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This Life-Altering Experience Shifted Olympian Ashley Wagner's Approach To Wellness

Krysten Peck
March 9, 2018
Krysten Peck
By Krysten Peck
mbg Contributor
Krysten Peck is a freelance writer specializing in arts, wellness, brands, and visual storytelling. She received a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College.
March 9, 2018

Three-time national champion and Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Wagner knows a thing or two about stamina. As one of the most decorated female figure skaters in recent time, Wagner’s 2018 Olympic dreams were crushed when she narrowly missed the mark to qualify for the women’s U.S. Olympic team heading to Pyeongchang. Devastation like this would make even the most composed athletes shut down, but what followed for Ashley involved an outspoken journey to reckoning with sadness, frustration, and reflection.

We caught up with Ashley at a meet-and-greet with the girls of Figure Skating in Harlem—a nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of young girls on and off the ice—sponsored byZICO Coconut Water. Ashley shared with us her mental hacks for moving through the tough moments of life, how she unwinds, and why the occasional "no-screen" policy is essential for her self-care.

For Wagner, the structured days of training for competition actually help center her body and mind to take on other commitments and extracurriculars. "For me, I love the structure of figure skating. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed with the extras." Wagner, who juggles a handful of media partnerships has been thrust into the media circuit of interviews and promotional work while training. She credits the routine of skating to her abilities to make space for other things in her life. "Making my life feel manageable is what keeps me balanced."

She learned prioritizing yourself first allows for more space in life.

Oftentimes, when we forget to seek out time and space ourselves to take a break, burnout can manifest in a number of ways. Wagner never considered the possible repercussions of putting other people and commitments before her own well-being. "It wasn’t until I had a panic attack off the ice that I realized that I need to prioritize restoring myself." A California native, Wagner looks for the ultimate relaxation while meditating or practicing yoga on the beach. "As soon as I acknowledged that I had to put time into me and making myself happy, that made everything else more manageable for me. I wasn’t so overwhelmed because I set time aside for myself."

She's not ashamed to feel emotions—even the sad ones.

When opening up about the loss she felt when she didn’t make the final cut for this year’s Olympic team, Wagner was frank in sharing how she managed to cope with the sadness in the face of all the Olympics coverage (note: Wagner did travel with the U.S. team to Pyeongchang as an alternate). "Allowing myself to ‘feel’ enabled me to get through that experience OK," recounts Wagner, as she continues to process what it felt like to be in the ice arena but unable to compete. "It was devastating. Sometimes I feel like we put processing on hold." Wagner wasn’t defined by this bump along the way: She dedicated herself to accepting the circumstances and channeling the good into other opportunities she’s been afforded with media and speaking engagements.

She detaches from social media for peace of mind.

Even so, staying positive is still an active task for Wagner, who credits her peace of mind in being her authentic self and not taking social media too seriously. Her advice for others struggling to see the light in dark times? Lessen your engagement with screens and go out and explore your surroundings. "If you’re having a hard time and you feel like you’re surrounded by a lot of negativity, social media is not an outlet for positivity—surround yourself with real-life people."

Another form of self-care for the figure skater? One-hundred-percent me time. She notes baths, journaling, and the occasional reality-TV indulgence as her preferred forms of taking it easy.

Curious to know how an Olympian recovers from a workout? Read this for recovery tips from a sports performance coach.

Krysten Peck author page.
Krysten Peck

Krysten Peck is a freelance writer specializing in arts, wellness, brands, and visual storytelling. She received a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College, and has done editorial and social media work at AOL, MTV News, and BuzzFeed. A city dweller with island roots, she's hooked on all-things ginger and likes to play in the kitchen. When she does exercise, she's usually chooses high-intensity activities like dancing, HIIT, and spinning.