After overcoming multiple injuries to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in the nick of time, 5,000-meter runner Jessica O’Connell faced another series of setbacks as she prepared for the Games.
When she arrived in Rio, she was tempted to view her situation as an anomaly. But the more she talked to other athletes, the more she realized adversity strikes everyone—the best (and luckiest) among us are those who can persevere.
It’s an attitude that’s served her well throughout her running career. Injuries, she says, are now disappointing but not devastating. She can see them that way, in part, because she has a plan to deal with them—a cross-training strategy she’s outlined and shared with runners everywhere in a free, 27-page document called The Back-Up Plan.
On this week’s Injured Athletes Club, Jess talks more about the plan and her own experiences with injury. We discuss:
- How injuries are viewed in running, especially at the Olympic level: with a lot of avoidance and denial (6:51)
- Her string of injuries, which began in college (8:15)
- The simple statement from a fellow Olympian that snapped her out of her lowest low (10:50)
- What gives her confidence when returning from injury (14:27)
- When and how she came up with the idea to create the Back-Up Plan, a comprehensive cross-training guide for runners (15:52)
- The mistakes runners often make in cross-training, and how to avoid them (22:28)
- The advice she gives injured athletes about their mental health (27:05)
- How she handles difficult interactions with others when she’s injured (31:37)
- What healthy runners can do to support their injured friends (33:41)
- The biggest lessons she’s taken from her setbacks, including their virtual inevitability (40:08)
- Jessica’s Instagram, Twitter, and the website for the coaching business she has with Obstacle Course Racer Faye Stenning, Grit Coaching
- The Back-Up Plan (also on Instagram)
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