Fresh from the Pool: Workout Tips and Beauty Secrets from USA Synchro

Posing with members of USA Synchro. Where’s my sparkly swimsuit, ladies?

In my 9-to-5 life I often write about beauty tricks and makeup tips. I try not to bring that to my, ahem, running blog. But this is one situation where the line between looking good and training hard gets a bit blurry. I had the opportunity to get in the pool with members of the United States Synchronized Swimming (USA Synchro) National Team—mere weeks before a couple of them fly across the pond to represent the US at the 2012 Olympic Games, and I dove right in!

I’m not much of a water bug—I sink more than I swim. I mean, I could save myself by dog paddling if I had to, but I didn’t actually finish swimming lessons as a kid. (My family moved halfway through the class and no one thought to sign me up again.) Still, I struggled into a really tight one-piece and threw myself into the pool. There in the shallow end, these incredibly talented women shared their best training tips and beauty secrets. Here’s how to get what they’ve got:

Rock-solid musclesTreading water eight hours a day, six days a week is bound to keep you slim and trim. But these ladies also engage in “land training.” They’re in the gym for at least an hour three days a week working with free weights and machines to strengthen their arms, legs, and core. Weight bearing exercises and swimming are terrific cross-training activities for runners—you’re using similar muscles to keep your body moving, and you’re giving your joints a break from all that pavement pounding.

I’m ready to learn a few tricks in the shallow end—nose plug and all!

Incredible breath control One full-team presentation lasts about three minutes, and about half of that time is spent under water, which means at any given moment these girls are holding their breath—often for up to 45 seconds. Woah!  The trick is to increase your lung capacity with deep breathing exercises. A good one: Fully inhale, hold your breath for 2 to 3 seconds, and then completely exhale slowly. Practice this (outside of the water) a few times a day. Runners can totally benefit from better lung capacity and mindful breathing. You never want to outrun your breath—it should always be consistent, even during hard efforts.

Not a hair out of place The women practice in swim caps, but for competition their hair needs to be on display. To keep their adorable chignons and top knots secure they rely on Knox Gelatine. Mix it up and slather it on for super stiff, super shiny locks. (Believe me, those buns don’t budge!) Gelatin is surprisingly good for your hair—it’s strengthens the hair shaft and protects if from drying pool chemicals. But it’s tough to get it out: “You need hot water, a fine tooth comb, and lots of patience,” one team member jokes.

Getting a leg up (that’s me!) on the competition with Jane Katz of the 1964 US Synchronized Swim Team.

Run-proof eye makeup I spent about 20 minutes in the water with these lovelies and came out looking like a raccoon—my “waterproof” mascara clearly wasn’t. Meanwhile, their makeup was flawless. The secret to its staying power: ChapStick. “We load on the color and then slick ChapStick over top to seal it against our lids,” reveals one team member. This is ultra-important during competition, because 50% of the score is based on artistic impression and presentation—points off for runny mascara! As for lash boosters, they’re big fans of CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Blasting Waterproof Mascara and Dior Diorshow Waterproof Mascara (though they admit even those formulas wear off after hours of chlorine contact).

Lots of support Pricey pool memberships and sparkly swim suits aside, it costs a lot to train and compete in synchro on the national and Olympic levels. These ladies wouldn’t be able to do it without sponsorships from companies like Infusium 23—which kicked off a partnership with USA Synchro in March. Everyday athletes and runners need a lot of support, too—and we get it! Just think about all those volunteers passing out cups of water at races, and partners and spouses who put up with our whininess when we taper.

Olympic-medal hopefuls Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva show off their routine.

All that time in front of the mirror and in the pool has paid off for two members of the team, USA Synchro’s duet, Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva, are headed to the 2012 Olympic Games next month. They’ll be in London for the opening ceremonies on 27 July, but won’t compete until 5 August. Will they have tea with Prince Harry and play in Piccadily Circus until then? “Nope, we’ll be training at a pool in Dublin until it’s time to compete,” says Mary Killman. “There isn’t enough free time in the pool at the Olympic Village for us to practice our routine.” All that sightseeing will have to wait until after the medals are given out, I guess. Good luck, ladies!

Will you be watching Olympic coverage of the USA Synchro team? Do you ever cross-train in the pool?