Exclusive Q&A: Legendary gymnast Shannon Miller
Gold medalist and legendary Olympian Shannon Miller hung out with AOL Sports this week to talk about her partnership and new role as part of the Hershey's Team USA family, her successful past, health and fitness and much more.
The winner of a combined total of 16 World Championships and Olympic medals between 1991 and 1996, Miller ranks as the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in U.S. history. She is also the tenth most decorated gymnast of all time, by her individual medal count.
Q: You're clearly a busy person, but this new partnership with Hershey seems awesome. Who doesn't love chocolate, right?
A: (Laughs). Yes, it's definitely been a very busy year. The Olympics is kind of crazy, which is awesome. There are lots of great things going on, and I'm excited about the Hershey partnership with USA gymnastics. I'm honored to be a part of Team Hershey. You take the things I love -- chocolate and gymnastics – and it's been a lot of fun.
I'm really looking forward to Rio – and this is a good reminder. Hershey is a family-oriented company that focuses on small moments; we celebrate big moments, like in the Olympics, but we also want to focus on small moments in life, like making s'mores with kids or baking with my mom. Those are the things you look back on and remember forever.
Q: Do athletes still reach out to you for advice and have you found yourself really evolving into a coach and/or mentor?
A: Yes, I'm really fond with a number of athletes. Many are going through the retirement process as well. During their career, they had a great support system -- coaches and community, trainers. Pro athletes, once they retire, they go through a weird period, where they don't have that specific support system and they have all these extra hours. Me, I had extra 40 hours and didn't know what to do with my time. I was looking for direction from being away from what I spent my whole life doing. It's about committing time to programs that focus on a legacy. In fact, every athlete going to Rio goes through this training because it forces them to think about their legacy and what they hope to be remembered by long-term. It's a really good exercise for athletes.
Q: Was that the period of time when you thought about writing your autobiography or taking on all the commitments you have now?
A: Not during that specific period. I did write a book when I was 19 or 20. It was great because it helped me think about my goals. In my early 20s it was about who I was outside of being a gymnast. That's when I found my passion for health and fitness and wellness. I was able to apply that and get my degree and go to law school. I thought about life outside gymnastics and I realized it's not so much about 'outside gymnastics', but it's 'other passions, including gymnastics.'
Q: Given your passion for wellness, what advice would you give to anybody wanting to change their life and finally putting fitness and nutrition first?
A: What worked well for me, and everyone has own personal journey, is taking the 'everything in moderation' approach. Like gymnastics, you're going to fall off the beam, but you have to get back up. Coach had to teach me it's more productive to get back up. You kick yourself for eating too much or not working out, but instead of beating yourself up, get back on track and watch your portion sizes and stuff like that the next day. Even if you get 10 minutes of solid exercise in today, it's better than nothing. Drink water instead of other options. These are not quick fixes, but it's part of everyday lifestyle. We often talk about fitness and nutrition but we have to pay attention to stress management and rest – and make sure you get regular doctor visits.
Q: What life lessons did you learn through your athletic career?
A: There's so many. One of the biggest is goal-setting. Yes, setting long-term goals is big, but you need smaller goals to make sure you're always achieving something. You have to be able to keep yourself motivated. It can be as small as doing 10 extra sit-ups a day. You add that up over 10 years, it could make a huge difference. Another one is teamwork. A strong support system helps you achieve goals. A positive attitude is another one. No matter what success is to you, work hard with a positive attitude.