Sonya Looney is a world champion professional athlete, mindset and mental skills coach and runs the popular podcast, The Sonya Looney Show. I had the pleasure of speaking with Sonya on her show and had an absolute blast (listen here!). She has a genuine approach to interviewing her guests and guides the conversations seamlessly. When I started talking with Sonya, we both thought it would be really cool to make a bottle together. So, I'm pleased to introduce the Sonya Looney F*cking Magical bottle!
We asked Sonya a few questions about her current training, what F*cking Magical means to her, being a mom and more. Read below to learn about Sonya!
1. Very curious about your transition into running. Tell us more about it. How does it relate or not relate to mountain biking?
My foray into endurance sports was when I ran a marathon at 18 years old. I loved running and it gave me confidence in myself that I didn't find in academic success or being one of the top flute players in the city where I grew up. I didn't know how to train for running, would get injured, and went to spin class at the gym for cross-training. Spin class led to someone from my work inviting me to go mountain biking. I stopped running and went all in for mountain biking because I absolutely loved it! That was 20 years ago! I've always wanted to get back into running and have periodically done a road race here or there.
I decided to get back into running when my first child was 6 months old at the end of 2020. I liked the simplicity, not having to mess with my bike, and running felt easier when I was tired compared to riding my bike. It can be really challenging to get out the door and start (anytime), but especially when you have a baby at home. During my first pregnancy, I would tell myself my goal was to show up and then decide how I felt; that motivation follows action. Running made it even easier to show up. I stopped running in my third trimester of my second pregnancy (but was able to mountain bike until the day before each of my kids was born!). I focused solely on cycling to get back to peak race fitness in 2022 for some big endurance mountain bike events. And towards the end of 2022, I felt the itch to trail run again because I wanted to do some races.
Since having children, I cannot travel at the same frequency as before because my sponsorship support has dramatically decreased and the expense to travel and bring the whole family has increased. I am doing some solo travel this year, but we want to bring our whole family when I go to races. In BC, there are many world-class trail running events that are easily accessible. Unfortunately, mountain bike events have been diminishing over the years. Trail running enables me to race more frequently. Trail running is helping me become a better mountain biker. I notice that my torque is increased on the bike, and I'm even more grateful to ride my bike. Additionally, I would skip strength and mobility work on the bike, but I cannot do that if I am running. Because I have to be even more focused on strength and mobility in running for injury prevention, it's making me a better mountain biker.
And last, before I had children, I would choose races around the world for the adventure aspect and the joy of the unknown. It's challenging to find that feeling domestically to races I've done many times. Running opens the door to novelty, to have to be a beginner again in many aspects, to new race courses, and to the question of, "can I even do this?" I still am primarily a mountain biker and my primary focus is on mountain bike racing, but it's fun to have a secondary sport. I also signed up for a new challenge that combines mountain biking and trail running. In Colorado over Labor Day, I'm doing a race called The Grand Traverse which is a 40-mile trail run the first day and a 40-mile mountain bike race on the second day. It combines my love of multi-day racing, endurance, and adventure. I created my own challenge in May where I'll run my first 50km trail running event and the very next day do a 6-hour mountain bike race!
Bottom line: I started trail running to explore new places, and new events, to be able to race more locally, and to be a beginner again in a new sport. I was initially worried that it would take away from mountain biking, but it makes me a better mountain biker too!
2. Can you tell us how important hydration and nutrition is during a 24hr race and some of your top tips to keep you going?
Nutrition and hydration are key to life, and to endurance events! You can encounter a 5-30% decrease in performance simply from becoming dehydrated. When it comes to fueling, understanding what works for you and practicing it in training is key. I have been using GU Energy Labs products and simple foods (almond butter sandwiches, fig bars) in my training and racing for years. Some strange things I like in 24-hour racing are miso soup and Pop Tarts! Having too much sugar, especially for events longer than 8 hours can cause issues. I have an ebook on sports nutrition basics for endurance athletes here!
3. What were some of the most unexpected changes in your training once you became a mom?
There have been both positive and negative effects on my training. Consistency is one of my values and my consistency in training has been more challenging since having children. Little kids get sick all the time, and it, unfortunately, means that I get sick a lot. Being sick is a big setback to training. For example, I have a big race in a few weeks. I'm sick right now and should be doing a lot of high-intensity work building for the race. Instead, I won't get to do that and will show up with less preparation. I have to shift my expectations and be flexible. It's tough! I try not to think about what other people are doing or how their training is probably better than mine!
Training is different for Sonya now. Above on the left she is training while pregnant.
On a positive note, my training means more to me than it did before. Endurance training can be monotonous, but now, it offers me a break. I also cannot train the same hours I once did, so having limitations and scarcity in my training actually makes me enjoy it more. I've been racing for 20 years, and being able to find meaning in the training and work I do is so important. I also love that I get to set the example for my kids of what it looks like to be an athlete and prioritize your health and fitness. I also lost most of my sponsors. I think it's from a combination of factors, but I am not traveling as much as I was, and that definitely impacts the bottom line!
4. How did you decide to start your podcast? What do you love most about it?
I started my podcast about 6 years ago. I wanted to create a space for people to share their expertise to inspire and help others. I love the ability to help other people be better every day, the commitment to learning, and the connection and conversation with others. How often do you get the opportunity to talk to someone whose work you admire for an hour? It also has made me a better listener, communicator, and conversationalist. If I had to pick one thing I love best, it's the constant commitment to learning and teaching others.
5. You are plant based, how do you fuel for your big days out running or riding?
My fueling doesn't change very much other than some days I'll need to eat more meals. I usually eat steel cut oats with a bunch of nuts and fruit in the morning or pancakes, a dish with rice, beans/lentils, and veggies during the day, and usually something with tofu and a whole grain for dinner. It varies, but simply doing meal prep and having a lot of options helps me stay fueled, People often worry about protein when it comes to athletics and eating plant-based, but I find that if you're eating a variety of whole foods, you don't really need to be concerned about it. One thing I do is make sure I'm not eating a ton of fiber right before a bike ride. My go-to is 2 pieces of bread with almond butter. On the bike, I use GU Roctaine products, fig bars, and even cookies I make! I like water in my bottle for most of my rides, but for races I alternate GU Roctane and water.
6. Why did you pick this design for the bottle?
I like designs that are funny. Unicorns are hilarious and the f-word is emphatic. This design was originally used on a sock design at moxyandgrit.com. It was wildly popular so I thought it'd be fun to put on a bottle too! I like to design things that make people smile and they will use it for a special day or adventure. One of the reasons I love Bivo in general is that it's bright! Humor and bright colors give me energy and I'd guess they give others energy too! Check them out here!