Though She Be But Little, Simone Biles is Fierce

Though She Be But Little, Simone Biles is Fierce

Though She Be But Little, Simone Biles is Fierce

This ability to conquer oneself is no doubt the most precious of all things sports bestows - Olga Korbut

   

It was a very good year for women at the Rio Olympics.  In total, women won 61 medals (men won 55) plus an additional five medals from mixed events such as equestrian and mixed-doubles tennis.  But one woman in particular, Simone Biles, dominated the Olympics.  

Biles, 19, took home 4 gold and 1 bronze medal making her the most decorated U.S. gymnast ever in a single Olympics.  And following her impressive performance at the Rio Olympics Biles is now being called the “greatest gymnast of all time” as well as the “Queen of Rio” by none other than Mary Lou Retton, Cathy Rigby, and Béla and Márta Károlyi.  Oh yeah, and the rest of the world.

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows gymnastics, or competitive sports in general.  Prior to the Olympics, Biles dominated her sport since the day she began competing at the senior level in 2013.  Since then, she has won 3 world all-around championships, 3 world floor championships, 2 world balance beam championships, and 4 United States national all-around championships. She is also the first woman to win three consecutive world all-around titles making her the most decorated American female gymnast in World Championships history.

Impressive.

So, how did she get here?  What does it take to become an Elite gymnast? There’s the obvious - strength, flexibility, natural ability, determination, self-discipline, lack of fear, and a petite, muscular body.  Then there’s the not so obvious - daily aches and pains, bleeding callouses, the ability to work through injuries, and 10,000+ hours of jumping, running, falling, stretching, twisting, and hurling your body through the air. That’s just to make it to the Elite level. However, if your goal is to make it to the Olympics you’ll need to put in an additional 7,000+ hours and be willing to sacrifice just about everything - social life, vacations, holidays, friendships, ice cream...

Yet for a certain kind of person, these sacrifices are a very small price to pay.  Which is precisely why Simone Biles is as good as she is. She sacrificed everything and put in everything.  She lives and breathes gymnastics and accepts everything that goes along with it, good and bad.  In fact, when she was 17 she was quoted as saying that, “instead of going to parties, I spend time in the gym. I’ve never been to a party, like, ever. I don’t even know what they do there.” This is the self-discipline and social life part I was talking about...

On average, Biles is at the gym 33 hours a week, Monday through Saturday. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays she’s there from 9am until 12pm at which time she works on basics and skills.  In the afternoon, from 3pm until 6pm, she puts the skill sets that she worked on that morning together. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 12:30-5:30, she works on everything from basics and skills, to combinations and routines.

Oh, and gym time does not include her workouts outside of practice.  For those workouts, Biles runs, swims, bikes or cross trains and likes to focus on strengthening her legs and abs. She said, “I like doing legs because those exercises come pretty easy to me. I have good, powerful legs, so I can do conditioning and they won’t be too sore. But stomach conditioning, I don’t like it at all! It’s my least favorite. I like laughing better for an ab workout!”  Me too.

Biles said that she also incorporates stretching exercises to maintain her flexibility and to prevent injuries. She said, “[I] have a routine that includes running and then a stretch for every part of [my] body. So [I’ll] stretch before practice, but especially afterwards, because then you’re tense and you need to stretch those muscles down.  My favorite stretch is splits because not a lot of people can do them.  Especially over-splits, that’s when you put your leg up on a mat so it’s higher—and it just looks cooler!”

 As for her diet, you would think that Biles would be able to eat anything she wants, right?  But that is (sadly) very wrong.  Elite/Olympic level gymnasts are known for having, and must maintain, very tiny, muscular bodies because even a few ounces of extra body weight can make it harder to generate the power necessary for gymnasts to get airborne quickly and complete some of the very tricky twists and jumps.

Because of this, gymnasts follow very restrictive diets.  And Biles is no exception, she said her breakfast usually consists of a bowl of Kellogg’s Red Berries or egg whites. Lunch is either chicken or fish. Dinner is typically her biggest meal and includes some of her favorites, like pork chops, chicken or fish, rice, and vegetables.  Snacks include a pre-workout recovery drink called Core Power and after a workout, she’ll have a banana and peanut butter to help alleviate muscle cramps.  That being said, Biles is still a teenager, and after her final competition in Rio she and teammate Aly Raisman indulged in some McDonald's french fries and ice cream.  Who can blame them?

Now that Biles is home from Rio, Biles said she wants to “get back to normal life and be a normal teen.”   Which to her means locking herself in her house, watching Netflix, and lounging by her pool.  She’s also planning to attend UCLA in the Fall but is quiet about her plans for the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo only saying, “I’m sure it’ll be a while before I compete again.  We all deserve a break.”  

Yes, she does and I hope it includes pizza, ice cream, and sleep.

 

Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of Best.

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Last Updated : Monday, October 17, 2022