Kaitlin Sather Nielsen is used to being busy. The 27-year-old AVP beach volleyball pro is also an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for UCLA, where she was a multisport athlete; the 12th player ever to record 1,000 career blocks and digs; and a high jumper on the Track & Field team. Nielsen did even more in high school, competing in volleyball in the fall and track and badminton, which overlapped, in the spring. "I would literally run from one competition to the next," she says.
STACK interrupted Nielsen's hectic schedule to talk about her training and solicit her advice for aspiring young athletes.
Thanks for the time. We know you don't have much of it. What's your daily schedule like nowadays?
I hit my workout before the sun comes out. Then I have team practice at UCLA for three hours. Then it's office work. I'm lucky that, as a recruiter, I get to spend a ton of time talking with amazing athletes. Then I head home and have a second training session or a regenerative workout. It makes for long, grueling days, but it's worth it.
What's your training like?
Well, other than on-court stuff, it's lifting and conditioning. The biggest breakthrough I had in my career came when I started lifting and doing proper conditioning. I adopted a CrossFit-style workout, one that's very volleyball-specific and doesn't involve heavy overhead lifts. The training is explosive and metabolic.
What types of cross training do you do?
Volleyball isn't a sport where you're encouraged to run, because you are trying to increase your vertical. That being said, I've been an undercover runner since high school. It's kind of an active meditation for me. I also do a lot of yoga.
What else do you do now that you wish you had done in high school?
I wish I'd embraced the idea of process sooner. You grow up with your identity wrapped around your sport, and the way you feel about yourself can go up and down with your season. When I changed my perspective and realized that sports are a process, I became more patient. Don't get me wrong; I'm a competitive person who wants to win. But when you embrace the idea of process, you let go of wanting to win and focus more instead on how you are going to execute. By doing that, I started seeing things more clearly and breaking through boundaries that used to hold me back.
Take these cues from Nielsen's training log to elevate your game.
Nielsen runs several times a week, doing long endurance runs and shorter runs where she alternates between sprints and jogging.
TRY IT: Sprint to one telephone pole, then jog to the next. Repeat 10 times.
Nielsen says, "In college, I realized my flexibility was hindering my performance. Yoga unlocked my body and increased my vert."
TRY IT: Firelog Pose stretches the hips and groin. Sit Indian style with your ankle stacked on top of your opposite knee.
Nielsen's metabolic conditioning workouts have a volleyball twist. "We run resisted windsprints in the sand and pair that with juping or throwing," she says.
TRY IT: Run a 20-yard resisted sprint, then perform 6 Med Ball Tosses for height.
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