Instabeat recently had the privilege of speaking with one of the most talented young women in the sport of swimming, Instabeat ambassador and National Champion Amy Bilquist. Over the years Amy has learned the value in the saying “look good, feel good, swim good” a phrase that not only has meaning in the pool, but also in real life.

Amy discovered that when she found success in the pool she also found success outside of the pool in things like school and her life as an individual. In our chat, Amy shares her in’s and out’s for maintaining this successful pool-life balance, something she largely attributes to her impressive sleep schedule. 

Amy spends anywhere between four and five hours either in the pool or in the weight room on any given day, so her sleep is immensely important to her. While her sister finds it a bit humorous, she has found a noticeable difference in her performance between when she does and doesn’t get a full night’s sleep. However, sleep is only half the battle.

Now that Amy’s in the middle of her taper season she relies on the power of Instabeat to help her balance her training. Taper is an important time for professional swimmers where overexertion can cause problems later in the season. With the help of Instabeat, Amy is able to continue improving her endurance while ensuring that she is not overworking herself. 

Amy insists how important it is to have space away from the pool. When she’s not at practice or sleeping, Amy likes to keep busy by going to the movies, hanging out with friends and family.. Even though she’s in the middle of her season, this holidays she is spending all her time with her family doing all kinds of activities. See below our full chat with Amy.

Q: Why do you swim?

I moved to Arizona just before I was three years old. The pool in the backyard didn’t have a fence around it so my parents wanted me to be water safe. My mom would take me in there every day and just kind of bounce me around a little bit. She’s always told me that was the time of day where I would get like the biggest smile on my face. I think just from a very young age I fell in love with swimming and just how I feel in the water, it’s kind of an escape for me. But as I grew older, it kind of developed into a love of swimming because I could push myself to boundaries and new feats that I didn’t know I could do. So, sometimes it’s just this never-ending cycle of just challenging yourself and just really figuring out what you can do and to me, that’s a really awesome feeling, doing something that you didn’t know you could do.

Q: How do you feel after a really good practice?

After a really good practice, or especially up to a really good race I’m like, “wow!”. Of course, you believe in yourself but until you see that time you’re like, “wow! I didn’t know if I could actually do it!” and that’s just so awesome and amazing. It just really gives you the confidence that you can tackle any challenge that’s ahead of you.

Q: Have you seen that mentality translate outside the pool?

Most definitely. In college, I really wanted to focus on my academics and do the absolute best I could in the schoolroom as well as the pool. I’d study really hard and work really hard on my assignments, and when I’d receive the grade, I’d be kinda like “what can’t I do today!” 

Hard work pays off. I knew that I can tackle things in the pool, but now I know I can tackle things outside as well.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you, now that you are focusing all your time on swimming?

So it kind of depends on the day. I’ll either swim in lift morning and swim in the afternoon or swim in the morning and swim in the afternoon. A workday could look like this:

Q: It looks like you sleep a lot 🙂 

I like to go to bed early, around eight or 8:30 pm which my sister thinks I’m crazy for. It’s really really funny because when I was little, my parents would always say “all right, go to bed. You need to sleep.” and I was always like “No! I wanna stay up late! When I’m old, I’m going to stay up so late!” and now I’m like the complete opposite. When it’s nine o’clock and I’m still awake my sister is honestly shocked she’s like “are you okay?” I noticed in my training that sleep is a huge differentiator for me, I definitely know when I hit eight-hour mark and when I don’t when it comes to practice time so I try to be pretty strict about getting 8 good hours.

Q: How about weekends? 

Weekends a little bit different, I only have typically one practice on Saturday morning. I just kind of hang out, I love going to the movies, hanging out with my sister or my friends, and grab a bite to eat, make more sophisticated meals.

Q: What types of movies do you like?

Honestly, I like all kinds! I really like documentaries, or just movies that are based on a true story, or that has a historical component. I recently saw Creed and Slim, which I really enjoyed.

Q: How do you take care of yourself as a professional athlete?

Unfortunately, I’ve definitely had a lot of injuries in my career so I’ve had to learn this the hard way. My priorities are:

  1. Sleep
  2. Recovery: just making sure my muscles are trying to stay as loose as possible because swimming is, you’re using every muscle in your body. So, a lot of them get overworked and tired so really just focusing on that recovery aspect
  3. Eating to fuel
  4. Seperating myself from the pool.

Q: What does your diet look like?

I definitely eat a lot, and I eat quite quickly. In college, I tried to cut back on carbs and I realized as an athlete I’m pretty dependent on carbs as they really help fuel me to be able to last a two and a half-hour practice. Average workday diet:

Breakfast: egg heavy breakfast, whether that’s scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs and then have like a bagel on the side and some type of protein as well, whether that be bacon or just a protein shake

Snack: Protein shake before or after practice in order to maintain my body weight and muscle mass.

Lunch and dinner, pretty much the same: ½ box of pasta, ½ pound of ground turkey, with vegetables on the side either salad or brussels sprouts. 

More snacks: a banana in the morning, strawberries, as a little like quick dessert at night or pineapple.

Q: Do you intentionally make healthy food choices?

I am always really tempted by the Krispy Kreme on the way home from the pool, however my claim to fame is that since I live here I haven’t gone yet so I’m really proud of that! It’s hard, but I know that what I put in my body is fuel for practice, and I have a lot of sugar I am just going to crash. So right now I am really eating to perform.

I’m also a big believer in eating what’s going to make you happy, if I’m at a birthday party I’m going to have a slice of cake, I’m not going to eat the whole cake but I’ll have a piece. It’s really all about balance.

Q: Do you ever worry about your weight?

I’m typically in a weight range that fluctuates between four to five pounds, but for me, that weight has been the most beneficial in my swimming career. In college, I was like “oh all of these girls are so skinny. I want to be skinny too,” and I really tried to cut back on some food, and I saw a real negative impact on my swimming. I understand now that I need to eat a lot and diversify my food intake if I want to continue training and performing at a high level because if I don’t, I’m going to start dying earlier in practice or showing weakness and not having enough endurance to help me go further.

So it’s really about staying at a weight that is healthy for me both physically and mentally, and building that positive body image.

Q: What does a positive body image mean to you?

I am 6’3” and have muscles, which is very intimidating to people who don’t know me. I’ll just be walking by and they’ll be like “oh my gosh you’re huge.” Hearing “you’re huge,” or “your shoulders are really broad,” isn’t necessarily always a compliment. Being toned has always been attractive but I think having actual muscle mass, isn’t the same. 

I think society and the media have become a little more welcoming to it. I definitely think it’s still not what someone says is attractive and like the general sense. We did a little like study in college, where I’d compare on Instagram photos where I am all glammed up super feminine vs ones where I am flexing. I saw quite a dip in the number of likes for the latter, so I used to be super self-conscious and not post any. 

But now I’ve had this total shift. I want to post photos where I look super muscular and jacked because I’m proud of that, that’s who I am. My whole life I’ve been working to be a great swimmer and my body is just a product of that. My body is my engine to be a good swimmer so why not celebrate that and show that off, be proud of it. It’s what helped me be a National Champion, and what’s going to help me make Olympic trials!

There’s this saying in swimming: “look good, feel good, swim good,” and I think it really holds some truth. 

Q: How do you separate yourself from the pool?

If I’m in the swimming mode all the time I’ll go crazy. When I’m at the pool I’m definitely focused on what I’m doing, but the minute practice is over, whether it was a good practice or a bad practice, I just let it go, leave it all at the door and then check back in with it tomorrow. 

I keep my life in compartments. When I’m at home, my sister and I talk about other things, and even when I was in college, in the classroom I’d worry about school, and at the pool I’d be focused on swimming. It things get muddled I would easily feel very overwhelmed.

Q: What’s your favorite workout?

My favorite type of workout is one where I’m using a power tower, or I’m pulling a weight of some sort, I just really like to feel powerful in the water. 

Another workout that I like that I think is the most beneficial to me is fast 50s. I’m very tall and if I’m not swimming at full speed or close to full speed I tend to have a very slow tempo, and it can kind of bite me in the butt if I’m competing so I try to swim as close to race pace as possible.

Q: Most dreaded workout?

I’m not the biggest aerobics girl, but I definitely know it’s good for me. I swim up to a 200 so I definitely have to have some endurance. 

Instabeat has helped me a lot with those yardage because it gives me something to think about while I’m doing it, and I can finally really make sure I’m in the target heart rate. I used to stop at every wall, and count my pulse then push off, that’s a lot and inefficient. 

I’m currently in taper for the season me and at the end of our workouts, we do something called ‘maintenance’, which is X amount of one hundred on a certain interval typically like a quicker interval around 110 to 120. So this set is all about keeping your heart rate at a certain like range so you stay in shape, but you don’t do anything that’s too taxing. I try to stay in the upper green to bottom red range. 

Having the colors there really helped take away that pressure of trying to get my heart rate and then push off the wall really quickly and now I’m like “it’s green flickering on red, I’m in the perfect spot“.

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