The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Olympian Desiree Henry says master your mind master your body
- Desiree Henry, 25, who lives in North London, won an Olympic Bronze
- English sprinter had a mental block in the European Championships in 2016
- The experience forced her to improve the connection between mind and body
Desiree Henry, 25, is an English sprinter. She won an Olympic Bronze in the 4 x 100m relay at the 2016 Rio Games; and a Silver in the 4 x 100m relay at The World Athletics Championships in London in 2017. She lives in North London.
To compete in the 2016 Olympics, I took part in the European Championships in Amsterdam. I’d got to the final of the 100m and I was nervous: it was a trial run for Rio.
I was in good shape but as I stood on the start line, I felt my hamstring cramp. I remember the camera panning to me, and being aware that my parents would be watching on TV. As I got on the block, my calf and shoulder cramped up.
Desiree Henry, 25, (pictured) who lives in London, revealed how failure helped her to improve the connection between her mind and body
The start gun went off and I took ten strides, before my body shut down. I’d never failed at a major competition. How on earth was I going to represent my country on a world stage? I pulled out of my next race. I stayed in my hotel, for four days crying and screaming — I needed to let out that anger and frustration. My mum sent me this message: ‘When the leaves fall, the trees stay strong.’ It made a lot of sense — I’d had a setback, but I was still strong.
I used the next few months to reset and understand why my body had done this. I’d had a mental block. Before that race, I’d been wrestling with the thought: ‘Can I do this?’ and that little bit of doubt had crept in and taken over. I had to rebuild my confidence.
From then, I decided to swap ‘Can I do this?’, for ‘I can do this’. And every time I felt doubt creeping in, I reminded myself, ‘I’m going to be OK, I am strong’.
I went on to win Bronze at that Olympics, as well as Silver at the World Athletics Championships in 2017. The extreme cramping never happened again. But, weirdly, I’m glad that it did. It forced to me to develop a stronger connection between my mind and body, and in turn it has helped me get through the challenges of the pandemic.
It’s so important to experience failure, but it’s also about how you handle it. I used it to reset and rebuild. It made me a stronger person.
Desiree Henry is an ambassador for Solgar Vitamins & Supplements (solgar.co.uk).
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