Olympic gold gymnast Aly Raisman said she was so exhausted from training she struggled to wash her hair. Now she's advocating for more rest days.
Read the whole article on Insider.com here.
As captain of the women's gymnastic team, Aly Raisman led the US to gold medal victory in 2012 and 2016, with countless hours of hard training and grueling practices.
Now, she thinks there's one thing she could have done to improve her performance: work less and rest more.
Raisman recently shared on Twitter that overtraining didn't improve her gymnastics, and left her with lasting side effects.
After retiring in January 2020, she went from the height of her athletic career to struggling to complete daily activities, Raisman told Insider in an interview about her partnership with Club Pilates.
She said a simple task like washing her hair was physically taxing, and she couldn't get through the day without a nap.
Years of accumulated mental and physical stress took its toll going into the pandemic year. A year later, Raisman said she's learned that patience and self-care is the key to facing adversity.
Raisman focuses on self-compassion and small steps toward progress to cope with trauma
Raisman is one of more than 100 athletes involved in the abuse scandal of USA Gymnastics and former team doctor Larry Nassar. She said she's been in therapy for the past five years to work through the lingering effects of the trauma, and her anxiety.
"Even if I don't want to do therapy, I can feel the anxiety and honestly the trauma. I don't want to feel this way any more," she said. "If I'm able to take a small step forward and just show up, that's really impactful and really helpful."
She's also learned to be patient with herself on tough days, and recognizes that progress doesn't happen overnight.
"I've had to meet myself where I'm at and take things one day at a time. I'm less upset about little things now," she said.
Exercise can be a tool for managing anxiety and feeling comfortable in your body
Raisman took time to recover from the intense training of competitive gymnastics, and now uses exercise as a form of recovery.
She said Pilates has been helpful because of the focused, deliberate approach to movement.
"What I like about Pilates is that tiny movements make a big difference. The slightest movement of your leg can fire different muscles. It really helps me stay present and in my body," Raisman said.
'If you want to change the world, work on yourself first'
Raisman said she's currently working on two new projects to help share what she's learned with others who may be struggling with mental health and/or trauma.
The first is a children's book focused on teaching kids the importance of listening to their own bodies and their own boundaries, and trusting their instinct if something feels wrong.
Raisman is also collaborating with Lifetime for a series about helping survivors of sexual assault heal from trauma.
All of these efforts are only possible, she said, because she was able to take a step back and prioritize her own health and wellbeing.
"If I'm not taking care of myself, nourishing my mind and my body, I'm not going to be the best I can be," Raisman said. "If you want to change the world, work on yourself first."