Former Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson is in Chicago this weekend at Nike-sponsored events to help people get fit and reflect on the importance of the landmark Title IX decision, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
I was lucky enough to attend a special session and workout with Shawn and Nike Friday morning. Besides getting to meet an Olympian, I also got to hear from Shawn about what life is like for her now. Plus, Nike gave a presentation on some of their new – and very cool – technology, which I got to test out.
Johnson recently retired from gymnastics, the sport she fell in love with as a child. After sustaining an injury to her knee while skiing in 2010, Shawn attempted to make a comeback, but in the end decided to call it quits. Even though she won’t be competing, Shawn will be in London for this year’s games to do some commentating and fill various other roles.
She’s now focused on training for life, instead of just for her particular sport, she said Friday morning. So what is she doing, now that she’s moved on from just bars, beams, and mats?
“I’m trying everything new,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to find a niche, a new passion.”
After working almost solely on gymnastics for 17 years, it’s a bit of a struggle, both mentally and physically, to change her patterns, Johnson admitted to us. She said she often finds herself itching to go to the gym, but has to restrain herself – although that’s not always successful.
“My dad will call me at like, 10 at night and say, ‘where are you?’, and I’m like, ‘nowhere…’, and he’s like, ‘no, where are you?’, and I’m like, ‘I’m at the gym…’, and he says, ‘get home!’”
This isn’t the first time Johnson has dedicated herself to something outside of gymnastics, though. She mentioned her time on “Dancing With The Stars” being both amazing, terrifying, and a confidence-booster, because it showed her that she could do something other than gymnastics and be successful at it (Johnson and partner Mark Ballas won the mirror ball trophy in 2009). Perhaps the most surprising thing she had to say? She was more scared on opening night for DWTS than she was for the Olympics.
Shawn also discussed with us the importance of the Title IX legislation, which forbid discrimination in sports on the basis of sex.
“I grew up not really knowing what Title IX was about,” she said. “I think, luckily and fortunately in our generation, it’s something that just isn’t necessarily taught, it’s just, girls grow up saying, ‘If I want to do a sport, I can,’ and we wouldn’t have that if it weren’t for Title IX. I couldn’t imagine a world where I wasn’t able to [play sports]. It’s an honor to help celebrate.
I wouldn’t be in the sport I am; I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to be successful and to be on the world stage, on the platform, if it weren’t for Title IX”
Johnson said she looks at the kids she babysits and their involvement in sports, and recognizes that without Title IX, that wouldn’t be possible.
Speaking of babysitting, it’s one of the “normal” things that Shawn has always done. She talked about her parents’ insistence that she be a regular kid outside of her sport, whether that meant doing chores around the house, walking the dog, or just hanging out with friends.
At 20 years old, Shawn is also ready to start looking at colleges. Her dream school, she said, is Stanford, although her parents are going to make her tour at least five other schools.
When it came time for the group workout (which was pretty intense for this girl – my thighs are killing me today), I was lucky enough to get to stand right behind/next to Shawn. She participated right along with us and was super encouraging. She was funny and relatable, too, pointing out how long a minute felt and that her feet, like mine, were burning.
The Nike+ Training app comes out June 29th, along with the special shoes you can sync up to the app. It’s easy to keep track of progress that way and test yourself. The workouts are intense, but the game-like scenarios help make it more enjoyable. Workout programs from six different athletes will be available on the 29th, four more will be released at a later date.
For anyone interested in exercising, Johnson had some words of wisdom:
“Just find something that’s fun. I mean, if you hate a treadmill, don’t get on a treadmill, because you’re not going to keep it up for more than two days. I always try to find new things…I love challenging myself. Keep it changing and fun, because then you’ll stick with it. If you don’t like something, you’re not going to do it.”
Sounds like good advice to me.