How These Star Athletes Make Time For Each Other Post-Baby
Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and football player Andrew East on tackling new routines together
Gymnast Shawn Johnson stunned the world on the balance beam at the 2008 Summer Olympics, winning gold for Team U.S.A. This year, she’s off to the games again… but as a viewer, with her husband Andrew East and their baby girl, Drew, in tow. The couple — who recently recorded a too-cute special podcast episode from Sleep Number’s booth at the Miami Super Bowl (watch here) — lives in Nashville and took some time to tell us how their routine changed since welcoming an addition to the family. Hint: They’re loving it… but you might not want to ask them to hit the gym together. Read on to find out why.
Wake-Up Call: You two welcomed your first baby a few months ago. Congratulations. And I have to ask, are you guys getting any sleep?
Shawn: We are very, very spoiled and have an angel child who decided to sleep through the night at eight weeks. So we are sleeping and we are very spoiled.
Andrew: And really thankful.
Shawn: We were actually advised not to tell any of our friends that.
Andrew: The crazy thing is even though we have a relatively easy baby, this whole parenting thing, three months in, is still super hard. So we’re trying to learn every day.
Having a baby, just such a huge life change. So can you tell us about some of the more surprising aspects — and some of the most rewarding aspects — of having a baby?
Shawn: There’s really no way to prepare for a baby. People try to prepare you emotionally, but having your baby is its own thing. Trying to figure out how your relationship with your husband works after a baby and trying to figure out what the different cries mean and understanding baby language. It just teaches you a lot about yourself, which has been surprising.
Andrew: It’s difficult because marriage is like this — and I think parenting even more so — but it’s this process of realizing that it’s not all about you. When there’s a baby screaming and they need to be fed and changed, you realize that you can’t do exactly what you wanted to do. But it’s totally worth it when you see your little baby smile and laugh with you. And just to see how happy Shawn is… As her husband, that brings so much joy and satisfaction.
That’s so lovely. But on another note, since you’re both professional athletes, I wanted to know — do you work out together and what do you do together to stay active?
Shawn: We tried from day one to work out together, since we both love working out, sports and athletics… But it just really doesn’t work for us. We have very different workout styles, and we end up always getting mad at each other for some reason. So we take separate times in the day now to work out. We’ll do hikes and outdoor activities together. We love that. But when it comes to going to the gym… It has to be separate.
Andrew: The problem is we start coaching each other up and that just never ends well. But I’ve been so impressed with Shawn after having given birth to Drew. She has gotten back into shape so quickly and it’s just impressive to me that she just went through this physically traumatic experience and she’s still crushing her workout routine.
And while we’re on the topic of routines: Have your morning and nighttime routines changed since welcoming Drew?
Shawn: They’re completely different now. We both were really never morning people. We always like to sleep in, which is a very rude awakening with the baby. So we’re up usually by 5:30 or 6 a.m. every day now. It’s just the morning routine with a baby of — get her up, get her bottles ready, feed her, play with her, put her back down for a nap and then try to have some like couple time in the morning after that over coffee and working out. And then at night — we used to be night owls. We’d stay up until midnight every night. And now I think we go to bed around 8 p.m.
Do you go to bed at the same time as the baby?
Andrew: Yes, pretty much.
We know that having a baby can totally change a person’s lives and, as you said, it also completely changes your routine. But how have you tried to make time for each other during this huge transition time?
Andrew: We have tried to establish a solid routine. I would say the morning is our time with Drew, where Drew’s in a really good mood and we’re excited to see her. We’ve missed her since we saw her the previous night! Then at night, after we put Drew down, we have an hour so left before we end up falling asleep. We really have to make that a special time, as opposed to turning on the TV or being on our phones. We try to have intentional conversations. And then another thing that we’ve really focused on is our weekly date nights. So we have blocked off every Thursday night from 5 to 9 p.m on our schedule. We’ll go out in Nashville and just spend time together. That’s been critical. We’ve literally done it every week since we got home from the hospital.
The summer Olympics are coming up and Shawn, you are an Olympian. So are you excited to watch all the gymnastics this year?
Shawn: Oh yeah, super excited. Everyone in the world is just excited to watch Simone, including myself. But we’ll actually be in Tokyo the whole time. We’re taking Drew to her first Olympics. She’s flown a lot already, even as a three-month-old. So she’s killing the travel game. But I don’t know what an 18-hour flight with a seven-month-old is going to be like!
So when we watch the Olympics, many of us feel personally involved in the routines and the athletes we’re watching. What do you think it is about gymnastics, in particular, that draws so many people and makes us all so engrossed and obsessed?
Shawn: There’s something so fascinating about the sport of gymnastics, because when you watch the Olympics, you’re watching adults take on these incredible athletic feats. But then when you switch to gymnastics, you’re watching kids do these death-defying, gravity-defying things that are just mesmerizing. I think it just adds to the “aw” factor of it.
Andrew, have you ever watched Shawn do a gymnastics move and just been terrified?
Andrew: Yes! I missed her whole competitive career, but we’ve gone to the gym a handful of times since and she’ll be like, “Oh, I can’t do any skills anymore. I’m so old now.” And then she’ll throw some insane double back layout. And I say, “That seems pretty legit. How many girls in the world can do that?” And she says, “Well, I don’t know… just the Elite girls…” So she’s still incredible at it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
This originally appeared in Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter. Subscribe here.