Olympic Runner Gabby Thomas Shares Her Self-Care Secrets You Can Follow—Even If You’re Not an Athlete
Thomas, a two-time Olympic medalist, revealed about one popular workout: “You'd be surprised by how many of those classes are really difficult for Olympic athletes.”
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A bad night of sleep can ruin anyone’s day. It’s especially bad if you’re Gabby Thomas, the two-time Olympic medalist who currently has her sights set on the 2024 Summer Olympics in France. As if training at the highest level wasn’t demanding enough, Thomas is also working on her master’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin in epidemiology after studying neurobiology and global health at Harvard.
The track and field star, who scored a bronze and silver medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, is a public health advocate. This week in New York, Thomas, 26, sat down with The Healthy to talk about partnering with the Seize the Night & Day campaign to promote better sleep (she credits meditation, gratitude and journaling as part of her nighttime rituals), her workout routine that anyone can do (really—you already might!) and why access to health care has never been more important.
Gabby Thomas on sleep hygiene
The Healthy @Readers Digest: Why is sleep so important, especially for you as an athlete?
Gabby Thomas: As an Olympic medalist and a student, sleep is really important for me so I can ensure that I’m going to be my best self every day. I train at such a high level, every time I do something, it is 100%. Making sure that I am mentally and physically ready to take on the day is really crucial for me.
The Healthy: Tell us about your sleep routine.
Thomas: My sleep routine is pretty long. It’s a slow wind-down, starting around 8PM. I start to turn off the TV, get really relaxed. I might start with making some tea, usually with magnesium in it to help with recovery.
Then, I will light some candles, do a little bit of meditation. I go into my skincare routine just so I feel really nice and relaxed. Get into my bed, turn off my cell phone and a lot of external communications. I cuddle with my puppy. And then, I put on my sleep mask and get ready for bed.
The Healthy: Wonderful! You’re part of the seizethenightandday.com campaign. One of the things they recommend to help you drift off in a positive, relaxed mindset at night is to take a minute to make a list of a few things you’re grateful for from the day. What is on your gratitude list?
Thomas: I love making gratitude lists before I go to sleep. Journaling is a really good way to wind down and relax the mind before falling asleep, too. On my gratitude list I usually try to write down some interactions that I’m thankful to have had throughout the day, the type of food that I had that I really liked. Or just something that really made me happy that day. Usually it has something to do with my dog or my friends.
Gabby Thomas on self-care
The Healthy: What does your self-care routine look like, and what is one self-care habit that you refuse to skip?
Thomas: My self-care routine looks like a fun little skincare routine before I go to bed, where I just get myself feeling really loose and relaxed.
The Healthy: What are some products that you love and use?
Thomas: I can’t live without my Laneige lip mask. It smells so good and it feels so good. I use my Bobbi Brown face cream, just to make sure I’m nice and hydrated, and then I normally sprinkle some vitamin D on there.
The Healthy: Love that. As an Olympic athlete, your workout routine probably does not look like other people’s…but what is your typical routine?
Thomas: A typical workout routine for me is about three hours of running, believe it or not, and then a lift. So we do a lot of sprinting, a lot of running around in circles on the track, and then we like to do some explosive things in the weight room.
The Healthy: Are there any other workouts we might be surprised you’ve tried? Are you into yoga or Pilates?
Thomas: Yes! I like to dabble in fun little classes. So I will do a Pilates class every now and then, which is really hard. And sometimes I’ll do some yoga, which is also really hard. You’d be surprised by how many of those classes are really difficult for Olympic athletes.
The Healthy: I think people will be surprised to learn that anything’s difficult for you.
Thomas: We go in those classes and we’re all struggling.
Gabby Thomas on mindfulness & meditation
The Healthy: You mentioned meditation. How long have you been practicing meditation, and what type of meditation do you do?
Thomas: I’ve been practicing meditation since college, so since I was about 19 years old. It’s something that I’ve incorporated into my daily routine, and also into my training. Before meets and before hard practices, I like to take two to five minutes and just focus on my breath work. Just stabilizing my breath and remaining calm, relaxed, and trying to focus on one thing. I find that it has really long lasting effects on your brain and your overall nervous system, and it makes me a better athlete.
The Healthy: You also mentioned journaling.
Thomas: I have a couple of journals that I use. So one just kind of marks every single day, you write one sentence about that day, and that way you can look back on it over time and just see how different things are, like where you were on a certain day.
I also just have a journal where I like to jot down any thoughts that I have, and it’s kind of like this constant stream of consciousness that I use. I don’t do that one every single day, but I do it whenever I feel the urge to just get my thoughts out and really wind down and relax.
The Healthy: On top of being an Olympian, you studied neurobiology and global health at Harvard, and now you’re currently pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin in epidemiology. What have you learned, and what are your biggest concerns?
Thomas: For me, as a public health advocate, my biggest concern is just people’s access to healthcare and access to information about healthcare. It’s something that, as a society, we don’t prioritize too much, and people don’t often times feel empowered to inquire about their own health and figure out what makes them feel their best.
The Healthy: What are you working on now, and what is next for you?
Thomas: Right now, I am training for the World Championships in Budapest and then the Paris Olympics for 2024. So I’m really excited about the next couple of years, and I’m just doing what I can to stay healthy and stay on top of my training.
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