You may have heard of Lolo Jones: the 33-year-old track and field and bobsledding powerhouse who will compete in her fourth Olympics in Rio this summer (nbd). The LSU grad and Iowa native is also the American indoor record holder in the 60-meter hurdles who has overcome incredible odds, experiencing homelessness as a child. Jones stopped by the Glamour offices earlier this week to chat about what inspires her to keep going, growing up with a single mom, and how she deals with haters. Here is some of her best advice.
As a young girl, what inspired you to go into athletics?
As a young girl, I just wanted to have fun and compete. There were no goals of becoming an Olympic athlete. I wanted to hang out with my friends. I wanted to do something fun, and that’s what I did.
You’re a track and field star, and made your foray into bobsledding by joining the U.S. national team in 2012. Why did you make that transition?
I was approached to do bobsled a few years before, but I was focused on the Summer Olympics. But after London, I was frustrated, because it was the second time I had come so close to a medal. In 2008, I hit the hurdle that cost me the gold. And in London, I got fourth. I still knew I loved competing, but it was the first time I didn’t want to run. I just needed a break from it. Bobsled gave me more passion. It made me miss running track. It was a good way to figure out if I still wanted to pursue track and field in the future.
You’re one of ten athletes who have competed in both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games. That’s a pretty small club! Can you tell us more about what that was like as an athlete?
I didn’t really know that I would be making history. I just wanted to get away from track for a while. It was cool because the Winter Olympians were asking me, ‘Well, how are the Summer Olympics?’ And for me, that’s really special, because I gave up two indoor seasons, where I was a two-time world champion, to compete for bobsled. It’s nice to be able to have that on my resume.
What was the back-to-back training like? That must have been insane.
The training was insane. But it’s fun for bobsled, because they focus more on the strength side. So it helped me out when I returned to track, because I was really powerful. And you don’t run as much for bobsled, so I had to gain weight. I got the best of all these worlds. I got to increase my calorie intake, lift heavier, and run less.
What is your best advice for dealing with criticism and haters?
A lot of people tease me because I don’t have an Olympic medal, even though I’m a three-time Olympian and three-time world champion. You have to go to the root of where you started. I started off as not even an Olympic athlete. And now I’m a three-time Olympian. If I let people mock me because I don’t have an Olympic medal, I’m just overlooking all the blessings that I have achieved over the years. You have to keep fighting, and know at your heart what you are. My character is not defined by somebody else.
What inspires you to keep going every day?
Success is always an easier motivator, because you want more of it. But I’ve also been motivated by failure. Had I medaled in London, I don’t think I would be one of the few that have gone to a Summer and Winter. I would have been content with that medal. Instead, I used that failure to go to the Winter Olympics. I always tell people that failure can be one of your biggest motivators if you just have an attitude adjustment about it.
Do you have any mentors that you look up to?
Running-wise, I always looked up to runner Gail Devers. She was one of the first people that congratulated me when I broke her American record.
Where do you see your life and your career five years from now, or even 10 years from now?
Five years from now, hopefully I’ll be polishing my Olympic gold medals, and then sitting on the couch eating bonbons. And watching other athletes compete at the Olympics, of course.
You’re coming off two surgeries this past year—one on your shoulder, and the other on your hip—and a few career disappointments. Rio will be your fourth Olympic competition, and you’re determined to take home the gold medal. What’s your game plan?
Last year was one of the worst seasons of my career. I was missing key things in my workouts, so I started doing workouts with Orangetheory Fitness; they have science-based workouts that use a heart-rate monitor. I did allergy tests, and I talked to a sports psychologist too—just things that I’ve really never done before.
Sometimes the littlest thing can make the greatest impact. When the doctors originally told me I needed surgery, they said there’s no chance I’d be able to run indoors, and that I’d be pushing it to get back in shape for outdoors. But now I’ll be running indoors at the end of this month. I’ll be right there for the start of the season. I’m at a really good place right now.
You grew up with a single mother, and moved around a lot as a kid. How did that experience form you as a young athlete and woman?
My dad was in and out of prison, and he’d come back, and make an honest effort, but my mom was a single mother to five kids. The main thing I learned from her is how to be a hard worker. A lot of times she’d have to have two jobs. I’d see her just really grinding it out, and just exhausted. I did not make my first Olympic team. So I had to go get a job, and train, and compete on top of it. It was like having three jobs. I had my mom as a great example of how to really fight through the wilderness.