In 2014, Gracie Gold was at the height of her professional skating career. Beloved by all, her sparkling personality dazzled on and off the ice. A few years later, everything changed as she struggled silently with a severe eating disorder that led her to have suicidal thoughts. Knowing she needed to put her mental health first, she stepped off the ice and sought the help she needed. Now, she is stronger than ever — recently qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Championships and placing twelfth in the competition.
“From the age of eight all the way up to 21, I had a one-track mind,” she tells Julep for their new “Eye on the Prize” campaign. “It wasn’t just something I did, it was a lifestyle. After entering real life and coming back to the sport, skating isn’t my only identifier. My day no longer hinges on the quality of my training. The beauty of scrapping every part of my life is that I can rebuild it exactly how I want it to be.”
She takes a moment to talk with Thrive about why it’s important to put self-care first, ways she combats stress and how her routine sets her up for success.
Thrive Global: What is your morning routine?
Gracie Gold: I try to keep it simple in the morning, as I usually hit the gym and ice first thing. But one thing is for sure, I never leave the house without some concealer, a little mascara, and I always do my brows. I just do not feel like myself without a little bit of brow pencil. Whether I’m heading out in sweats to the grocery store or competing at the US Championships.
TG: Being a part of a competitive sport, how do you mentally prepare to not get overwhelmed?
GG: For me, self-care is an essential part of my mental preparation. It helps me stay grounded and reset. This year was my first US Championships in three years. I competed in Greensboro, North Carolina, far from home. I’m so glad I carved out some moments where I could take a breath and check in with myself. Even if it’s only for ten or twenty minutes, to throw on a mask and watch tv or listen to music, its important and it helps.
TG: As a professional athlete, it requires a lot of drive to train and compete. What are some of the ways you motivate yourself to keep at your goal?
GG: It can be really difficult to stay motivated for long periods of time, not just in athletics, but in life in general. I have found that every so often I need to pause and look back at how far I’ve come, and all of the hard work I’ve put in. A moment of reflection. Seeing progress is an incredible motivator, no matter how small the achievements.
TG: Can you share a time that you lost your motivation — and what you did to bring yourself back?
GG: I’ve struggled with motivation throughout the years, I think everyone has. It makes us human. When I’m in a funk, I know I need to try something new to help inspire me. It’s often just a little thing that can ignite that fire again. This past summer I switched my workouts from evenings to mornings. I noticed I wasn’t as excited about fitness as I used to be, and it was starting to feel like a chore. Starting my morning with off ice training with a fresh mind really gave my workouts and my whole day a new energy.
TG: How do you focus? Are there some small tips or tricks you use to maintain your focus? GG: When I start to lose focus during competitions or practices, I try to center and ground myself. I bring my attention to my breathing first, making sure I’m taking long, deep breaths. I unclench my jaw and soften my hands. These are all places that I hold tension. I remind myself that the important part is the action, what I’m doing in the moment, not the outcome.
TG: What does your body need to perform at its best?
GG: It needs so many things! Some of the most important are proper hydration/nutrition, a goodnight’s sleep, and 30-60 minutes of stretching/foam rolling after I’m done training for the day.
TG: Many Olympians and professional athletes have spoken about sleep and performance. How does sleep impact your game? Do you require a certain amount?
GG: 7-8 hours is a good number for me during the weekdays. I’m such a heavy sleeper that more can sometimes do more harm than good. But during competitions, especially when the events are late at night, I usually sleep 8-10 hours. I don’t normally nap, but if I do, I try to aim for a 20-minute power nap.
TG: Can you share a time you felt the difference when you didn’t get a good night’s rest?
GG: I think everyone can relate to the feeling of a terrible night’s sleep, athlete or not. When I don’t sleep well, I really feel a difference in my mood and my focus. Training is difficult as it is, and being tired, irritable and unfocused makes it an uphill battle.
TG: You’re probably more hydrated than most people…do you ever get sick of water? If so, how do you fit in hydration throughout your day?
GG: I definitely can get sick of water, especially in the summer. I love to mix it up, usually with a drink Body Armor or a coconut water. In the winter, I opt for hot tea with a little bit of honey.
TG: What’s your go-to healthy snack when you’re traveling?
GG: I’m absolutely obsessed with Kind bars. They are made of simple ingredients, which I love. They variety of flavors is delicious and keeps my palate on its toes. The bars are satisfying, but not too filling, which is really important to me as a skater. It’s so uncomfortable trying to do triple jumps and layback spins with a big lunch in your stomach.
TG: What were some of the best tips for healthy nutrition your trainers have given you?
GG: My favorite lifestyle change was eating smaller meals, but much more frequently. I never feel too hungry or too full, and my energy levels stay steady throughout the whole day.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
GG: Sometimes it is really hard to prioritize when you have a crazy schedule preparing to hit the ice. Part of being a figure skater is always putting on the best face possible. We are the only ice sport that doesn’t wear a mask or helmet, so we are on full display for the world to see. This means a full face of makeup and a glamorous updo is on the menu. I love finding products that are easy to use and perfect for on-the-go use. During nationals I was literally applying my makeup on the bus to the rink, using Julep’s Eyeshadow 101 and their Skip the Brush Blush. Easy to use and a beautiful result. Besides finding products that are perfect for on-the-go, I use two monthly and weekly planners to keep me organized. I‘m constantly writing to-do lists; the old fashioned pen and paper kind. I’m a visual learner, so being able to have everything written down in one place is crucial.
TG: What causes you stress and how do you alleviate it?
GG: Stress comes from so many things in life. I don’t think anyone has just one thing they stress about. Whenever I am feeling tense and stressed out, I like to step back and walk myself through the scenario. I try to identify if there is anything I can do about the stressful situation or event. If there is something tangible for me to do, I write it down on my to-do list. If not, I let it go and acknowledge that some things are out of my control. Carrying extra tension and stress with me everywhere won’t do any good.
TG: When you are not training or traveling for work — what do you do to unwind?
GG: I guess it depends on my mood or what I’m unwinding from. I like to keep it simple for the most part: dinner with friends, a movie, a Netflix binge. But at the right moment I like to branch out and experience something new. It helps get me out of my day-to-day training groove and keeps things interesting.
TG: Can you share a time you failed and what were the things you did to grow and learn from that?
GG: I don’t really like the world “fail,” it has such a negative feel to it. The only time in life that you can “fail” is when you don’t learn from it. Mistakes and missteps serve a purpose in life. They can be incredible teachers, if we allow ourselves to learn from them. “Sunshine all the time makes a desert.”
TG: What is the best advice you’ve ever received and who was it from?
GG: The best advice I’ve ever been given is, “do not accept criticism from someone you wouldn’t go to for advice.” My therapist in Arizona told me that quote, although she wasn’t the author. That quote has been really life changing for me, especially when it comes to online comments and criticisms.