Why This National Wrestling Champion Thrives on Box Jumps and 9+ Hours of Sleep

As a college athlete at Penn State, wrestler Bo Nickal left an impressive legacy behind by winning three straight NCAA titles and being a three-time Big Ten Champion. Handling the grueling lifestyle of a college athlete was in his blood, too, as both of his parents were college athletes: his mom a basketball player at San Diego State, and his dad a football player at Chadron State. Now that Bo’s finished with college, he’s taking some time off to relax—right? Wrong. His current goal is his biggest one yet: Tokyo 2021.

With a star-studded college career behind him and the Olympics ahead, fitness and recovery are both incredibly important for Bo. Here’s how he keeps his life focused on not just working out intensely, but on recovering efficiently.

His mornings are hot—then cold

“My typical recovery day starts with a coffee in the morning,” says Bo, “then twenty to thirty minutes of yoga.” 

Once he’s feeling perked up and stretched out, he heads into the more intense portion of his recovery day. “I do hot tub contrasted with cold tub at Penn State’s recovery facility,” he says. “Then, I usually finish the afternoon off with a massage and physical therapy.” 

And that’s not all. Bo knows that without proper hydration, all that therapy could easily go to waste. “Throughout the day I make sure I’m getting lots of water and electrolytes,” he says, “plus good nutrition.”

He opts for red meat and green juice

What does that good nutrition look like, exactly? “Some of my favorite foods to fuel recovery are high-quality carbs like sweet potatoes, unsaturated fats such as avocados or almonds, and organic grass-fed red meat like steaks or ground beef for protein,” he says. “I also like to do an organic cold-pressed juice every day.”

To amp up his workouts, Bo leaps into the air

Other than actually wrestling, Bo’s current favorite workout move? Box jumps. “For me, they are a really fun way to challenge myself and test my power,” he says. And they’re not just fun—they’re a useful tool for anyone who needs to move explosively. “I feel like they translate well to my sport,” Bo says, “because we use elastic energy to change directions quickly and explode into different moves.”

His pared-down sleep routine prioritizes length

“My sleep routine is pretty simple,” says Bo. “I generally end the day tired from workouts, so I try to put my electronics away by 10:00 pm then meditate a little before bedtime at 10:30.” Once he’s in bed, he’s there for a while: “I try to get 9 hrs 15 min of sleep a night.”

Why so long in bed? Bo says that he’s seen firsthand just how important sleep is for anyone who’s leading an active lifestyle. “Sleep is a huge factor in my health,” Bo notes. “I want to be the best athlete I can be so I treat sleep as an essential performance enhancer. All the research my coaches and I have done has shown me how vital sleep is to health and performing at an optimal level.”

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