Dominique Dawes: Olympic Gymnast, Healthy Role Model for Life

As a three-time Olympic gymnast, Dominique Dawes knows a thing or two about hard work. She trained for five to seven hours a day, six days a week, in the lead-up to the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Games. She’ll also go down in history as the work horse of the “Magnificent Seven,” the ’96 team who brought home USA’s first women’s team gold.

Yet, Dawes’ toughest job to date was becoming a mom. “I’m so exhausted as a mother — this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I never thought I’d have to fight with 20-pound little people about eating, doing certain things and listening,” she jokes. That’s where setting a positive example for her two kids comes in.

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Dominique Dawes: From Gold-Medal Gymnast to Gold-Medal Mom

Though Dawes, 39, hung up her leotard more than two decades ago, she didn’t ditch the life lessons she picked up on her way to the podium. In fact, she says those 18 years she devoted to gymnastics helped define who she is as an adult and a mom.

“That’s when my character developed, when my character was challenged,” Dawes told JD Roberto on a recent visit to Daily Burn 365. “I made 1,001 mistakes, I failed many times and that’s when I became a better person. I learned from persevering. I learned from never giving up. I learned from sacrificing and making commitments.”

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Dominique Dawes: Olympic Gymnast, Healthy Role Model for Life

Photo: Ryan Kelly / Daily Burn 365

Another thing she took away from her training: eating right, staying active and perhaps most importantly, being a strong role model not just for her daughters, but for young girls across the country. As co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and a GoGo Squeez ambassador (a company that works with the non-profit, Action for Healthy Kids), Dawes shares how good-for-you foods fuel the body.

“What helped me become successful as a three-time Olympian is not going to lead to success or happiness as a wife and as a mother.”

At home, she encourages her kids to eat better by including them in the cooking process. (Her two-year-old even helps pick herbs from the garden — talk about all hands on deck!) She also takes walks with her family, and won’t hesitate to join them on the monkey bars or trampoline, or throw mini dance parties at home. Her new “gold-medal moment” as a mom: Spending quality time with her kids, rather than worrying about her to-do list. “At the end of the day, if my house is a mess and my kids are happy… that’s what’s going to matter,” she says.

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Dawes did have to make one crucial change after her Olympic days, though — being less critical of herself. “What helped me become successful as a three-time Olympian is not going to lead to success or happiness as a wife and as a mother,” she says. “So I’ve had to learn to relax, let go and have fun. My husband always asks, ‘How many times have you laughed today?’”

Plus, she knows if she wants her daughters to be confident, she needs to practice that, too. That means treating herself well, talking lovingly about herself and others, maintaining healthy relationships, as well as eating right and working out. “If I want my young girls to love themselves, I have to show them by loving myself.”

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