Former champion Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin knows what it means to train hard. The 2008 Olympic all-around champ, who is also the child of two world-class gymnasts, started competing at the age of six and has been in the gym ever since — she works out every day. "I always feel better when I get in a workout," she says, "even if it's 30 minutes or 20 minutes of something, every single day."
Liukin, who took home five medals at the 2008 Olympics, retired from the sport and is now a NBC Sports gymnastics analyst in Tokyo.
In 2014, she shared the fitness regimen she uses on the road — and you can follow along at home, with these three easy moves for a stronger core. Repeat this circuit three times for the full workout, which Liukin recommends doing every day — or even a few times a day — for gold medal results:
Plank: Hold for 1 minute
If holding for one minute is too much, you can start with 15 or 30 seconds.
Side Plank: 20 on each side
If you can't raise your leg in the air at first, just hold the plank pose.
Russian Twist: 20 on each side
Once you've done these three moves, repeat the whole circuit twice more!
Typical fitness routine:
"The most effective for me is running, though it's not my favorite," she says. "But if I need to get in shape quickly, I need to run." She likes to mix it up with workouts for her abs, arms, legs and circuit training, and says she doesn't often lift weights. "If I do weights, it's probably very light weights, five to ten pounds, no more than that."
Most hated workout:
"I hated running," she says. "We did three miles, maybe four times a week, ever since I was probably 10. So it took me a long time to start to like running again. I wouldn't necessarily pick it, but again, it gets quick results. My other dreaded thing was climbing the rope. We had to do that for punishment conditioning — if you were late for training, you had to do 10 rope climbs. So we just learned to never be late or never get in trouble. Even today, I walk into a gym and see a rope, and I just want to run away from it!"
While she doesn't follow a specific diet, Liukin says she always tries to eat clean: "A lot of protein, a lot of vegetables, a lot of greens. I don't really eat too many carbs, and if I do, it's brown rice or quinoa. And I really love green juices. I don't necessarily do green juice cleanses for a week long, but if I'm not feeling that great, I'll just do a one or two day juice cleanse, and it will just pick me right back up." Her go-to juice is all greens: "Kale, spinach, celery, parsley, ginger. If I feel like I want it a little sweeter, I put in apples."
How she gets motivated:
"I think the most important thing to know is, you'll never regret a workout when it's over. And it's just hard to tell yourself that before you've done it. But just try to remember how you feel after your workout, and know that when you feel good, you look good, and you have more confidence, and so I think that that's really important."
Fave cheat foods:
"I've never been too into junk food, like chips and stuff, but I do love dark chocolate. I try to tell myself, you know, a little bit is always good for you! I do like cookies, or frozen yogurt. My favorite is they have almond-milk ice cream now — I try not to do too much dairy, so that's always a good replacement."
This article was originally published in 2014.