"Coming in first place isn't everything, you can still win without being first," Sanya Richards-Ross tells PEOPLE
Track and field legend Sanya Richards-Ross is opening up about her battle against body shaming, the struggles of having a husband in the NFL and the devastating end to her athletic career in a new book to be released summer of 2017.
“It’s not a hardcore memoir, but I share a lot of personal stories and anecdotes about my successes and struggles on and off the track,” Richards-Ross, 31, tells PEOPLE. “I feel like everyone is just running this race of life and I’m hoping my own experiences can inspire some hope in my readers.”
In addition to the currently untitled book, the Jamaican-American sprinter will also release two children’s books – one YA and one aimed at elementary school students.
“It’s all about loving life and being your best self. It’s fun,” explains Richards-Ross. “And there’s an emphasis that coming in first place isn’t everything, you can still win without being first – because winning is different for everyone and it’s an opportunity for growth.”
The 2012 400-meter Olympic gold medalist says she’s pouring her “heart and soul” into the new books.
“I’ve always wanted to write a book but nothing felt right or organic until now,” she says. “When I closed the chapter on my track career this year, it felt perfectly timed to the chapters in my book that I’m devoting to transitioning and believing in yourself and stepping out on faith.”
At the 2016 Olympic trials, Richards-Ross strained her hamstring on the final turn of the 400-meter preliminary heat – forcing her to retire early from the sport. At the Rio Games, the former athlete joined NBC as a sports commentator.
“It was very hard, I ran track for 24 years and had given a lot of myself to track,” she says. “A lot of the times we identify with what we do and not who we are. I talk about that in my book, that we need to prepare ourselves for transition and disappointment.
“If we prepare we can get through anything.”
Richards-Ross, who lives in Austin, Texas, details the strain that being a full-time athlete had on her marriage to former NFL cornerback Aaron Ross.
“There were struggles having a husband in the NFL and me being an athlete myself – especially when we were away from each other,” she says. “People would be like, ‘You better get home to your man!’ And for me, as a woman, I felt vulnerable.”
The athlete says she was also put under a lot of pressure, as an athlete-celebrity, to look a certain way on social media and recalls being “body-shamed” online.
“It’s hard as a woman to meet unrealistic standards,” she explains. “The first thing you have to do is learn to love yourself and to love the skin you’re in. When you can let go of the standards, you can stand tall without shame about whatever it is you are going through.
“I go into great detail in my book, because it’s cathartic to talk about these things.”
Now that her track career has ended, Richards-Ross is devoting all of her time to writing – and she can’t wait for her book release.
“It’s been all consuming,” she says. “I think the things I’m writing about are relatable, and I can’t wait to share my take on self-growth and fulfilling personal destinies with readers.”