Venus Williams on Learning to Embrace 'the Joy, the Process' of Tennis, Tackling 'Gymtimidation'

“Greatness lies out of your comfort zone. I don't think anybody did anything great when they were comfortable,” the tennis legend tells PEOPLE

Venus Williams
Photo: Craig Ambrosio

Venus Williams believes every workout can be a Grand Slam.

Chatting with PEOPLE about fitness, fashion and her new favorite movie, the 41-year-old tennis superstar explained why she's teamed up with Stitch Fix to help tackle "gymtimidation," aka the anxiety sometimes caused by working out in front of others.

Even as a professional athlete, Williams says she's felt the fitness fear at various points of her career.

"I've had a lot of challenges in my life. I've gotten to the point where I [once] didn't even trust a part of my body to perform, like to go up and down stairs, so how in the world you come back to play tennis?" she says of her near 30-year career.

"There have been moments where maybe I had weight gain," she continues. "No matter what your level is, you have these different moments where you need to boost your confidence. I'm very happy to bring that out into the open."

Venus Williams
Craig Ambrosio

In a recent study commissioned by Stitch Fix, 67 percent of women polled agreed that they experienced that "gymtimidation" after a major life event, such as giving birth or returning to workouts after pausing amid the pandemic. Lending her voice to advocate for greater inclusivity in the fitness industry, Williams says she's passionate about helping others conquer self-doubt and live their "best lives."

"Greatness lies out of your comfort zone. I don't think anybody did anything great when they were comfortable," the four-time Olympic gold medalist says. Issuing advice on revving up fitness routines in the new year, she also reminds, "You don't have to be a superhero."

"I think people go into [exercising] and think, 'Oh my gosh, I have to work out five days a week for two hours.' No, work out two to three days a week for at least half an hour," Williams says. "And you've got something, and you're starting to build a habit."

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Sometimes, the only confidence boost you need is the right outfit, and Stitch Fix found that 89% of women were more likely to stick to their fitness goals if they felt good in what they were wearing. This spring, Williams looks forward to seeing her activewear line EleVen shoppable on the platform, which currently offers size-inclusive active and athleisure from XXS to 3X.

"It's important to find clothes that make you feel good, so I'm very excited," the star says of the collaboration.

As for her own goals in tennis in 2022, Williams says that health is wealth.

"That's number one. Number two would just be enjoying the competition," she says. "I think sometimes athletes, or people, don't take the moment to just love what they're doing. They're just so busy trying to win at it. You forget the joy, the process. So that's really going to be utmost for me. More than anything, just enjoy and love it."

Looking back on a highlight from last year, Williams praised Will Smith's portrayal of her father and childhood tennis coach Richard Williams in King Richard, released in November 2021.

"I think it was very important for him to get it right. He spent so much time studying everything about my family and my dad," she says of Smith's meticulousness. "I'm just very proud of how the film turned out. It's funny and inspiring, and heartwarming. I think every person relates to it because it's not just a sports film, but the film about family."

According to the athlete, the film also accurately captured the special bond that she and her sister Serena Williams share.

Serena Williams and Venus Williams
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

"We have a wonderful time. Each other is always our first priority," she says of her sibling. "I'm very happy that we got to share that with the world."

As for a favorite moment of the movie, Williams says she loved seeing Smith act alongside the younger, onscreen Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton).

"The dad-daughter moments are my favorite parts. They're so special, and I love my dad so much, it's nice to have those concrete in memory and history," she says.

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