Say what you want about ice dancing, the people who do it are in some shape. That’s what we realized when we met Olympic champs Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the Road to Rio Head of the Charles Regatta event in Boston last month. The Michigan duo, who officially teamed up in ’97, are the first American ice dancers to win the World title and gold medal.
Davis went on to slay the 18th season of Dancing with the Stars with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and she now has her sights set on publishing children’s books and working with organizations like Classroom Champions to share her enthusiasm for education and sports.
She and White also endorse airweave, a Japanese mattress topper company that recently launched in the States and sponsors the US team. So we asked her about training, eating, sleeping and being the best you can be.
“It’s really interesting going to the Olympics because, you know, you sit with the speed skaters and you’re having a cookie and they’re just, like, horrified. We just found a way that it works and we’re not terribly restricted, which is nice because I have a sweet tooth.”
On her Olympic roots:
The greatest thing about being an Olympian is that it’s really a family. When you have a great group of people who are bonded by something as great as the Olympic spirit, it’s hard to not want to be a part of it. Charlie had been working with some of the ice dance female coaches trying to teach him, and he was so tiny because he was like eight, they needed someone who was relatively close to his stature to compete with, rather, and I was kind of a little spark plug, so they said ‘Maybe Meryl will be great.’ And it worked. The rest is history.
On her training schedule:
When we were 18, we really started shifting gears, and our training was very much on the Olympic level from that point forward. We would be at the rink about seven hours a day—about four, four and a half hours on the ice, three days a week we would work out for an hour and a half off the ice and then two days a week we would do ballet for an hour. It was a lot. For a lot of those years, we would go directly from the rink to school for a couple of hours.
On her sleeping schedule:
Once we really stepped up our game, we started to realize how important it was for us to get a really good night of sleep. Because you wake up in the morning and if you’re not feeling ready for the day, it’s not going to be fun. And airweave has been a really big part of that as well because not only can we use it while we’re at home, but we can take [the portable one] with us. So much of our lives are on road and on the go, whether it’s competitions or tours or appearances, and to be able to take the consistency with us wherever we go is a really important piece.
On her eating habits:
As an athlete, it’s frustrating to read the headlines, “This Diet is Going to Fix All of Your Problems,” because that’s never true. Everyone’s body is different. As athletes we took a lot of time to figure out what foods you eat and then you feel really good the next day—what’s right for your specific needs. We’re not that restricted, honestly. It’s really interesting going to the Olympics because, you know, you sit with the speed skaters and you’re having a cookie and they’re just, like, horrified. We just found a way that it works and we’re not terribly restricted, which is nice because I have a sweet tooth.
On exploring and fulfilling other passions:
We actually were doing Dancing with the Stars and the Stars on Ice tour side-by-side. Tuesday through Saturday we’d be on the road with Stars on Ice and Charlie and I would be skating together every night. And our partners from Dancing with the Stars would be with us on the road, and then we’d take the red-eye to LA Sunday night and do a show Monday morning. We really just appreciated being in a place and enjoying the moment, but we were exhausted. It was the most fun thing we’d ever done just because there was enough similarity to ice dance that we could embrace it, but it was a world that we hadn’t been working for like 20 years for that one moment, so the pressure was totally different.
On being the best you can be:
One of the biggest things is building a really great team around you whom you can trust—our amazing parents and coaches and sponsors and the US team. Having the right people around you is key. One of the most beautiful things that we have really seen is that these ideas that are so crucial to success in sports aren’t just sport-specific. The ideas in sports are relatable and they’re understandable for things that help you in any area of life. Getting enough sleep—that’s not just for athletes. If you’re in business, you have to get enough sleep or you’re not going to be ready. Eating the right things and listening to your body instead of trying to make another person’s ideas fit you. Listening to yourself and taking care of yourself are things that we’ve grown to appreciate.