Simone Biles has worked on her mental fitness as much as keeping her gymnastics skills sharp while waiting an extra year for the follow-up to her incredible performance at the 2016 Olympics.
The 24-year-old superstar shared in an interview for a Glamour cover story that she has benefited from therapy despite a rocky start with it.
"I’ve learned it’s OK to ask for help if you need it," she said. "One of the very first sessions, I didn’t talk at all. I just wouldn’t say anything. I was like, ‘I’m not crazy. I don’t need to be here.'"
Getting past the stigma of asking for help was half the battle.
"I thought I could figure it out on my own, but that’s sometimes not the case. And that’s not something you should feel guilty or ashamed of," she said. "Once I got over that fact, I actually enjoyed it and looked forward to going to therapy. It’s a safe space."
Biles couldn't train in her parents' facility in Spring, Texas, for seven weeks early in the pandemic because the state was on lockdown due to COVID-19 restrictions. She even considered possibly bailing out of the Tokyo Olympics.
"I wanted to give up," she said. "But it would have been dumb because I’ve worked way too hard."
The time alone meant plenty of time for introspection.
"I got to process all the emotions,” she said. “I got to go through being angry, sad, upset, happy, annoyed. I got to go through all of it by myself, without anybody telling me what to feel."
It also helped her achieve more balance in her life after so many years of relentless training to become one of the sport's all-time greats.
"Before I would only focus on the gym," Biles said. "But me being happy outside the gym is just as important as me being happy and doing well in the gym. Now it’s like everything’s coming together."
She also started dating Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens, whom she shared she met through the celebrity dating app Raya. When she wasn't relaxing with Owens, she was like millions of others trying to find a hobby during quarantine.
"I feel like everybody was painting, or knitting, or doing something cool in quarantine, so I was like, ‘I’m going to learn how to do my makeup, my hair, and my nails,'" she said. "I almost ruined my nails, so that is no longer permitted. I’ve definitely gotten better at doing my hair, but clearly I’m not gifted in that department. I’m just really trying to find who I am."
With a legendary resume that includes winning a record seventh U.S. title earlier this month, Biles has nothing left to prove going into Tokyo. It's her drive to be a voice for sexual abuse survivors and a pure passion for the sport that continues to drive her to do things no female gymnast has ever done.
"I’m not a little girl anymore," she said. "It’s definitely up to me. Nobody’s forcing me. Whenever you’re younger, you feel like it’s a job, and you have to be pushed. But now it’s like, this is what I want to do, so that’s why I’m here."
She also hasn't ruled out potentially making a run at the Paris Olympics in 2024 when she would be 28, almost double the age of many of the up-and-coming gymnasts.
"My coaches Cecile and Laurent are from Paris, so I think that would be a good run to end with them there," she said. "I’ll see where we go."
She also will be headlining the Gold Over America Tour following the Tokyo Olympics, which traditionally is produced by USA Gymnastics but will be run by Biles. The traveling event will feature only female performers.
"It’s an all-girl tour for women’s empowerment," she said. "It was a great year for women to speak out, and I think it’s nice to keep the ball rolling on that and to have women feel happy, and find their love and passion for gymnastics again. I know the men were really upset, but it’s my tour."