Heather Bown gets naked

Jul 15, 2012 6:26 PM ET | By Morty AinPhotographs: Art Streiber
tkArt Streiber for ESPN The MagazineHeather Bown will be going to her fourth Olympic Games in 2012.

This is an extended interview from the 2012 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue. Subscribe to the Mag today!

Why did the team want to pose in the Body Issue?
HB: It was an opportunity that we don't get all the time, and our sport isn't followed a lot in America, so when we do get the chance to get out there and get some exposure, it's a cool thing to do. We have so many junior programs in the States. There are so many young women who play our sport, so I think it's neat to have someone for them to recognize.

I don't want to say I have a negative self-image, but I'm not happy with the way I am. It's just my body type. People don't look at me and say, "Oh, she's an Olympian!" But if you want me to play well and produce, I need to play at the weight where I feel best and healthy. Each person is different. You can't think everyone is going to look the same and everyone is going to have to be under a certain weight because you want them to look good in pictures. It's not about that. It's about being true to the sport and being healthy.

What is the exercise you can't live without?
HB: I like to run for therapy to just clear my mind after practice. People are always telling me I'm crazy, but you know what? I like to do it, and it helps me feel better about myself. Just a jog to clear my mind and make my body feel better. When I'm in my pro season overseas I'll go through a workout, and in the evenings I'll run and do a sauna just for recovery and to kind of clear my mind from the day and get ready for the next. Here at home, on the weekends I'll go for a run because our days are pretty full. I like early morning or evenings, through a park or by the water, when it's quieter and there aren't a lot of people out. I'll jog for 45 minutes to an hour, so it's not too far, under five miles. The endorphins kick in and you just feel better, feel happier. Everyone has her thing, and that's mine.

What do you tell yourself when you feel like you can't train any further?
HB: That I'll get through this and be able to rest and recover before tomorrow. Whether it's a match or practice, find whatever is in the bottom of your barrel to get through it and know you can rest after.

Also, in our gym now it's just trying to stay ahead of the next girl. We have so much talent and so much depth on this team that it's trying to keep people off your heels. You want to get that one extra point or finish off a drill and find whatever you can to stay in front and keep your spot. My motivation is being able to compete with these girls on an international level and be able to wear my jersey and not have it tucked away in my closet. A lot of our coaches have the philosophy that practice is going to be harder than the match; they push us so hard and try to break us in practice so that when we get into a match, it's easy. And they're always trying to make it more difficult.

What body part do you most neglect?
HB: I hate doing abs. I get so bored. I get a solid ab workout in practice from diving, blocking, hitting, stabilizing, but I still feel like I neglect that. It's the one part of my workout where I'm just thinking, "Get it done! Get it done!" But I need them to be successful at what I do. I need strong abs to get power off my shoulders, to stay stable when I'm blocking and moving and to prevent back injuries. But god, I hate doing abs.

What are you looking forward to once London is over?
HB: I want to sleep in. Having a lazy morning and just being able to be home and not rush off somewhere. Right now, I'm waking up at 5 a.m., so if I can sleep to 9, that's a lazy morning for me. I want to be able to sit, enjoy a cup of coffee, make a solid breakfast, have a bit of downtime. But I won't have much because we go right into our pro season.

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