. When I have a day off or I’m tired, I go there for a facial and it’s the ultimate treat. It’s called Trilogy Spa in Manhattan Beach. They have a hydra-facial that I love. They take a vacuum to your skin and suck out all the impurities [...] It’s the one facial that leaves me glowing!
Do you have a favorite workout/wellness practice?
One thing I’ve dealt with my whole career is a lot of injuries. This year, I finally broke off and found a place that, instead of giving you a few rehab exercises or referring you to a doctor, analyzes your movements and finds out where the mechanical breakdown is, what’s actually causing your injury. They’re determined to rewire your body and fix your mechanical issue so they’re treating the cause as opposed to just the pain. So, that’s been a really fulfilling and rewarding workout I’ve been doing. I really feel like I’m healing my body.
What’s the best piece of relationship advice you’ve ever received?
I think the reason I’m so happy in my relationship now is simply because I’ve learned to accept them for who they are and I found someone who accepts me for who I am. There’s less time spent trying to change somebody, which is unrealistic anyway. When I’m appreciated for exactly the way I am I feel the most loved.
What’s a healthy meal you always make/order?
I love to make seafood or steak, maybe. I love cooking a ton of vegetables. I’ll roast some cabbage, sauté spinach and Brussel sprouts. I make these scalloped potatoes that everyone likes a bunch. I just fill my plate with a bunch of vegetables all the time.
Do you remember your first big splurge? Do you still own it?
When I started playing abroad in Italy, I treated myself to a designer handbag at the end of each season. It was my reward for living on my own, living abroad, working hard, sacrificing, and making my own money. The first one I bought is still one of my favorite bags — it’s a Givenchy Pandora.
What’s the small stress-saving luxury you swear by at home?
I don’t know if this is going to sound materialistic, but we get our house cleaned. That’s like the nice indulgence that I never realized I would appreciate so much. I’m naturally clean as it is, but it makes my house feel that much better.
What are you saving up for at the moment?
My fiancé and I are actually looking at houses. That’s kind of a really, really big thing. I’ve been thinking a lot about family, the future, and what I want in a house when I have kids and a dog and all that. Every time I make a smaller purchase, I think, Do I need this or should I save?
One thing you want to go back and tell your younger self?
Be confident in who you are. The older I get the more I realize it’s all about what makes you happy — doing things that feel good for you and being true to yourself.
To learn more about all the Team USA athletes, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23 and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning August 24 on NBC.
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