Ever since I starting running track at 5 years old, pain has accompanied me in my training and my competitions. So I decided at an early age that:
- Pain is something that I can’t avoid.
- I am capable of overcoming it.
A lot of people think that the best athletes have a “high pain tolerance” in that they don’t feel as much pain as other people. Others think there is a way to get around pain or that we don’t feel it because of the physical shape we are in. Neither of these two things are true. We feel pain just like anyone else would; we have just trained our mind to deal with it.
The first step in learning to handle pain is acceptance. You must accept the fact that there will always be pain, to some degree, in your training and in competition. They say that track is 90% mental and 10% physical. Even though we can all go back and forth debating the exact ratio, we can all agree that mental strength is a major factor in track and field, and probably in any sport.
You can control how you endure pain by simply telling yourself and your body exactly how to respond to the signal. When I am in an intense workout and my body sends me the message that I cannot do another rep, I send a message back saying, “you can and you will!” I willingly welcome pain, as crazy as that may sound. Sometimes, I have to have full-on conversations with myself to respond to the signal, especially when I’m really hurting and really need to dig deep. I will place an image of one of my goals in my mind to remind myself exactly why I do what I do; you need to give yourself a solid reason to endure the pain.
Plenty of people scare themselves so much before they even get to the starting line; they have become consumed with worry about the pain they will endure and whether or not they can handle it. That’s defeat before you even start! You are not even giving yourself a chance to see what you are truly capable of. You must imagine and visualize the pain, yes. But then follow up by imagining and visualizing how you will respond to it; how you will face the pain, not back down from it.
This concept applies to daily life as well. Replace “pain” with “stress.” Oftentimes my source of stress is my overwhelming daily workload, which includes taking care of the twins and all of the motherly duties that come along with that along with training at a very intense level, day in and day out. Sometimes I get discouraged and think, “Something has to give. I can’t go on like this,” and I consider letting go of my athletic career goals and focusing primarily on raising the twins. When I start thinking like that, I know that my stress level is high because this is not my normal, eye-on-the-prize way of thinking. I’ve learned to acknowledge that my emotions are on overload, and my reaction was triggered by them. I then try to find a few minutes to close my eyes and remind myself of these two things:
- My dreams far outweigh the stress that comes along with going after them.
- Stress is the terminator of my dreams, and I must fight back at it.
I’m sure many of you use to-do lists. This is a simple affirmation to yourself of the workload you are currently carrying and how you want to respond to it. They can be very effective for specific tasks, such as “call the plumber,” “buy milk,” and “return so-and-so’s email.” It’s harder to make a to-do list that address how you want to handle your emotional stress. But why not write it down? Have you ever written down all of the things you are worried about, and then responded to them? Sometimes saying things out loud or putting them on paper makes them much more manageable, and often makes you realize they are not as overwhelming as you are making them out to be.
My Stress My Response Juggling career and motherhood It is good for my twins see me working hard to reach my goals! I want them to set and work for goals as well. Once I DO reach my goals, this will all be worth it. The twins love it that Mommy is an Olympic medalist! I want them to continue to see me as a strong and resilient example. Worrying about money Worrying about money doesn’t make you any money! I have to continue to pursue sponsorships and relationships that can ultimately sustain my family and my vision for the Lashinda Demus Foundation. It is not going to be easy, but I am capable of making it work. Worrying about my health I have struggled with injuries and more recently with vitamin deficiencies. But I have done what is necessary to diagnose the problems and have and will continue to do exactly what is necessary to alleviate them. I will listen to my body and make it a priority to take care of it as best I can. Worrying doesn’t make me healthier either!
Try it out for yourself! Grab your favorite notebook or use the Notes app on your phone, whatever you will be able to easily find later, and make a list of your Stresses and your Responses. Refer to this list when you feel overwhelmed to remind yourself of your vision for the future. You are in the driver’s seat; and you are fully capable of reaching your destination.
Much love and empowerment to you,