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Life StoryJun/Jul 2013 Issue

Rosie MacLennan

Photograph by James Heaslip

Photograph by James Heaslip

When the number 57.3 flashed on the scoreboard at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Rosannagh (Rosie to her friends and family) MacLennan was shocked that she had scored her personal best. It was also the highest score ever achieved by any female in the trampoline competition. She thought it might be good enough to win the gold—but with three contenders left to compete, she didn’t dare hope.

"Going into London, I knew that I was a medal hopeful by others’ standards but not necessarily a gold contender," says the diminutive 24 year old who lives in Toronto.

But it was the performance of a lifetime. Rosie MacLennan won the gold medal, Canada’s first and only gold of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

"I didn’t really notice the crowd," she recalls of the surreal experience. "I was busy taking in the moment."

This was far from MacLennan’s first win in competitive sports. She was the Canadian National Women’s champion in 2005, 2009 and 2011 at the Pan American Games and won silver and bronze medals in World Championship competition in both individual and synchronized trampoline events. All this from a girl who started the trampoline at age 7, made Ontario Canada’s team at 9 and was competing at 11.

The reigning Olympic trampoline champion spoke with Living Without about her special diet and its impact on her athletic performance.

Living Without

Leading up to last summer’s Summer Olympics, did you think the gold might be yours?

Rosie MacLennan No. The way I approach goal setting is very much oriented toward competing against myself. Right before the Olympic games, I actually did win the World Cup, so I guess in a sense that opened my mind to the possibility. But going into the Olympics, all I knew was that I was jumping better than I ever had before. I had gained so much out of all the preparation, learning so much more about myself and being able to push myself so much farther.

What was your preparation like?

Leading into the games, I was doing nine sessions on the trampoline a week for two hours each session. Then in a strength and conditioning gym, I was spending four hours with a coach, working on plyometrics and building strength, power and power endurance. Then I would do interval training on a bike, followed by another two hours of Pilates and recovery work. I had Saturdays off.

What did your strength and conditioning regimen include?

Weight resistance and plyometrics—like jumping and body power. It really depended on the day. Basically, we worked on developing strength and turning that strength into power.

After winning the gold, you were asked what food you’d want, something you’d given up during training, and you said chocolate. Is chocolate your guilty pleasure?

Yeah—but everything in moderation. Before the Olympics, I was predominantly eating dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free.

Any particular reasons?

Talking with my trainer and my nutritionist and through self-experimentation, I found that my energy levels were much more stable when I cut out gluten, dairy and refined sugars. I’m a bit lactose intolerant anyway. Even though I enjoy the taste of dairy foods, they have never really agreed with me. My stomach begins to bloat and I get a stomachache—a very uncomfortable feeling. With gluten, I didn’t have these obvious problems. I never noticed any difference in my overall feeling and energy until I began cutting it out of my diet. I noticed I felt a lot better when I didn’t eat it…a lighter feeling. Without the gluten, I focused on consuming more vegetables and protein so my body became leaner, too. I would eat more avocadoes, almonds and foods with fish oil. So without the gluten, everything I was putting into my body was productive and I didn’t have periods of low energy.

When did you start this special diet?

About six months before the 2012 Olympics. But even before that, I was doing a modified version of this diet leading into major competitions. Then I became stricter with it and I could really feel the difference in my energy levels and intensity levels. And again, with no dairy, I stopped having the stomach issues and digestive problems.

Did your nutritionist suggest you had a sensitivity to these foods?

She recommended that I try to eat this way. She strongly suggested that I might have a sensitivity to dairy when I told her about my stomachaches. I never got tested for it. I’ve really learned more about my body and what makes me feel better and what makes me have the most energy through trial and error.

Are you still on a gluten-free, dairy-free diet?

Yes. And I eat almost no refined sugars.

What are some of your nutritional staples?

Vegetables like kale, broccoli, red peppers and zucchini. Chicken, eggs, fish, lentils, chickpeas, almond butter.

Any dairy or gluten substitutions?

I drink almond milk. Quinoa. Rice cakes. I spread hummus on rice cakes instead of eating it with regular crackers or pita bread.

What’s challenging you most?

My challenge isn’t diet. My biggest challenge is managing time. I’m back at school getting my masters, along with training and fulfilling a number of other requests. Maintaining time for my family and friends—and for myself—it’s a balance. My goal is to try and stay open and receptive to the opportunities that are presented to me, to listen to what I’m passionate about and follow that.

Doctors strongly advise that people be screened for celiac disease before embarking on the gluten-free diet. Celebrity correspondent Bonnie Siegler lives in California.

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