My Life in the Age of COVID: Olympian Aly Raisman

She finds peace amongst the chaos while gardening and watching the sunset.

Photo via AP Photo/David Goldman

As the COVID-19 pandemic upends every aspect of Boston life, we’re checking in with some local residents to learn how they’re processing our new normal. They’ll share serious thoughts on their concerns for the city—and yes, some silly recommendations on what to binge-watch, too. For the rest of the series, click here.

Resiliency, grit, discipline. These are all the qualities needed to get through a time like this, and no one knows those qualities better than an Olympic athlete, in particular Needham native Aly Raisman. On top of being a decorated Olympic athlete, Raisman has also been a leader in the battle to gain justice for the women who experienced sexual violence in the U.S.A. gymnastics organization, and a powerful advocate for change.

She’s been a beacon of hope for so many across so many different platforms, but now more than ever, she wants you to know how similar she is to everyone else. We’re all navigating uncharted waters, but we’re all in this together.

What is your level of concern right now?

I am extremely concerned. It is a really scary time where so much is unknown and so many people are suffering. I am also concerned for the many people who are putting their own safety at risk to help those most in need. They are true heroes!

How have you been coping so far? 

I am grateful for my health and my family’s health. It is hard to comprehend what is happening. It is so heartbreaking that so many people are suffering, families are losing loved ones, and so many people are struggling financially.

Walk me through your average daily routine right now, starting with the first thing you do when you wake up.

I try to start each day by thinking of at least three things I am grateful for. After that, I try to maintain some semblance of a routine, both for work and personally. So many things have changed, so I try to appreciate the opportunity I have to contribute. One example is April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I often think about the children and adults who have to quarantine with their abusers. I encourage anyone who has the time to check out Darkness to Light to see how they can help.

As for my personal time, I’m trying to keep things simple. I have been gardening a lot, learning the process of composting and enjoying walks outside each day (while social distancing). I take my time doing all of this as I find it peaceful, and almost meditative. I feel present when I’m doing it and it helps keep me connected to nature. It reminds me of the importance of patience, and it allows me to clear my head before reengaging with the reality we’re all facing.

What do you miss most about your former, pre-social distancing routine?

I miss hugs and being able to see people in person!

Have you made any interesting changes in your personal or work routine that you want to keep doing even when things return to normal?

I want to keep gardening! I have some seeds growing inside and some outside, and I find myself looking forward to just the simple act of checking on my vegetable garden and flowers.

Learning about composting has been fun, just trying to be as resourceful as possible. I have been trying to replant the roots of some vegetables that I have grown. There are plenty of YouTube videos that show which veggies can be replanted. For example, the ends of celery and bok choy can be regrown.

I have been trying to take a walk outside each day (while social distancing). I really enjoy walking first thing in the morning or around sunset. I find it so peaceful and beautiful. And whether or not I am outside walking during sunset, I always make an effort to be present for the sunset because it is so beautiful.

What have you learned about yourself during this unprecedented period?

The importance of gratitude, appreciation, and patience.

How have you been navigating relationships and staying connected?

I talk with my parents every day and check in with my brother, sisters, and friends. A lot of FaceTiming, sending text messages, leaving voicemails!

What has been a task, hobby, or back-burner project that you’ve been wanting to pursue, that you are now finally going to get to?   

I really enjoy gardening. I also enjoy making my own vegetable broth. I sip on it, but I also mix the rest in a blender with other vegetables, so it is pureed. I have found this is an easy way to get in a lot of nutrients and it helps me feel energized. Something about eating warm soup is comforting to me and it’s rewarding to me that I’ve made it myself. I am also baking and learning to cook other things!

What have you been keeping in your fridge for comfort food? 

I love dried mangos!

What’s been your binge-watch/read/listen go-to to take your mind off things? 

I just watched How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days! I’m trying to discover new podcasts. I also have been meditating and practicing yoga.

What’s a habit you’ll use this time to break? What’s a habit you’ll use this time to develop? 

Less time on my phone!

What advice would you give to others?

I don’t feel I’m qualified to provide advice in these incredibly difficult times. I think we’re all just feeling our way through it. There are many people who are suffering. I admire the courageous people who are risking their lives to help others, and I try to take inspiration from them to remember the power of community and to support those in need however we can.

What was your reaction to the Olympics being postponed? 

Things have happened so quickly that it’s still hard to comprehend everything that’s been disrupted. I feel for the athletes, coaches, and everyone impacted by the postponement as I know how hard they worked to prepare, but safety must be the highest priority, and in these dangerous and uncertain times, I believe it was the right decision. Hopefully, the world will be in a safer place next summer and we’ll be cheering the athletes on as they compete in Tokyo!

Who are you FaceTiming the most? Are you keeping in contact with your former teammates? 

Laurie and Simone have been the two teammates I have been FaceTiming/texting the most.