Meet Olympic Gold Medalist Christie Rampone, Lyme Research Alliance’s Person of the Month
Many stories heralding the accomplishments of Team USA Olympians focused on the 13 athletes who are mothers. “Olympic moms demonstrate how women can have it all,’ proclaimed The Washington Post, while NPR focused on “Superwomen: Portraits of Olympians...and Moms.”
But only one among these elite athletes faced the additional challenge of competing while suffering from Lyme disease: Christie Rampone.
The 37-year old captain of the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s soccer team and mom to daughters Rylie, 6, and Reece, 2, was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2010. As one of the fastest players in the world, with three Olympic gold medals, Rampone says she’s been determined not to let Lyme stop her despite being affected by some of the disease’s harrowing side effects. “Mind over matter has always been easy for me,” she says.
Recently, Lyme Research Alliance talked with Rampone about her experience with Lyme disease and how her toughness and commitment helped lead her team to victory in the London Olympics:
LRA: Growing up in New Jersey where ticks are plentiful, did you know much about Lyme before you were diagnosed?
CR: I knew about Lyme as it related to deer and ticks. But I had no idea it could be so crippling to humans. I still don’t know when I was bitten. I never saw a bite or a rash.
LRA: So how did you learn you had Lyme?
CR: I was feeling exhausted. It was bad enough in December (2010) that I had blood work done and got tested for Lyme disease. I don’t know how I long I’ve had it. I’ve just been managing it.
LRA: What was your treatment?
CR: I went through two rounds of antibiotics and had no change in my numbers. However, I am feeling better.
LRA: Soccer is a demanding game with fast-twitch movements and sprinting, plus a strong upper body to battle forwards from opposing teams. How do you handle that physical stress?
CR: First of all, we try to have fun. When we have fun and play with confidence, the team definitely gets pumped up in the right way. We work out in a weight room and do a variety of exercises created by our fitness coach. During competition times, I wear skin-tight compression pants to reduce muscle swelling and soreness. I take ice baths every day and recovery drinks to replenish vitamins and minerals. It’s important to make sure hydration and electrolyte levels are taken care of.
LRA: What do you do to keep your immune system strong and healthy?
CR: I exercise whenever I can, using a combination of kettlebells and CrossFit (a core strength and conditioning program) and running programs. I drink a lot of water and try to stay hydrated. I also eat simple, healthy foods like chicken and pasta and try to start the day with a meal that’s high in fiber and protein such as whole grain toast with some peanut butter.
LRA: We heard that you seem to get particularly tired when you aren’t training. Can you elaborate?
CR: When I’m home and I’m not experiencing the adrenaline rush from competing at an elite level in women’s soccer I become irritable, sleepless and lack energy. I carry on, but I seem to be in a fog.
LRA: Any other side effects?
CR: Insomnia, hallucinations, panic attacks.
LRA: But with unsettling symptoms like these, have you made changes in your self-care routine?
CR: I’m definitely more aware of my recovery techniques and what I put into my body. In addition to medication as directed by my doctor, I have been taking FRS products (Rampone is a spokesperson) which has a lot of vitamins. It assists me with sustained energy and faster recovery. I also try my best to relax and unwind at night. Even though I’m a mom, I have to make sure I get enough sleep.
LRA: Has it been tough to fit in your training and traveling while having two young children?
CR: I’ve been on the road 200 days out of the year. But I’ve been lucky because my husband, Chris, is a stay-at-home dad who helps manage my career. He’s the one who takes care of Rylie when I’m on the road with Reece. We make a point of not being separated for more than two weeks so Chris and Rylie will come to wherever the team is if it looks like we’re going to be gone longer.
LRA: We read an article in which you said you try to have an equal balance of being a mom, a teammate, a captain, and a leader, while also taking care of yourself.
CR: First I need to focus on taking care of myself so I can take care of my children and my teammates. I’ve said in the past that motherhood is like an endurance sport. You’re constantly on the go, you’re always on your feet, and you’ve got to have adaptability. That’s the way it is when you’re a mother and when you’re a soccer player.
LRA: Have you ever thought you might be pushing yourself too much?
CR: Yes, I push myself too much but that is my personality. I won’t use Lyme as an excuse and need to push hard in order to get extremely fit.
LRA: So what is the most difficult part of having Lyme and being a leading sports figure and mom?
CR: Thinking it could hinder my ability to be an active mother with my kids and eliminate my career as an athlete.
LRA: That definitely doesn’t seem the case right now. Your toughness and commitment are inspiring to many, especially those with Lyme, and that’s why we named you Lyme Research Alliance’s Person of the Month.
CR: I was delighted to be named your Person of the Month, and am pleased to support efforts in pushing for an effective diagnosis and a cure for Lyme.
LRA: One of your teammates said you are the heart of the team and called you not only one of the best American players to ever put on a uniform, but also great leader. She also said that you seem to have something inside you that just doesn’t quit. Any comment about that?
CR: I’m not going to let Lyme get me down. My best medicine is the adrenaline. When I have a tough day, I just push through it. I know so many people are stopped by Lyme disease and suffer terribly from its debilitating effects. For the most part Lyme hasn’t really interfered with my play. The team’s Victory Tour starts September 1 in Rochester, NY when we play Costa Rica. And two weeks later we’re in California to take on Australia. Right now, everything is going good.