Michelle Kwan is a figure skating legend, a role model for young women everywhere and — as of last August — a Washingtonian. The 31-year-old moved here after finishing up her master’s degree at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and began a life of wonkery as a public diplomacy envoy for the U.S government.
Although she now spends her time with college pals who are “sprinkled at the State Department, the CIA and the White House,” Kwan hasn’t given up on her athletic past. She’s on the board of the Special Olympics, and last week she was fulfilling her duties as a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition at the group’s annual meeting.
The council’s big push is for Americans to earn the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award by logging their physical activity, which is something that comes naturally to Kwan. “That’s what I used to do as an athlete,” she says, noting that the 30 minutes a day required of adults is quite a bit less than what her coaches used to expect. “I miss skating, of course, but at the same time, my body doesn’t miss it as much.”
Working out is no chore anymore — it’s something she does just for herself. “I love sweating and exercising. If I don’t exercise, I’m not a happy camper,” says the two-time Olympic medalist.
That’s why you’ll find her practicing yoga five times a week at various studios around town. She’s impressed by how many choices there are in D.C., and by how much she needs to work on her flexibility. “If you can lift a leg up and do a spiral on ice, it doesn’t mean you’re balanced evenly. In skating, we can favor one side,” she says. Yoga, however, doesn’t let her get away with that.
And if she’s not on the mat? “Then I’m running or out on the golf course,” she says.
The California transplant has determined that Washington is a seriously fit town, even though the style is different from what she was used to back home. “Everyone has a suit on with tennis shoes. It’s not the prettiest look,” she says. “But they’re making a statement that they have to walk places.”
Kwan also has explored the city’s dining options and found several favorites for healthy meals, including Estadio, Oya, Logan Tavern and especially Zorba’s. “That place is delicious,” Kwan declares.
Kwan’s one worry about her new neighbors is they’re so caught up in their work that they lose track of themselves.
“I like reassessing,” she says. “What do I need? Is it physical? Can I get more sleep?” Those are critical questions for an athlete, and just as important for a wonk.
Michelle Kwan wants all Americans to earn the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award. One way to rack up movement minutes? Celebrate National Bike Month. The main event is Bike to Work Day (May 18), but you can also get your kids in on the action on Wednesday, which is the first national Bike to School Day. Make sure you’re recovered by Sunday for Bike D.C., a 24-mile (or 11-mile) non-competitive, car-free ride. Register ($15-50) and get course info at Bikedc.net.