The Olympian's mid-pandemic fitness regimen is all about listening to her body and giving herself the energizing exercises she needs.

By Megan Falk
February 17, 2021
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You’d think that after years of globetrotting, training for gymnastics competitions, and earning Olympic gold medals, Aly Raisman would be using the downtime that comes with quarantine to take it easy on the fitness front. But in reality, Raisman says she's adding even more movement into her days.

“I actually feel like I've been able to work out a little bit more than I was before the pandemic,” Raisman tells Shape. “It doesn’t mean I’m working out for hours every day, but sometimes I’ll do a little bit of a workout in the morning, and then even do a little bit more in the afternoon. I break it up throughout the day because that’s what’s working for me right now.”

What has changed throughout the pandemic, though, is the attitude she brings to her workouts. When she was training pre-COVID, Raisman says she’d constantly push herself to the limit and would often struggle to accept the times when she wasn’t able to perform at the top of her game. Her non-stop travel plans at that time, which she says left her feeling sick and totally winded, didn’t help the situation, either. “I think a couple of years ago — or even a year and a half ago — I was so exhausted that even going for a 10-minute walk was just so much for me,” she explains. (Related: Warning Signs That You're Pushing Yourself Too Hard In the Gym)

But in recent days, Raisman says she’s learned the significance of staying in tune with her body and showing herself compassion, particularly when she's feeling drained and can only do a fraction of the reps she could the day before. “We live in a society where we’re always trying to push ourselves more and more, and it’s a great thing to work hard and to push yourself, but it’s also really important to just be kind to yourself and listen to your body,” she adds. “I definitely live by that now, but I wish I did when I was younger.”

With this newfound perspective, Raisman says she regularly practices different guided and body scan meditations to keep her mental health in check, and she tailors her workouts to include moves that make her feel refreshed and strong, rather than overwhelmed and burned out. When she’s low on energy, the Olympian opts for floor exercises (think: glute bridges, crunches, and other abs exercises), which she says give her a major burn but allow her to stay in control of her body. As for more intense sweat sessions, you won’t find Raisman hitting the treadmill for an hour-long run (“I would be dry heaving if I did that,” she jokes). Instead, she says she loves rolling out her yoga mat for a “tightening and toning” workout or Pilates session. “What I love about Pilates is that you can kind of maneuver your legs a little bit to the right or left, or do one leg at a time, and it creates such a different burn,” shares Raisman. (Here's how Pilates can benefit your brain and body.)

Thanks to Raisman’s partnership with Silk, you can now get a taste of her fitness regimen by following along with her 10-minute, timed-interval workout, available on YouTube and Instagram. The video features exercises from her gymnastics training that she still practices now, including squat jumps, donkey kicks, lunges, and V-ups. But don’t be fooled by the lack of equipment — even the Olympian says she considers it to be a tough workout. “It was definitely challenging when I was recording it, but that’s what I like about it,” she says.

After powering through a sweat session like that, Raisman says she turns to protein-packed, plant-based foods to help her body recover. Some days, she says she’ll sip on a glass of unsweetened Silk ULTRA (Buy It, $4, walmart.com) — a soy milk drink that packs 20 grams of protein — or combine it with a few drops of the chocolate version to satisfy her sweet tooth. She’s also a fan of blending the beverage into a simple, low-sugar smoothie featuring fresh blueberries, spinach, and cinnamon, she adds. When she’s not loading up on post-workout fuel, Raisman says she noshes on foods that are easy for her body to digest, such as pureed soups, hummus, fresh veggies, and avocados. (Related: Healthy Green Smoothie Recipes That Taste Amazing)

But just like workout routines, Raisman stresses that diets aren’t one-size-fits-all; the foods that make her feel energized and happy might not have the same effect on other people — and vice versa. “I think it’s so awesome that there’s so much information out there and so many people are sharing their experiences of what helps them,” she says. “But I also think it’s really important to remember that you gotta figure out what works for you. Just because you’re watching somebody’s diet on Instagram or YouTube doesn’t mean it’s going to fit perfectly for you."

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