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Summer Olympics 2016: Decathlete Trey Hardee on Training Like an Olympian

The 2012 silver medalist talks about his new gig covering track and field for NBC, his essential meals, and the strange ritual he always completes before competition.
Trey Hardee Decathlon Olympics / Red Bull

Decathlete Trey Hardee will not be competing in the Olympics this summer—but that doesn’t mean he won’t be in Rio.

After being unable to finish qualifying at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June due to an injury, Hardee will be joining the NBC Olympics coverage as an analyst, contributing to coverage of the track and field events. The 2012 silver medalist from the London Olympics had been hoping to compete in his third straight Summer Games, but an untimely hamstring issue put an end to that.

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“It was a terribly long year—in January, I dislocated my left foot. I worked tirelessly to get myself back in shape for the trials, but I ran out of time. I wasn't able to compete and sharpen up like I usually would. Then, 10 days before the meet, I strained my hamstring—it was just a series of unfortunate events for me.”

Even though the 32-year-old won’t be going for gold in Rio, Hardee plans on competing for another year on the track and field circuit. Hardee keeps himself in prime shape with an intense workout schedule, and he spoke with Men’s Fitness about what it takes to compete in the decathlon, his favorite foods, and his favorite workout music.

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(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity.)

MEN'S FITNESS: What's your daily training routine like while preparing for the Olympics?

TREY HARDEE: There's so much that goes into being a good decathlete, but for my daily training I'm up at 6:30 a.m., lifting weights by 7:30 a.m., and doing rehab every morning followed by a throwing session outside—either shot put, discus, or javelin. Then a short break for lunch and after that I do my afternoon sessions, which usually has a jump—long, high, or pole vault—followed by my running workout for the day. Running can be something as short as 20-meter block starts, or as long as 1000m tempo runs.

How often are you in the gym or training on the field?

My peak time is between January and May, and I’m training about 35 to 40 hours per week. Every day, I have some kind of prehab or cooldown therapy in place—massage, chiropractic care, physiotherapy, or stretching. The list goes on and on.

What are some exercises you do in the gym that help you most when competing?

My go-to exercises are any of the Olympic movements—power cleans, snatches, and jerks. The sets and reps vary as the season goes on, but we keep it under four reps usually and focus more on speed and power development—we try not to do more than 20 reps total and the fewest we do is around six or seven.

What do you enjoy most about competing in the decathlon? What does it mean to you to follow in the footsteps of greats like O’Brien and Jenner?

The United States has such a rich tradition in the decathlon and I’ve been honored to have carried the flag for a few years. The ones that came before me showed it can be done if you train hard and believe in yourself. I love the camaraderie among decathletes—we're all fans of one another in the middle of the decathlon. No other sport or event can compare.

What is your favorite event in the decathlon?

The pole vault was my first love and first taste of track and field—it was my ticket to college. There's nothing like running as fast as you can, jamming a stick into the ground, flying through the air, falling 19 feet back to earth and landing on your back.

What is your favorite exercise to do and why? Least favorite exercise?

My favorite thing to do while training is run repeat 300s. My least favorite exercise: repeat 300s. I feel like I get the most out of them, but they rock me. I am always floored after I finish the session.

What is your daily nutritional routine like? How many meals do you eat per day?

My daily nutrition is lean and mean—I do eat a lot, but it's an all day affair. I try to keep my body fueled and able to recover as fast as possible. If I have to call them “meals,” I'd say I eat 4-6 meals a day.

The Olympic trials did not go as expected. What was that like?

It was tough—physically, the pain was just too great to overcome. Mentally, I was put through the wringer—I felt like quitting for the first time in my life—but my wife, Chelsea, kept me going. I truly believe I'm one of the best in the world at what I do, but the last couple of seasons, I haven't been able to get a fair break. I had a hard time dealing with those things because they seemed all out of my control.

What is the next step for you when it comes to your career and competition?

I've taken a position with the broadcast team at NBC and will be commentating the Games, but I also plan to compete one more year for sure. I love what I do and don't want to stop, but I'll see how this broadcasting thing works out this summer and maybe I'll have something to slide into when I “retire.”

What is your favorite meal?

At the end of the day, my body can't get enough carbs and fat. So my favorite meal is pretty trite... it’s pizza. During training, I try to keep my diet pretty liquid—water, sugar-free Red Bull, and recovery drinks are what's on the menu.

What are your favorite meals to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

For breakfast it’s a hemp protein shake with bananas, almond milk, almond butter, coconut oil, and coffee. Lunch, it’s beet salad with tons of chicken breasts, and for dinner—hate to say it, but I love pizza.

Do you use supplements or other products while training?

I supplement with krill oil, vitamin D, vitamin C, and I use creatine on and off throughout the season.

What did it feel like to bring home a medal for the United States in London?

It was one of my proudest moments—coming back from Tommy John surgery and actually realizing one of my dreams was unreal.

What are your expectations for the United States team in Rio?

The team has a good mix of veterans and first-timers—I think there will be some surprising young men and women that will step up and steal the show.

Is there one specific thing you feel you absolutely to do each time before you compete?

I have to have a freshly shaved head!

What advice do you have for other athletes looking to emulate your success?

Consistency is the name of the game—day in and day out, staying focused on a goal and being consistent in the pursuit.

Do you listen to music or anything else for motivation before you compete? What’s your favorite workout song?

The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Can't Stop" is my all-time adrenaline rev-up pick—but I'll drag the bluetooth speaker out the track and hit shuffle on my Bob Schneider playlist.


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