20 Questions With Shawn Johnson

Last week, I asked Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and readers of my ZIED GUIDE blog to play 20 questions with Shawn Johnson.

This accomplished young athlete not only took home Gold and Silver medals in gymnastics at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but she won the coveted mirror ball trophy alongside her partner, Mark Ballas, on Dancing with the Stars in 2009.

Shawn was kind enough to take a little time away from her gig as a correspondent from the P&G Family Home  in London to answer your burning questions: how she stays motivated despite setbacks, what she eats and how she stays in shape, or how she stays grounded.

Related: Girls & Athletics: The Impact of Olympians on Our Girls

Without further ado, here are Shawn’s responses to 20 of your burning questions!

1: From Elisa (yes, that’s me!): What is one thing your parents told you that helped you feel better or helped you stay motivated when, at one point or another, you lost motivation or weren't performing as well as you would have liked?

Shawn: They never pushed me but always encouraged me to keep going--even if I was having a tough day at the gym or doubting a certain move. 

They supported me through practice after practice.  If I wasn’t having the best day, they would remind me tomorrow is a new day… and another opportunity to reach for the stars, or nail a new move.

They helped me stay focused on my goal…my dream- competing at the Olympics.  I can truly say they’ve always been my biggest cheerleaders.

2: From Jillian: Hi Shawn, you are the best! I have always been a big fan of yours! I have always wanted to know what it feels like to stand on the Olympic podium listening to the Star-Spangled Banner play?

Shawn: It’s the most patriotic moment of your entire life.  It gives you goosebumps. It’s emotionally overwhelming… and the most amazing moment!

3: From Crystal: When getting in shape for the Olympics, what food did you want the most but couldn’t have?

Shawn: I get asked this question a lot but I think it’s really about everything in moderation. Especially when it comes to nutrition. If you want chocolate cake, you can have it, but you have to work for it and find balance.

4: From Elyse R.: Hi! I am such a fan of the Olympics! Is there any advice you would give your young fans about how to stay motivated in their chosen sport?

Related: Top 10 Ways to Know When You're Too Wrapped Up in Your Child’s Sport

Shawn: Dream BIG!  Change your dreams and goals often. Try everything. Keep it interesting. Kids lose interest if they don’t enjoy it anymore. My parents always told me, everything happens for a reason. I live by these words!

5: From Briana: Hi Shawn!! I am so excited to watch the Olympics! What is your daily food regimen?

Shawn: I try my best to eat healthy and make smart choices daily, but I don’t get obsessive.

6: From Sand: Hi Shawn! Do you exercise daily when you’re not in training for the Olympics? If so, what do you do every day?

Shawn: Yes, every day for an hour.  I have to or I’d be going crazy.  I do a lot of cardio, circuit training, pilates, yoga and kickboxing. 

7: From Blaire: Hi Shawn! I love watching you perform! Do you find it difficult to maintain relationships with friends and family even with all the time you spend training?

Shawn: Yes, very. With success—I hate to say the word “success” because it sounds arrogant—but it makes it hard to trust people and to form authentic relationships. However, I’ve had the same group of friends since I was in kindergarten and they’re still with me today. They’re the best!

8: From Jillian: Hi Shawn, I know it takes a lot of time and motivation to prep for the Olympics. What was a standard day like?

Shawn: There really wasn’t a standard day, but of course hours of practice time while training.  I’m looking forward to training again for Dancing with the Stars!

9: From Shelby: Hi Shawn! What is the one food you never eat, even when you have a break from training?

Shawn: Anything sweet—I really don’t have a big sweet tooth. 

10: From Ally: Hi Shawn! What’s the difference between your diet when you are training for the Olympics or a competition versus your diet during an off season?

Shawn: In 2008, my diet for the games was very strict. After the games, I went CRAZY! I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, as much as I wanted. Now, my diet is the same as it was while training, if not more regimented—just because I’m more conscious.

Related: Gabby Douglas Says "Yes, I Can!"

11: From Karalyn: Hi! I absolutely love watching the Olympics! How did you control your nerves when you got ready for competition?

Shawn: I think nerves are only natural before a competition, but you try to learn from your mistakes so they don’t get the best of you.  I suppose they come with the territory of competing.

12: From Maya: Hi Shawn! Can’t wait to watch you this year. What do you do during the year to train for the Olympics?

Shawn: As you probably know by now, I didn’t compete in the Olympics this year. But after the Olympics, I’ll be preparing for my new season on Dancing with the Stars. It’ll be tough and pretty taxing, but I’m excited!

13: From Robin: Hi Shawn! I am a huge fan and have loved watching you over compete over the years. I am wondering who are you most looking forward to watching at this year’s Olympics?

Shawn: Definitely USA gymnastics and men’s basketball!

14: From Ruth: Hi Shawn! I have to say, you have been one of my favorites to watch on Dancing with the Stars. I am so glad you will be back for a second season. How does training for DWTS compare with training for a competition?

Shawn: It doesn’t really compare, as they’re both so different… however they’re both taxing and tough. In DWTS,  I also want to make my partner proud. Hopefully another victory is in store!

15: From Mandy: Hi Shawn! What age were you when you first started gymnastics? What made you want to take this up?

Shawn: My parents put me in a gymnastics class when I was 3 because I had so much energy and loved climbing things—everything from the jungle gym to my parents vacuum cleaner. I fell in love with gymnastics early on!

16: From Rachel: What is your post Olympics routine?

Shawn: Catching up with family and friends and just enjoying life!

17: From Admin: If you had to narrow it down to one, what would be your No. 1 workout tip?

Shawn: Do what you love.

18: From Admin: What's on your workout play-list?

Shawn: A lot of country music. But I have a lot of everything. I also love jazz.

19: From Admin: What's your support system like? How important is it to have a great support system when you're training for something like the Olympics?

Shawn: My support system is the strongest part of my life. It’s my family and friends. I couldn’t have made it to level 2 (gymnastics), let alone the Olympics, if it weren’t for them.

20: From Admin: How important is mental preparation—and was there any particular ritual you went through before competing the Olympics?

Shawn: I always visualized exactly how I was going to compete. From the warm up, to the slope, to the routine, to the landing, to hugging my coaches—I pictured everything.

If you could ask Shawn something, what would it be?

More from GalTime.com:

Nutritionist Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN is a former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of the new book “Nutrition At Your Fingertips," as well as "Feed Your Family Right” and “So What Can I Eat?” She is a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist who has counseled families and individuals on managing their weight and various health conditions, from diabetes to high cholesterol.  Learn more at elisazied.com.

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