Karen Cockburn's sport wasn't in the Olympics when she starting training as a trampoline gymnast in 1992. Now the 31-year-old Stouffville, Ont., resident has three medals and is chasing acrobatic excellence at the 2012 Summer Games. If Ms. Cockburn wins a medal in London, England, she will be the first Canadian athlete to win a medal at four consecutive Summer Olympics.
"Ten minutes of jumping on a trampoline is the equivalent of 30 minutes of running and offers fun fitness," says Ms. Cockburn, who is married to chiropractor Mathieu Turgeon, a bronze medal winner at 2000 Sydney Olympics in trampoline. "But being an elite athlete isn't the healthiest condition for a body, because I'm pushing it to extremes to reach heights of 18 feet in the air if I want to compete with the best in the world."
"To be on top of the podium and get a medal for Canada."
"I work out six days a week in the afternoons or evenings, four hours a day, with one day off for recovery. Some of the work is trampoline and technical tricks with video analysis, with a coach teaching us form and improving our routines.
"I do short sprints on the bike, and weight training. I focus on lower body for power to weight ratio. Now I'm in a force phase, so I'm lifting heavy weights. Yesterday I squatted 305 pounds – I weigh 120 pounds. You need strong legs to get height on the trampoline because we're going up to 18 feet in the air. I'm judged on three elements out of 10: form, difficulty and then "flight time," so power-to-body-weight ratio is important to get height.
"I do ballet once a week to help with form and posture and hot yoga twice a week to stretch me out and de-stress; I like the sweat and the heat."
"Eat, sleep, train.
"When I have time I do freelance shows.
"I take some supplements like iron and B12 and I have a naturopath, but I mostly get everything from food. I go with quinoa and brown rice and turkey and eggs, no red meat. I'm strict throughout the year, but will tighten it up for the next few months.
"Breakfast is oatmeal with berries and flax seeds or an omelette with veggies. Lunch is a quinoa salad with vegetables with turkey or beans. Dinner is salad with some protein. If I'm working out I have snacks: salad with beans or a berries shake with protein powder."
"The diet is tough. When I lived at home my dad worked at a bakery and would bring home fresh bread; it's still my temptation."
My original motivation
"My parents put me in gymnastics and swimming to learn basic motors skills. From there, I competed in artistic gymnastics and through training for diving I discovered the trampoline."
"During tramp training I can't have anything in my ears. In the gym I listen to instruction, so I don't have a motivational song."
"Having two knee surgeries and pushing through injuries to train as much as I need to."
Julia Alleyne, medical director for Sport C.A.R.E. at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, is Ms. Cockburn's physician and offers some additional advice.
Taper ballet cross-training
"Trampoline and ballet work muscles of Karen's feet plenty, so I would recommend that ballet be tapered when trampoline training increases in preparation for competition, and then resumed as an early season activity for toning."
The action of pointing the toes is used in both activities, which stresses the plantar muscle and the toe flexors, which can overwork the foot encouraging injury or reducing power for jumps.
Maximize recovery day
Dr. Alleyne, who is the chief medical officer for the London 2012 Canadian Olympic Committee, also emphasizes that the recovery day is as important as those six workout days when training in a goal-oriented and progressive regime.
"The recovery day is more than rest; Karen could benefit from continued good nutrition, massage, light stretching, and overall rejuvenation of the mind, body and soul."
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Special to The Globe and Mail