Kayla Harrison is 2X Olympic Gold Medalist and Professional Fighters League Lightweight star MMA fightwho rose against all odds to achieve her dreams. She defended her Gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. After retiring from Judo, Kayla created the Fearless Foundation to shine a light on the darkness that is child sexual abuse and to enrich the lives of survivors through education and sport.
This year she anchors the first-ever women’s 155 division in MMA, with the season beginning May 9 on ESPN.
Women Fitness President, Namita Nayyar takes this opportunity to talk to her about journey and story of perseverance. Read on.
Starting off at the age of six as a judo you went on to compete in the 78 kg weight category followed by current mixed martial artist in the lightweight division. You also won the 2010 World Championships, gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and gold at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games. Looking back how would you define your life journey to become a champion?
My journey has in no way shape or form been easy. It wasn’t a straight line to the top. I went through some of the worst things a person can go through in life, but I think hitting rock bottom and being in a negative situation catapulted me into becoming who I am today. Like many success stories, sometimes you must go through some hard times to get to the good times.
The hurdles & challenges you faced all through to reach to the top and what kept you determined and focused?
You must have a strong team around you, people with like-minded goals who believe in you. I was blessed to have that in my life. I also set mini goals for myself, tiny successes that could lead to bigger ones. Lastly, just my internal drive. There’s something inside of me that says I won’t quit, I won’t give up, I won’t stop no matter how hard it gets.
Your daily health & fitness routine? Share briefly your top 5 exercises to fight competitive stress?
I’m a professional athlete, this is my job, it’s what I do. I usually do 2-3 workouts a day, and it can include grappling, sparring and various drills. I see my strength and conditioning coach twice a week, do one light technical workout on Saturday’s and then Sunday I rest. In terms of dealing with stress, being a fighter is like putting yourself in the most stressful situation possible and finding ways to cope with it. There’s nothing more stressful than locking yourself in a cage with someone who is trying to fight you. I don’t try to find exercises to relieve stress, I try and find ways to become better at dealing with the stress. This includes breathing exercises, visualization activities and positive thinking. Every night I train my brain, just like I do my body. I’m visualizing success, I’m visualizing being the best MMA fighter in the world, I’m visualizing arm barring someone or landing that perfect cross…and I repeat it repeatedly.
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