- Aly Raisman, former Captain USA gymnastics captain, said she spent the past year giving priority to self-care.
- Raisman said the trauma and stress of his competitive years had lasting side effects.
- Now push for more rest, self-pity, and gentle exercise like pilates.
- Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.
As captain of the women’s gymnastics team, Aly Raisman led the United States to victory in the gold medal in 2012 and 2016, with countless hours of hard training and strenuous practice.
Now, he thinks there’s one thing he could have done to improve his performance: work less, and rest more.
—Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) June 25, 2021
Raisman shared recently on Twitter that the training did not 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 collaboration with the Pilates Club.
She said that a simple task like washing her hair was physically necessary, and she could not spend the day without a nap.
Years of accumulated mental and physical stress have gained weight going into the pandemic year. A year later, Raisman said she learned that patience and self-care are the key to dealing with adversity.
Raisman focuses on self-compassion and small steps toward progress in dealing with trauma
Raisman is one of more than 100 athletes engaged in the USA Gymnastics abuse scandal and former team doctor Larry Nassar. She said she has been in therapy for the past five years to work with the persistent effects of trauma and her anxiety.
“Even if I don’t want to do therapy, I can honestly feel the anxiety and trauma. I don’t want to feel that way anymore,” he said. “If I’m able to take a small step forward and just show up, it’s really impactful and really helpful.”
She has also learned to be patient with herself on hard days, and recognizes that progress does not happen overnight.
“I have to meet myself where I am and take things one day at a time. I’m less angry about the little things now,” she said.
Exercise can be a tool to manage anxiety and feel comfortable in your body
Raisman has taken the time to recover from the intense training of competitive gymnastics, and now uses exercise as a form of recovery.
She said pilates has been useful because of the focused and deliberate approach to movement.
“What I like about Pilates is that small movements make a big difference. The slightest movement of your leg can shoot several 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 is currently working on two exciting new projects to help share what she has learned with others who may be struggling with mental health and / or trauma.
The first is a book for children focused on teaching children the importance of listening to their own bodies and their own limits, and trusting their instincts if something feels wrong.
Raisman is also collaborating with Lifetime for a series on helping survivors of sexual assault heal from trauma.
All of these efforts are possible only, he said, because he has been able to take a step back and give priority to his own health and well-being.
“If I don’t take care of myself, nourish my mind and my body, I won’t be the best I can be,” Raisman said. “If you want to change the world, work on it first.”