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Simone Biles on Prioritizing Mental Health, Competition Glam and Newlywed Life

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Simone Biles might be the busiest newlywed in the country. At 26, the 37-time Olympic and world championships medalist is competing again, has a full training schedule, and says she attends 100-minute sessions with her therapist every week. During her keynote speech at the 2023 Global Wellness Summit, Biles was also honored with the 2023 Debra Simon Award for her mental health advocacy. During her keynote address she was candid about her difficult journey and shared behind the scenes intel, her best advice and newlywed life with Green Bay Packers safety Jonathan Owens.

On “aging out” of the sport

“In 2016, I was only 19 years old, and I really thought I was going to retire after that. But afterward, I was like, no, I’m one of the oldest who won an Olympic gold medal for gymnastics in the all-around. Our median age at that Olympics was one of the oldest. Most of the time, gymnasts are around 16 or so, but at that time, we were 19 and above. So, it was just very rare. Now you see a lot of gymnasts getting better with age and pushing the boundaries. I think that’s really neat because it’s proven that we can still keep going, and you don’t have to be the best at 16, or you’re not going to burn out. It’s really about pacing yourself.”

The role of glam in gymnastics

“If I look good and I feel good I’ll do better. But I think a lot of people think we get our hair and makeup done, but it’s all of us. What you saw when I was 19-years-old, that was me. I don’t know why they let me walk out of the building like that, but they did. And it was rough, but I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better with age with my hair and makeup. We also have a designated braider on the team that helps us with our braids. I’m trying to phase out of the bow phase, but it still catches me all the time. Kids love it.”

Simone Biles

 

Withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics

“I’m very happy that my mind and my body, other than having the disconnect, were like, ‘Yo, you need to stop. You need to sit down when something’s not right.’ So at least it was still working in that aspect, alerting me and my brain, saying, ‘It’s okay, it’s not happening. Take a seat, go work on yourself.’ I had said so many times before, ‘After this Olympics, I’m gonna get help.’ My brain was like, ‘You can’t push anymore. You can’t do anymore. You’ve kind of done it all. You’ve tried. Sit back, relax, let the girls take over.’ And that’s exactly what I did.

Obviously, it wasn’t the best thing, but I think I have the most courage I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t say I’m a quitter; I would say I’m a fighter because I’ve been through so much. So yeah, it wasn’t the best experience, and then I had people all over the world trying to help me, trying to fix it. Unfortunately, for the twisties, it’s not something you can fix overnight. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes months. I can truly say now that even after the entire year competing, I’m finally feeling better about where I am in the mind and body.”

Advice on self-sabotage

“Once I realized I had a gift for gymnastics, I became afraid of being great. I would self-sabotage because I thought, ‘If I stay in a certain category, nobody can judge me.’ But if I open myself up to the world scene, more people will have time to pass judgment. I would kind of self-sab­­otage and be like, ‘Oh I just want to stay with the other girls, I don’t want to move up levels. I don’t want to do this.’ You can’t be afraid to be great. Once you unleash that power, your mind will open up to so many possibilities.”

Her mental health message

“Give people some grace because you never know what they’re going through. After Tokyo, I got the chance to receive the help that I deserve. I’m currently in therapy, seeing a therapist every Thursday for about 100 minutes, and that helps me so much to stay in the moment. I’m also a big advocate for medication. I take anxiety medicine, just because I feel that if you need an inhaler, you get an inhaler. So, it’s something I personally need. I believe everybody deserves proper health care, so if I have any advice, it’s to give yourself some grace. It’s okay not to be okay; you deserve that help. I think the hardest thing anyone will ever have to do is admit they need help, but it also shows how strong you are to say that you need help and to go get help.”

Simone Biles

Life as a newlywed

“Jonathan is a total sweetheart. He plays football, and right now, he’s with the Green Bay Packers so we’re doing long-distance. He has light brown eyes and the cutest dimples. He loves football and has a passion for it. He’s just as passionate for football as I am gymnastics. We’re both very driven and determined. One misconception is that we argue over which sport is better, and yes, we do. We actually agreed once we got married we had to stop talking it about with each other. We both respect each other’s sports, work hard, and want the best for each other. We have a really good relationship.”

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