In a free MasterClass live-stream, Biles offered not just gymnastics advice, but also tips on taking care of your mental health as a competitive athlete.

By Arielle Tschinkel
June 25, 2020
Simone Biles of USA competes on Floor during the Apparatus Finals on Day 10 of the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at Hanns Martin Schleyer Hall on October 13, 2019 in Stuttgart, Germany
Credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

As a four-time Olympic gold medalist, Simone Biles knows a thing or two about staying prepared and motivated for whatever gymnastics competition awaits her. Sure, she puts in hours upon hours of work at the gym, repetitively training her skills until they're just right. But another major part of her prep comes in the form of mental health rituals.

Earlier this week, the 23-year-old gymnast hosted a free live-stream MasterClass, giving fans a glimpse into her #quarantinelife and sharing her tips for fellow young gymnasts—including advice on mental health.

During the live-stream, Biles said she prioritizes her mental health just as much as her physical fitness, especially before a competition. Though it may come as a surprise to her fans, Biles isn't immune to pre-competition nerves, even at this point in her career, she shared.

"Before a competition—usually a week or two [before]—I'll go to therapy to decompress, be in a different atmosphere in a safe place, so I can say whatever I want, say how I'm feeling, [and get out] any negativity," said Biles. "And it kind of just calms me." (Here's why everyone should try therapy at least once.)

ICYDK, Biles has long been open about therapy as part of her self-care, calling it her "sacred space" in a recent interview with Refinery29. "I feel like [therapy is] an outlet for me, and just for me only," she told the publication. "What you tell the therapist will not leave that room and it's someone you can talk to about anything and not be judged." (Related: How to Find the Best Therapist for You)

Another outlet Biles relies on for her mental health is journaling. "I do recommend journaling because it's a safe spot [to express yourself]," she said during her MasterClass live-stream. "You can put your thoughts onto paper, however you're feeling, or your goals, or whatever you want to do."

In fact, Biles said she's been journaling since childhood, thanks to a coach who encouraged the practice from an early age. "Everyone [who worked with that coach] had a journal, and we'd keep it in our locker, and at the end of the day, we'd write about how our workout went," shared Biles. Regardless of whether the journal entries reflected good or bad workouts, Biles said she simply enjoyed having a written record of her thoughts, feelings, and progress over the years as an athlete. "It's just really neat to see your perspective at that age, and what you were working on, and the skills you wanted to get, and then you get to check them off." (Here's how a bullet journal can help you reach your goals.)

As for how she prepares on the day of a gymnastics competition, Biles said she runs through one last practice, enjoys some healthy food (her go-tos on competition days are salad, chicken, and a banana to help avoid cramping), squeezes in a good nap, and, perhaps most importantly, listens to a playlist of her favorite music.

"If I don't listen to music, I'll just get in my head and I'll start to think about my routines and overthink them. I'm a gymnast who kind of needs to be distracted in a way, because if I start to overthink, then you can see that in my gymnastics," she said. "Music calms me down, whether it's before a competition or in the arena." (Related: The Songs Top Female Athletes and Olympians Play to Get Pumped for Competition)

Biles also makes a point to avoid the "noise" of social media right before a competition, she shared. The reason: Her Twitter feed is typically flooded with projections and expectations about how she'll perform, she explained. "I try not to look at social media before a meet because before I even step into the arena, [I'm expected] to come out as a winner, and that is a lot of pressure. And at the end of the day, I feel like I put more pressure on myself than anybody else can." (This social media habit might be affecting your own mental health.)

Of course, Biles is always aware of the expectations others place on her, even if she's not reading them on Twitter. "I don't want to let anybody down or disappoint anybody," she shared. (Related: Simone Biles Shares Why She's "Done Competing" with Other People's Beauty Standards)

Despite that pressure, though, Biles owns the fact that she's an incredible gymnast. "I know what I'm capable of," she said in her MasterClass. "I just want to make people happy with my gymnastics and bring them joy by them watching me."

Want more words of wisdom from the world's most decorated gymnast? Watch her full MasterClass live-stream here.