What's Her Secret: Aly Raisman
The Olympic gymnast shares inspirations for fitness, food, and combatting cell phone obsession.
In 2012, US Olympian Aly Raisman took home a gold and bronze medal for gymnastics. (She was also team captain). The following year, she competed on Dancing With the Stars. The busy 19-year-old Reebok athlete took time out from her rigorous training schedule to share her thoughts on wellness, fitness, and stepping back to see the big picture.
What does wellness mean to you? "It's a lifestyle, and it's so important today to not only be active yourself, but also try to get your family members and friends to be healthy in the sense of eating right, getting enough hours of sleep, staying hydrated, and getting enough exercise every day––it's about that balance."
Why is inspiring others towards wellness important to you?
"For me, I think everyone was put on this earth for a reason and everyone has that certain path. For some people it's being an athlete, for other people it's being a chef, or doing something creative. Everyone has their different things so it's important for everyone to find it. I love working out. Some people complain that they don't like working out, but there are so many different things you can do for a workout, whether it's just going for a long walk on the beach, or running, or you can take a class with your friends, or if you just want 'me time,' there's ways you can find things that you like, and enjoy yourself."
As a pro- athlete, how often do you train? "Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I train in the morning from 8:30 to 11, then I go from 5 to 9 at night. Tuesdays and Thursdays I go 5 to 9 at night, and I take one English class at college, and Saturday is 9:30 to 12:30. So I obviously do workout way more than the average person, but that's just because that's [the nature of] my sport. But I love it, and definitely by the end of the day, I'm super exhausted."
What does your workout consist of? Do you do just gymnastics, or cardio and strength training as well?
"If I finish a workout early, if I'm still at the gym I'll run around the floor, or on the weekend I run outside. I love running outside because I love being outdoors. Especially living here in Boston, the winter is brutal, so in the summer I take advantage of being outside. Also, I love having 'me time.' The area I live in is very beautiful, we have a nice river, so I'll look at that, and I also have a house in the Cape so running outside near the beach, smelling the ocean––there's nothing better than that."
That's a great way to look at your workout: as alone time when you don't have to answer your phone or be distracted. "Yeah, that's another thing. You see so many people on their cell phones 24/7. My brother's a senior in high school and my sisters are in sixth and eighth grade. My little sisters are literally on their phones all the time, so whenever we have family dinners––and most of the time we can only have dinner on Saturday and Sunday nights together because I get home so late––we always make a rule, and it's not even my parents, it's me, that everyone has to put their phone away, just because I really value the time I get to spend with my family. Most of the time, if I'm in between workouts, I'll just put my phone somewhere and I don't even like to look at it, it's nice to be able to take everything in. Everyone in the world today is just so consumed and obsessed with their cell phone, it's crazy."
Since you work out so much, what do you eat to stay feeling energized and great? "I eat really, really healthy, and I always make sure I have a balance to have enough energy. If I'm going to eat a carb, it's always whole wheat. I don't really eat white bread or anything. If I'm going to have a little bit of pasta––that's a bit more of a splurge for me––I'll have whole wheat pasta. I love fish, I love chicken, and salmon and sushi are my favorite foods. I really enjoy eating healthy; I like to pretend eating parsnips are French fries. Everything I put into my body, I like to think that I'm eating it for a reason, so it's not like I come home and start eating, like, French fries for dinner. I'm eating something that's protein and vegetables, and I've found that fruit is a good carb to eat, and yogurt, too, is something that has a ton of protein and it's also very light."
As a pro athlete, how do you cope with the pressure and stay grounded and balanced in your life? "Gymnastics is one of those sports that's also very mental. When you're a little tired and you fall off the beams, you know, five times, it can get frustrating. But I think it's important to remember that I'm only human and I'm doing the best I possibly can, and if I work as hard as I can and put in everything I have, then I can look back with no regrets. I think that's the most important thing. I try to remember that right this second isn't the goal. The ultimate goal is, obviously, the next Olympics. When I was training for 2012, I remember going to training camp in January, and I felt a little bit off, but I constantly had to remind myself that I had six, seven months from then–– there's still more time and you can't be at your best all the time. Which is hard for anyone to come to terms with, but we're all human."
That's a great attitude to apply to everything in life, not just athletics. To remember to step back and see the big picture. "Totally, I think today sometimes people get so caught up, they just have to remember the big picture and that everything happens for a reason. There are always bad days but the bad days make you stronger. That's what makes you feel so great when something goes right."