How Simone Biles Prioritizes Her Mental Health While Training for The Olympics
Simone Biles is not a good gymnast. She's a great gymnast. In fact, she's the greatest of all time—and she has the medals to prove it. The 24-year-old has won every single all-around competition she's been in since 2013 and has a record 25 world medals. She's also the first American woman to win five all-around national titles. Included in these astounding awards are her five Olympic medals (four gold, one bronze). Oh, and it's worth noting that some of these were won while Simone was injured—she's competed with broken toes, a kidney stone, and more. That's how tough and dedicated she is.
In early 2020, sports commentators were sure that the gymnast would be adding to those numbers at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Then COVID-19 struck, and the world came to a halt. Like many other things, the Olympics were postponed—which Simone says was heartbreaking. "It was a whirlwind of emotions—I couldn't believe the news," she says. "I was sad. I was angry. I was annoyed. But I also knew it needed to happen to keep everyone safe and get the virus under control."
From training for Tokyo again to taking care of her mental health, Simone shares what it's like to be an athlete at the top of her game.
Back in the Gym
Gymnastics isn't easy on the body. It's a high-impact sport, and the rigor of training at the level that Simone does is intense. Most Olympic gymnasts hit their peak in their teens and age out of the sport by the time they hit 20. So for Simone to be competing at 24 is impressive all on its own. The fact that she crushes it the way she does? It's mind-blowing.
And when the Tokyo Olympics were postponed, it meant Simone would be another year older and have to put her body through another year of tough training. "I knew my coaches would make sure I was ready—no matter how long the postponement was," says Simone. "Of course, another year of training on your body really takes a toll. But I just knew I'd be ready."
Luckily, Simone's training facility feels like home. A big part of that is because her parents, Ron and Nellie Biles, actually own the gym. Located in Spring, Texas, the World Champions Centre's mission is to provide a safe, healthy, fun environment to develop each individual to reach their maximum potential. As a Black gymnast in a sport that was, for a long time, devoid of diversity, having parents who own a training center is meaningful. "Representation matters, and we want to inspire the next generation to pursue their passion," Simone says. "Kids can come in and we will be training in the back, and they can see we are just like them. It helps them understand they can do it too."
When it comes to endorsements, Simone's approach is just as thoughtful. These deals can be extremely lucrative for athletes of her caliber. But money aside, Simone insists that a brand has to be doing something meaningful. "I'm very picky about the brands I work with," she says. "Instead of just creating a product, they have to connect with a wider community and have an impact."
To this end, Simone has been working with skin-care brand SK-II since early last year and has appeared in an inspiring campaign discussing the negative effects of toxic competition surrounding beauty and how women can change their own destiny. This spring, Athleta, which offers size-inclusive athletic wear, also announced a partnership with her. Along with developing a line for athletes, Simone will work with the brand on initiatives that support young women.
The Importance of Self-Care
Between her business partnerships and hours spent training, Simone can't risk getting burned-out, sick, or injured. Which makes self-care essential. "I do regular athletic massages and ice massages. I also use compression boots and take Epsom-salt baths," she says. "And I see my athletic doctor every Friday for a check-in."
Taking care of her mental health is something else Simone has prioritized whenever she has felt she needed to. "For a while, I saw a psychologist once every two weeks," she says. "That helped me get in tune with myself so that I felt more comfortable and less anxious."
Simone's support system is also solid. Her parents have been with her throughout her entire career and work in the industry, so they really understand the hard work that goes into her success. Then there's her boyfriend. Simone has been dating Jonathan Owens, a defensive back for the Houston Texans, for about a year. Dating someone who understands the need to keep your body in top shape is helpful. "Since we are both professional athletes, we tend to eat very healthy," she says. "But I do love to snack. My weakness is cookies or sour candy."
Every Sunday, Simone takes the day completely off to recharge. "I really like to relax," she says with a laugh. "So I'll hang by the pool with my boyfriend, or have my family come over."
When asked what advice she'd give to her younger self, she says: "To not be so stubborn and to be a little bit happier—to know that it's not over just because something happens in one day. You can keep pushing."
Has she taken her own advice? She sure has—well, part of it, at least. "I'm definitely happy," she says. "I guess I can still be pretty stubborn."
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
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