Watch out, world: Aly Raisman is finally letting her hair down.
After years of rigorous training, a meticulous bedtime, and strict diet plans, Raisman can now stay out late with friends, eat cupcakes, and only work out for an hour each day.
“I’m maintaining my shape and having more fun and resting my body as much as possible,” the gold-winning medalist said Tuesday morning.While the gymnast said being home in Needham has been relaxing, she has encountered a grueling week filled with public appearances and a post-London schedule that has proved unforgiving.
She has flitted through New York City for numerous on-camera interviews, signed autographs for young local fans, patiently volunteered quotes for reporters, and trained daily at her Burlington gym since coming back – all just before her three-month long, 40-city tour with she and her teammamtes - the Olympic Fierce Five - takes off later this month.
On top of all that, Raisman flies out to Los Angeles on Wednesday to work as an E! News fashion police officer, just to fly back to Boston on a red-eye flight Thursday night, and make appearances on Friday and at the parade the town is throwing for her on Sunday afternoon.
So how is the Olympian handling all the stress?
“I’m running on adrenaline,” she said, “but I’m happy to be home and feel normal for a little bit.”
The Needham-based gymnast had good reason to feel tired this morning: she didn’t get to sleep until after midnight last night because she was busy meeting Patriots players at their pre-season game in Foxborough, and then had to wake up at 6 a.m. for a day of work promoting her first major sponsor, Poland Springs water.
“I’ve been using Poland Springs water for so many years, so it’s an honor they’d want to work with me,” she said on the lawn of Needham Town Hall, as a small crowd gathered around to watch her speak. “Plus they’re from New England, so it’s really exciting.”
But even though the Needham native saw a long day of media appearances stretching before her, she said she did not mind.
“I’ve worked so hard for so many years to be able to be partnered with companies like Poland Springs, so it’s really amazing and so exciting,” she said. “I’m probably going to be really exhausted, but it’s good to be busy and it’s a lot of fun.”
The average passer-by might not be able to tell the Olympic gold medalist was fatigued. Decked out in full makeup and a summery pink tank top, Raisman certainly looked refreshed. But it’s a look that the gymnast has had time to master as she trained full-time for the past year, putting in about 35 hours per week at Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club.
Raisman said that being home was a relaxing change: without a rigorous training schedule, she said she actually felt freer.
“This is the first time I’ve really had a break,” she said. “After the Olympics I didn’t do anything for a week, and it was so nice to have a break. I worked so hard, especially for the last year - I barely even had Sundays off, and there were so many times where I would work seven days a week, so to relax and do nothing was really nice.”
Raisman said one of her favorite things about arriving home was being able to spend time with the high school classmates she left behind a month ago - and not having to fret about gymnastics practice the next morning.
“I hung out with my friends three nights in a row,” she said. “I never get to do stuff like that. It was cool to stay out as late as I wanted without worrying about what time I have to be up in the morning.”
Raisman said that for the past year, she has not been able to even go out for a sit-down meal because she would always be too wiped out after a long day of working at her Burlington gym.
“I didn’t go out to dinner the past year because I was always tired and on a stricter diet and really focused,” she said, adding that she was finally able to enjoy an evening out in Needham with her parents this week. “I just like being home, so eating out anywhere is nice with me.”
While Raisman said she has been to her gym to work out for an hour each day following her return home, she said she has felt more rested without her meticulous training and diet plan, and is finally allowing herself one indulgence: sugar.
“I’ve been having dessert, which I haven’t had in a couple years - I was very good about it,” she said, adding that she is particularly fond of cupcakes. “I still eat healthy, but now I’ll eat whatever I want.”
Besides being away from her family and friends, Raisman said she missed little things about Needham.
“It was weird walking into my house, because there’s a certain smell of my house that I hadn’t smelled in a really long time,” she said, adding that while she was used to traveling, she still might get homesick on her next tour. “Three months is a lot longer than one month, but I’m sure I’ll still be able to come home for a couple days in between.”
While she is out touring the country, Raisman said she will be doing one thing that all her high school friends did a year ago: looking at colleges.
“I’ll visit schools and decide where I want to go,” she said, adding that she does not want to stay local. “Maybe LA or New York.”
All in all, Raisman said her hometown’s support - from signs and banners wishing her luck on storefronts to the parade the town is planning for her this Sunday - has helped push her to succeed.
“It feels amazing - all the support means so much to me,” she said.
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org