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Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin, one of the best female swimmers in the world, took a quick break from preparing for the Barcelona World Championship to chat with Racked about her favorite Bay Area shopping and style, a topic she seems only slightly less passionate about than swimming. The extracurricular chat was no hinderance to her performance—Coughlin won a gold medal in the 4x100-free relay race. The Berkeley grad was born in Vallejo, and still lives and trains in the East Bay—and does her fair share of shopping in San Francisco. Check out our interview below for her go-to sunnies, skinny jeans, boots, hair-care products (key for a swimmer), and where she keeps fit enough to gather up all those Olympic medals, of which she's already collected a clean dozen. And Keep an eye out for her in Rio in 2016! Where are your favorite places to shop in the Bay Area?
"I love The Blues Jean Bar in the Marina. i really love casual California style, so getting the perfect pair of jeans is always great. I also love Bloomingdales in the Westfield mall because it's such such an amazing Bloomingdales and I always use their personal shoppers. People don't realize that it's a free service and it makes the experience so much easier. You just go straight to the dressing room and try on things you may not have otherwise. That's what I do when I do appearances. When I was on the Tonight Show, the pieces they pulled together worked great. They just save your profile and as you do it more often they get to know what fits."
How would you describe your style?
"Definitely California casual. My favorite outfit is a great leather jacket, really nicely fitting tee, trouser-style jeans and heels or a boot."
Do you have a favorite t-shirt brand?
"I really like Vince, LNA is another great one. I have a swimmer's body, so I have a very long torso and both of those are very fitted but work with my broad shoulders, plus they're nice and long for my body. And they're made of super-soft cotton."
How about favorite jeans?
"I always mix it up but lately I'm wearing a lot of Rag & Bone. A good go-to is also Paige—they have fantastic cuts. Hudson also has really great skinny jeans that feel like sweats but look good. They're the most comfy skinny jeans you could wear."
How about favorite shoes or boots?
"Rag & Bone for sure—super comfy but so chic. I have this pair that are little booties with horsehair and they look so good with all my outfits. They give a nice polish."
You're in chlorinated water everyday. How do you keep your hair looking so amazing?
"First and foremost is diet. If you're not getting vegetables and fruits it shows up in your hair, skin and nails. Being consistent is really important. Also, I always wash with a very gentle shampoo immediately after swimming, then use a hydrating conditioner. I always use a leave in product. And Moroccan Oil adds such nice moisture, my hair just soaks it up. My hair is actually very healthy for someone who spends every day of her life in chlorinated water. I'm completely OCD about taking care of my hair.
A lot of people try not to wash hair ever day, which is great if you're not going in chlorine or the ocean—I have to though. And I use a wide-toothed comb and gently starting at the bottom comb the conditioner through."
Where in the Bay Area do you shop for your beauty products?
"The Beauty Center in Berkeley is where I get all my conditioner and Morroccan Oil and nail products. It's well-stocked with great brands and since I train in Berkeley, it's on the way home for me.
Where do you get a massage after tough work outs?
"My favorite spa in the Bay Area is in Napa: the Carneros Inn. It's a fantastic resort/spa. It's also where I got married. They have really good massage therapists. I like deep tissue and as an athlete it's really hard to find a great one. They also have this massage that focuses on the scalp neck hands and feet—that's my go to. It's so relaxing. They brush oils through your hair and get all those trigger points."
You're also a surfer, where are your favorite surf spots?
"I haven't surfed much lately because I've had one too many close calls with almost hurting myself, and since I've been a professional athlete I limit the amount that I surf. My favorite in high school was Linda Mar in Pacifica. It's not necessarily the best surf, but people aren't very territorial there. So if you're a beginner its a great place to go because no one cares if you're good or not good. Cowell's in Santa Cruz is one of those iconic place and people are welcoming there as well."
What are you up to this summer?
"I'm working with Lens Crafters, it's really exciting. We have this campaign called the "Go See" campaign celebrating our vision. In the summertime, people know they need to take care of their skin with sunscreen, but we tend to forget our eyes and eye health. I'm always wearing sunglasses weather it's prescription or a regular pair. We should always protect our eyes from those harmful rays because we experience everything through our vision. It's also an excuse to have another accessory."
Do you have some favorite styles from the collection?
"I like the classic bigger aviator, and there's a great Clubmaster that I had made into prescription glasses. They're really funky and super fun. Burberry also has all these great modified cat eyes. I have kind of a large head and a bigger face than most women so i need bigger sunglasses."
Are you doing any traveling this summer?
"I'm off to Barcelona next week for the World Championship and after that I'm traveling to Chicago and New York for the Go See campaign. Lens Crafters also has a contest going that I'm promoting on Instagram and Twitter asking people to post a photo of a place that you consider to be a must 'go-see.'"
How are you getting ready for 2016?
"The 2016 Summer Olympics is really the focus. Even though I'm going to a World Championshiop this summer, everything is leading up to Rio in three years. It's very exciting."
It sounds like you really enjoy what you do.
"It's a fun job and a great excuse to stay in shape. Working out is my full time job."
Where do you work out?
"I train at Cal pretty much year round, or if I'm on a break or my coach is on vacation I train at Club Sport in Walnut Creek. And I just started doing yoga this year at Yoga Works.
I lift weights quite a bit—4x per week. It's very very heavy Olympic-style lifting. I train with two super strong guys and try to keep up with them as much as I can. They're really insanely strong and it pushes me every day. Women are fearful of weight training because they think it will make them bulky, but it's the easiest way to stay super lean. It's my favorite thing because I get to eat so much. My husband can eat a ton too but he sometimes gets scared."
You travel a ton, any tips for smart packing?
"I have a pretty good Pinterest board for travel essentials. It's really important for international flights to invest in a great eye mask. I bought a Tempur-Pedic one, I remember it being expensive but I've used it every flight. It's indispensable and worth every penny. It forms to the face and doesn't catch my eyelashes and I pass right out.
I love having a Jambox with me. I like having my music, especially in a hotel room—they can be so sterile so it's nice to fill the room with music or a podcast or have better sound for movies. I also use GoToobs, these squishy travel tubes. They never leak. And I always bring bath salts and a candle with me.
Other than that I keep it really minimal. I pack light wraps that you can use on the plane that are cozy to keep warm but that you can layer. Black leggings, which you can dress up or even work out in. A cashmere scarf keeps you warm and adds polish to your outfit. And basic flats and maybe one pair of heels."
· Natalie Coughlin [Official Site]
· 2016 Summer Olympics [Official Site]
· All One on One posts [Racked SF]