Venus Williams embraces life’s challenges on and off the court.

Venus Williams is one of the most successful tennis players in history, a flourishing business owner and a driven entrepreneur. How does she continue to serve up success?

“Every day waking up knowing that I have something to give, and knowing that I have potential — that’s what motivates me,” Venus says. “I don’t want to look back with regrets. I don’t mind failing sometimes, but I do mind not giving it my all.”

That outlook and determination has paid off well. Venus has won 22 Grand Slam titles including five Wimbledon singles titles, and she has also won four Olympic gold medals. She owns several smoothie franchises and runs V Starr, her own interior design company, and EleVen, a line of sportswear clothing for active lifestyles.

In all of these ventures, Venus has found a recipe for success, and leading a healthy lifestyle is a main ingredient.

Getting active

Venus’ family committed to living a healthy lifestyle when she was still very young.

“Growing up, playing tennis was definitely part of our lives,” Venus says. “We were always moving. If we weren’t playing tennis, we were cross training; if we weren’t cross training, we were on the track.”

Venus believes the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle lies in finding something you are passionate about, then sticking with it. She had incredible success in the United States Tennis Association junior tour and turned pro at the age of 14.

“Block out time to move your body,” Venus recommends. “Try to focus on things you love and enjoy, and then it won’t be a chore or the bane of your existence. Do something you like. If you like dancing, dance; if you love running, run.”

Healthy approach to life’s challenges

In 2011, following a rough stretch of injuries, Venus withdrew from the U.S. Open, plagued with fatigue. She was eventually diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which white blood cells attack moisture-producing glands, leading to symptoms of dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain. Sjögren’s can also cause dysfunction in several organs throughout the body, and Venus had unknowingly been dealing with the disease for years.

“Living with it for about a decade now, once you have a diagnosis, it gives you an opportunity to do something about it,” she says. To minimize the effects of the symptoms she was dealing with, Venus changed her diet.

Take joint pain, for example. “A lot of it is inflammation, so I have to not eat foods that make me inflamed. I eat turmeric in foods, which fights inflammation. I try to combine what I eat with traditional and holistic medicines.”

While she has adopted a primarily vegan lifestyle to help her cope with Sjögren’s, Venus admits that she still enjoys the occasional chicken breast.

“My goal isn’t to be perfect; perfection isn’t fun,” she says. “I enjoy myself, but I try to be disciplined, not only for my health, but for my performance. Not a lot of people play professional sports with an autoimmune disease; it’s a challenge. I try to figure out what the right combination is for me so I can perform my best.

“I always tell people, ‘Don’t worry about trying to be good all the time. Have some treats.’ My motto is not too much and not too often. You can’t have it all in anything. Try to plan your meals ahead. When you’re hungry, and there is nothing there, that’s when you make bad decisions.”

In addition to diet, Venus has recognized another area where she could use more self-discipline: rest.

“You have to be disciplined enough to rest; everyone is so busy today, but you have to find time to rest. You can’t say yes to everything,” she says.

A positive outlook

Of all the things the tennis world has given Venus, the most important gift is the ability for her to positively influence and help others.

“I never focus as much on my impact on tennis, but tennis has had such an impact on me. It’s given me such an opportunity to give — it’s put me in a position to be able to help others,” she says. “One of my biggest successes is being a role model for my younger sister. I always take that job seriously, and it makes me happy to be a good influence.”

Of course, younger sister Serena Williams has been a dominant force on the tennis court herself for many years.

“We never want to let each other down on the court,” Venus says. “We love doubles — we’ve been playing together since we first started. When you win by yourself, it’s fun, but when you win as a team, it’s a great feeling.”

And through it all, the joy that tennis brings continues to push Venus forward.

“I would love to qualify and represent the U.S. in the 2016 Olympic Games,” Venus says. “It would be my fifth Olympics, which is more than I thought was going to happen, but hopefully a year from now I’ll be standing somewhere at opening ceremonies!”


Can’t get enough? Check out 5 on a vegan diet with Venus Williams!

Tweet @Venuseswilliams about her SamsClubMag cover story.

Jodi Marsh is Executive Editor for Healthy Living Made Simple.