Shawn Johnson has had us on the edge of our seats long before Dancing With The Stars. Like most of America, we were glued to our TVs during the 2008 Beijing Olympics when she took home a gold and three silver medals. A ski injury shortly after, though, forced the bubbly gymnast into announcing an her early retirement. Johnson may have been sidelined from defending her title last summer in London, but this optimist has yet to lose that infectious grin or love for fitness.
Two seasons of DWTS as a Season 8 winner and All-Stars runner-up introduced the Olympian to a new type of exercise, sparking an interest in other athletic ventures and a healthy lifestyle revamp. Now, at 21-years old, Johnson is stronger than ever. We talked to her about transitioning into the new gymnastics-less phase of her life, going Paleo and body love. Here’s what we landed:
What is the hardest part about being an Olympic athlete?
For me, the hardest part changes all the time, looking back on it. I feel the hardest part of being an Olympic athlete is just the discipline, especially in gymnastics—we’re so young. We start training when we’re three years old. We start living in the gym 40 hours a week when we’re eight. Just kind of taking that whole normal childhood experience away and being an Olympic athlete—I mean it takes a lot of mental and physical power and being able to be 16 and stand on the Olympic podium and have the mental strength to handle that pressure. I don’t honestly even know how I did it back then because I feel like now I’m like, ‘I could never do that!’
Favorite Olympic moment—spill!
I would say outside of the competition, my favorite moment was in the Olympic Village. Everybody was lining up to walk through opening ceremonies—the gymnasts aren’t really allowed because we compete the next day—I saw towering over everybody was Yao Ming. I was starstruck, no joke. I ran from my team, who was headed back to their dorms. I wanted a picture so bad and I remember I literally was tapping on his thigh like looking up at him and he never paid attention. He probably thought I was a fly on him or something!
How has your workout changed since the Olympics and DWTS?
My workouts have changed drastically. I’m no longer in the gymnastics gym. Honestly, it’s kind of a big goal and new learning experience for me. I feel like as soon as gymnastics was over, I made it a point to not go back into the gym so I could learn how to do workouts and train and stay healthy outside of it. It’s kind of a therapeutic thing almost. It’s closure almost. But I work with one of the best trainers ever—she’s like my best friend—Jeanette Jenkins.
I’ve recently discovered what this Twitter thing is all about (follow me: @FITNESSjenna and FITNESS: @FITNESSmagazine) and I almost hate to admit it, but it’s a pretty exciting world. Never did I think I’d be running home from a gym class or one-on-one session with a trainer to spill my thoughts to readers via Twitter—the idea of this type of “look at what I’m doing” game just seemed a little silly to me. Who really cares that I’m sitting on my couch watching The Biggest Loser or whipping up a special vegetarian dinner for my husband…do you?
But, I’ve learned that the Twitter world is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to find up-to-the-minute news about everything and anything. Since I once loathed the idea that people had to know what everyone else was doing at any given second, but I’ve now converted, I understand the power of Twitter. It’s not about the menial things we do every day—watching The Biggest Loser or cooking for our spouses—it’s the sharing of information that can make each of us better people, while feeling instantly connected! Now, I find myself frantically trying to see what my Twitter friends are up to and what cool tip I can learn from them. Had I been quick enough this weekend I could have met up with Bob Harper at the Soho Equinox on Saturday morning (he woke up a bit earlier than I did though). It’s things like this that keep you motivated for working out (@SuzanneCBowen tells me new moves to try), staying healthy (@CaitlinHTP tells us what shake she’s sipping after her run and how to make it), and even staying sane (@Lululemon shares motivational quotes every day). So fun!
That’s why I’m dying to go beyond the Twitter world and share this really cool challenge you should know about (if you don’t already!). FITNESS advisory board member and celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins (@JeanetteJenkins) and singer Kelly Rowland (@KellyRowland) have teamed up to do Jeanette’s Bikini Bootcamp Twitter Challenge: they challenge you to try Jeanette’s DVD every Tuesday and Thursday for the month of April and May. The real value of this grand idea is the support and motivation you’ll get just by being part of this “Twitter team.” Knowing that followers all over the world (including Kelly Rowland who was seen flaunting an ab-mazing body in Miami Beach this past weekend!) will be doing Jeanette’s DVD—and tweeting about it—is a good reminder that you can have a sexy body by summer too. Incorporating mini challenges in to your weekly workouts is a good way to freshen up your goals or shock your body by giving it something new to learn.
So all you have to do is workout with Jeanette and Kelly every Tuesday and Thursday and then tweet about it using #Motivation. If you have any questions for Jeanette, she’ll probably tweet you back an answer. Can real women actually have a celebrity personal trainer? Absolutely! Jeanette is a great Twitter friend to have. She’s planning a surprise giveaway every week too—so get tweeting!
Also, check back in later this week to hear about what happens when Kelly Rowland stops by our office. She’ll be sharing her fitness secrets (what else do she and Jeanette do when they hit the gym?) and tell us all about her new album and her single, “Motivation” (so perfectly named I might add) which hits iTunes tomorrow.