US Rower Mary Whipple Defends the Gold with a Vegetarian Diet and Her Pre-Race Ritual

Mary Whipple has only a week left in the states before she packs her oars and heads to London, where she’ll be competing on the US rowing team. She and her fellow women rowers are defending the team’s first gold medal since 1984, which they earned in Beijing in 2024.

While terribly busy with training preparations for team’s trip to the 2024 Olympic Games this month, Mary took some time to chat with us about her diet (which is vegetarian), training methods (which are intense), and even what gets her head in the game at the starting line (it’s not music like fellow water athlete Michael Phelps). She even shares her personal breakfast recipe that she calls the “MWhip special.”

What does your training diet look like?

Because I’m a vegetarian, I keep a fairly constant diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I don’t keep a daily food journal but I do a self-check with my favorite app (Lose It!) on a weekly basis. My official race weight is 110 pounds; I fluctuate a pound or so but because I’m weighed in 2 hours before each race, I track it very closely.

Usually I’m under so often I have to carry weight in the boat. I, naturally, have a lower weight. My weight isn’t something I worry about because I’ve got great genes from my family.   

What are your go-to snacks before or after a workout/training session?

Before workouts, smoothies are my go-to. In the morning I add egg white powder for protein, banana, kale and any seasonal fruits with almond milk.

After morning sessions, I go home and eat a proper breakfast after practice. My favorite breakfast I love to make is the MWhip special of Huevos Rancheros – corn tortilla, beans, jack cheese, over medium egg, salsa, steamed kale and some avocado.

Rowers are known for snacking throughout the day. One of my best memories is the team waiting to make an appearance and we pulled out some chips and salsa in the middle of Times Square as we were waiting.  It’s not something I do every day but we do snack a lot to keep up our energy.

What does your training regimen looks like?

Six days a week, five hours a day. Usually two to three practices a day, all year long.

Our training schedule varies, but we do have 3x a week of weight training that we add to rowing every day.

Which exercises or workouts do you rely on to get your “Olympic body”?

I do a lot of running, lifting and core strength work. Core strength is critical in my role, I have to be extremely still in the boat, becoming one with the boat. I use my stabilizing muscles so that I don’t rock the boat.

Any particular song that gets you in the zone before a competition, or other ritual you rely on?

I have a ritual before races, to help me get focused. After we put our boat seats up I then weigh in. I get engaged with the team and what’s happening in my surroundings so that I get comfortable with the noise and chaos of the preparation. I don’t listen to music, I listen to the noise of the competition area, I am soaking up the atmosphere (checking the boat, the noise of the other races, the announcers hype). That gets me ready.

What are you most looking forward to at the London Olympics?

Race day! We have been visualizing and practicing as if each day is the final. I have the best teammates in the world and together we all have to execute our own individual roles within the boat to back each other up. My teammates rely on me to lead all our individual strengths into one action and thought, matching and believing. No matter the outcome my job is to make sure we do it together and back each other up stroke by stroke. I’m going to lead my girls down our lane and to the finish line to defend our Gold medal.

Also Read:

US Olympic Team is Taking a Record Number of Dietitians to London

US Olympic Swimmer Natalie Coughlin Talks Health and Fitness

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Burgers are a Tasty Vegetarian Meal


Photo credit: Mitchell Haaseth / NBC Olympics
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