American beach volleyball player and Olympian Lauren Fendrick talks with us about training, the importance of balanced recovery, and light therapy with Joovv!
The 2016 Summer Olympics didn’t go as planned for you and your team. What lessons did you learn from that experience that will better prepare you for the 2020 games in Tokyo?
We worked so hard, for so long. We were two points from advancing versus Russia in our final pool play match and I’m positive we could’ve done some damage in the playoffs if we had advanced. But that was our path. And instead of sulking about the result, I chose to study and analyze it to make improvements moving forward.
Don’t get me wrong; earning an Olympic spot in Rio was one of my greatest accomplishments to date. For beach volleyball, only 4 athletes—which is 2 teams per country per gender—can qualify. Not only do you have to beat out the world, but you have to beat out the other US teams vying for that spot. Qualifying is a grueling process that technically occurs over 2 seasons, with the final qualifying tournament happening only 7 weeks before the Olympic Games. But, in reality, it was a 4-year grind. In the moment, I didn’t realize how much pressure and stress (physically, mentally, and emotionally) had been building over those four years. Brooke and I worked extremely hard, but there were things I definitely could’ve done smarter.
Looking back, I recognize that I didn’t put enough emphasis on recovery. Every daily decision was a choice between “Is this going to make me better, or not?” I wanted to be absolutely sure that nobody was out-working me. That was a huge reason why I got to where I am, but now I’m learning how valuable and necessary recovery is to enhance all the hard work on the court and in the gym. This Olympic cycle is the time for me to apply the lessons of training smarter, focusing on recovery, surrounding myself with smart, passionate people—and going for it!
You get the opportunity to travel all over the world for different tournaments throughout the year. What are some of the favorite cities you’ve visited?
I love having my feet on the ground in new places, but most recently I went to The Hague. It was maybe my 6th time visiting in my career, and I totally fell in love with the country. The tournament was based in The Hague, but we got to spend one day exploring Amsterdam. I loved the walkability of the city, the great local shops, the bike culture, and the people!
Most of the houses and apartments in the cities had shutterless windows with the living room facing the street. I just loved that these people are so open and free with their homes, allowing passers-by to check out their home lives (not to mention, they all seem to have impeccable furniture design style). My husband and I like to look for things for our apartment when we are abroad and we found this old Dutch map of Australia that we both were drawn to. We’ve put it on our living room wall next to an old map of the world that we found at a Berlin flea market a couple years back.
In both Amsterdam and The Hague, bikes are the main mode of transportation. I love cities that are bike-friendly. It’s such a great way to see the city without being too hard on your body (as I am usually traveling for a tournament). Speaking of Berlin, I loved exploring that city as well. I tend to like finding the small neighborhoods that feel more like where the locals dine, shop and live. Airbnb is such a great way to feel what it is like to actually live in that city (and cook some meals yourself, which I love).
You were a multi-sport athlete throughout high school before ultimately deciding to focus on volleyball. Do you think it’s important for young athletes to play multiple sports instead of focusing on just one?
Absolutely. I’ve learned (with the help of my trainer Austin Einhorn) that the best teacher is your environment. So the fact that I was playing soccer, basketball, tennis, softball, and golf throughout my childhood exposed me to different environments—each with different emphases and constraints—and gave my body a variety of stimuli, which in turn made me a better overall athlete and volleyball player. Unstructured free play is also super important!
What are some motivational quotes that you always fall back on when times are tough?
"When nobody else celebrates you, learn to celebrate yourself. When nobody else compliments you, compliment yourself. It's not up to other people to keep you encouraged. It's up to you. Encouragement should come from the inside."
What you say to yourself is how you gain confidence. It's simple, it's challenging, but it's totally within your control! It isn't about being untruthful or fluffy. It's about being truthful and honest with yourself, while still working to improve. It means never letting other people's opinions of you become your opinion of you.
Very few athletes ever get a chance to compete in the Olympics and represent their country. If you had to summarize your experience in 2-3 sentences, what is it like and what does it mean for you personally?
I feel an immense sense of pride to have been one of four females to represent the USA at the biggest tournament for our sport. I feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude to everyone in my life who had an influence: my husband, my family, all my teammates, coaches, trainers, medical providers, sports psychologists, nutritionists, agent, sponsors, etc. who pushed me, believed in me, and supported me on my journey. I’m also grateful to all those who paved the way before me, who helped make this possible in the first place.
I am more motivated than ever, with the fervent belief that there isn’t much you cannot accomplish when you surround yourself with people who have similar goals—and when you devote yourself deeply and fully to make them happen.
You’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of other famous athletes and celebrities. Which ones turned you into a fangirl upon meeting them (and why)?
Well, I didn’t get the chance to meet her, but the story of Billie Jean King is so very awe-inspiring. To have the courage to stand up and fight for a cause when the world is against you is a very admirable thing. And the fact that she and many, many others paved the way for women’s sports is a huge reason why I have the opportunity to be a professional athlete for a living.
Hearing the stories of what my mother-in-law had to go through to row at Syracuse University (they had hand-me-down jerseys, planned and paid for everything themselves) puts things in perspective. I want to do my part to leave women’s sports in a better place than where I started. We are in a much better place now, but there is much further to go.
Most folks recognize you as a professional beach volleyball player, but you’re also a licensed lawyer. Are there any similarities between competitive beach volleyball and your legal practice?
During law school, I made my first World Championships. Having to balance rigorous study with a professional beach volleyball career—travelling across the nation and around the world—forced me to prioritize each day. I didn’t have the time to sweat the small stuff (which my analytical mind can sometimes do!). I also realized just how much I can accomplish in one day if I am focused and task-oriented.
However, I’ve also discovered that if I do too much for too long without recharging, I end up overloaded with mental stress, constantly concerned with all the things that I want to accomplish. Here are some things that help me with that:
- Writing down everything in my head (doing this with pen and paper and then taking a picture in an app like Evernote allows you to search the text later)
- Lying or sitting down with eyes closed and taking 20 minutes of silence or using a guided meditation like Headspace (even as little as 30 seconds helps!)
- Connecting with someone (my husband or a friend, or helping a stranger) can put things in perspective and get me out of my head and thinking solely about myself.
What exercise do you hate the most, but yields the best results?
Every exercise that I’ve hated usually ends up becoming my favorite! So now I know to look for this feeling of difficulty to know that we’ve stumbled upon a great new exercise for me.
The most recent one of this is a cradle pull up…it’s a pull up with your legs up in the air as close to the fetal position as possible. It’s very humbling because initially, I needed my trainer’s help on the way up and on the way down. It takes immense concentration to push back to create a big back, while I slowly lower my body down. It’s very difficult and the first time I did it, I could barely do one rep! I thought my trainer was crazy and that this would be an impossible exercise for me.
Now after a couple weeks, I’ve gotten stronger and I can lower myself almost completely 3 times for 5 sets on my own. Pretty soon I’ll be able to lift myself up on my own as well!
Your husband, Andrew, used to coach you. If I was to call Andrew up and ask him what you needed to work on, what would he say?
He’s told me, “Everything you need to succeed is already inside of you.” So, I guess he’s talking about getting me to believe and trust in myself when it’s time to perform.
You’ve implemented the Joovv Light into your recovery routine. What benefits have you noticed? And would you recommend the Joovv Light to other athletes?
Yes! I have been using the Joovv Mini Combo as a part of my morning routine. I do 10 minutes on the outside and 10 minutes on the inside of my knee. I’ve been using it for about a month now and I’ve noticed a decrease in knee pain and decreased recovery time for sore muscles around my knee. That allows me to train harder and more often!
I also will spot-treat other problem areas that arise during my training and notice that it definitely decreases my recovery time. I love that it emits minimal EMFs and that I can do it at home while I’m reading, working, or having a cup of coffee. I would recommend the Joovv to anyone interested in a safe, easy way to speed up their recovery in the comfort of their own home!