Lolo Jones, OVER IT

Lolo Jones, OVER IT

“I learned how strong I was. I learned that I’m a fighter. I learned that failure is never going to break me.” Olympic runner and bobsledder Lolo Jones joins Zibby to discuss her new memoir, Over It, and the importance of reckoning with her recent past. Lolo shares how reading has always served as inspiration for her, the ways her approach to health and fitness have changed over the course of her career, and the peace she found when she realized reaching her goal of winning an Olympic medal was not nearly as significant as the effort she puts into herself.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Lolo. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Over It: How to Face Life’s Hurdles with Grit, Hustle, and Grace. We could all take a lesson out of your book to learn how to do that a little bit better.

Lolo Jones: Thank you. I enjoyed it. It was an honor to meet your kids before we started recording. They’re super cute.

Zibby: Thanks for entertaining them. I just think it’s so great to be able to introduce them to amazing role models like you who have accomplished so much, Olympic athlete and all the things you’ve overcome, ha ha, the things you’ve gotten over, so to speak. It’s amazing what you can do with determination and genes and your body and athleticism and all the emotional, mental stuff that goes into it. It’s really amazing.

Lolo: Definitely, more determination than genes. I know growing up, I was not the fastest kid. I got beat quite a bit. I was able, over the course of years, to beat the kids who were beating me all those times. It’s just a lot more determination than genes, I would say.

Zibby: That’s true. I feel like you had something about how the most important thing is just keeping going because the people who might have been faster, the only reason they didn’t make it is that they stopped. I feel like that applies to so many things. A lot of authors come on and say, I finally sold my book because I wrote three books after I got my first one rejected. It’s the same sort of mentality, the more you keep doing it, picking yourself up.

Lolo: The sharper you get. You use those failures as motivation. I just feel like some of the toughest moments in my life, my biggest failures, were followed up by my best moments. I don’t know if it was just the kick in the butt I needed or it was fuel for my fire, a little bit of both, but definitely was able to use a lot of those failures to motivate me for big things.

Zibby: I hate to even bring up — obviously, the book begins in the way some people knew you, but not most who have followed your illustrious career. You did have this one moment that drew a lot of attention that you were not — for a while, as we were just discussing, you didn’t even want to talk about it. It was all anybody wanted to ask you. I don’t want to be one of those people who’s only asking you about your stumble.

Lolo: I had to start with that. That was my decision, actually. Originally, we weren’t going to have that as the first chapter. I said, let’s rip this band-aid right off. It’s obviously one of the more painful things. It’s funny become sometimes I’m like, oh, I’m totally over that. I’m healed. Then something will trigger me and I’m like, wait, we still have some weeds to pull in this area, reliving that and trying to make sure that I go into detail, the process and what happened that night in 2008 when I hit the ninth hurdle, which cost me an Olympic gold medal.

Zibby: Some of the things I found more — not more interesting. That was also very, very interesting, but I wanted to hear all about how you got to that place. What happens in the moment and little stumbles or how you get through something amazing like the Olympics is super interesting. What is it that makes one person get there versus another person? How did you become that person? Going back and talking about your mom and your dad and even how you overcame — I have to find a new word now because now every time I say it, I think about your title. The shoplifting and how your car would break down all the time and how you would have to run to school sometimes, at least a mile, if not farther, to different schools, and how that’s even how you started learning to run so you wouldn’t even be so cold, tell me a little bit more about that and the necessity. It’s like you ran to survive, really.

Lolo: I know. A lot of people assume that I became a runner because I joined the track team and I was really good at that. That was probably part of it. Before that even part one, there’s the prequel. My family, we just grew up really poor. I didn’t have a car most of the time because my family just couldn’t afford a car. The cars we had would break down all the time. We’d be stuck across town from our house. This is before Uber and Lyft. This is when taxicabs were really, really expensive. Really, our only other option was either to catch a bus, and it was after-hours when there were no buses available, and then to run or walk home. We caught ourselves a lot of times walking or running home. Then if it was a cold night — I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, where there’s blizzards. It’s very, very frigid. We would run home just to keep the body heat high. I can remember that happening multiple times. I remember running to the grocery store with my dad trying to go get groceries and then carry the groceries back. In those moments is when he would teach me how to run. This is how you control your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Remembering those moments, what’s funny, that’s essentially what made running natural for me. Then joined the track team which obviously launched me into becoming a collegiate athlete and then going on to compete for the Olympics.

Zibby: Wow, so it’s all about how we get to school. I should not be driving my kids to school. I should be leaving them on the side of the road. Then they’d probably have a much better chance of success.

Lolo: That’s funny.

Zibby: They’re like, I don’t even want to walk two blocks.

Lolo: I know. I’d hate to be that person that’s like — you always hear the stories of the parents. I used to walk a mile to school in the frigid snow. It’s like, oh, I actually am one of those people.

Zibby: As you’ve gotten older in your life — I’m somewhat focused on aging. I’m forty-four. Your body has been your secret weapon. Not so secret. You have been able to channel your body into whatever you want to make it and do the things that most people wouldn’t dream of doing. As you’ve gotten older, how has your relationship changed with your body, if it has at all?

Lolo: Oh, man, I feel it, I’m telling you, especially in these last three years. I’m thirty-eight, about to be thirty-nine. What I’ve had to really focus on the older I get is eating healthier. Before, I could eat fast food and not really feel anything. Now I definitely feel the dips in energy. You don’t feel really good. I don’t want to say I have arthritis, but foods definitely make me more tight and increase inflammation. When I have pizza, the next day, I feel a bit more stiff. Those things, I would never have those moments when I was in my twenties. I remember eating pizza every day, pretty much, with my teammate one time. We ran perfectly fine. As you get older, you have to be more diligent in the small things. Even stretching, you lose your flexibility as you get older. Your body decreases that. I always tell people, even if they’re not doing anything for workouts, just please stretch. Stretch while you watch TV. That’s how I keep my body maintenance going well as I get on up there in age.

Zibby: What about how not to burn out on a sport that you’ve done so much of? My husband played professional tennis for a little bit and taught tennis for many, many years. There are some people who he meets and they’re like, no, no, I can’t even look at a tennis racket. I’m done. I’m over it. I can’t after all that. How do you avoid something like that? How have you? How has it been throughout your recent life?

Lolo: I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve gotten burned out, tired of practice, tired of going. I’d say I would just find ways to switch it up, whether that’s change my goals. I think that’s a big reason why I started doing bobsled. It’s still competing, but it’s a completely different sport. The way bobsled tasks you is different from track. Track is a lot more running. Bobsled’s more focused on lifting weights. Not everybody has the opportunity to switch sports. I got a lot of motivation just in reading different books or whether it’s music. I can draw inspiration from podcasts, TV shows. Just trying to find your energy from somewhere. My tank definitely gets low. I’m doing the same workouts six days a week. I’m doing the same workouts that I did as a freshman in college, so it’s fifteen years. It’s a lot of the same stuff over and over again. There’s a lot of little tips and tricks I do, whether it’s that, get my energy from somewhere. Let’s say I’m tired of running, get a new pair of shoes so it forces me to — I just spent all this money on these shoes. I’m going to go try them out, feel the energy from that. Just little things. Journaling a lot is big for me, can just vent my frustrations and my stress. That’s probably what’s kept me in the game as long as I’ve been in. Also, rest. Rest is really key. A lot of people forget rest. I take one day off a week for a reason. If I don’t have that, I burn out much more quickly if I don’t have those moments of rest or pause.

Zibby: You mentioned just now, reading. In the book, you talked about how you were such an advanced reader and you loved reading from a young age. Tell me a little bit about the role of reading in your life.

Lolo: Honestly, I think it was just my escape. I don’t know really how I got into reading so much as a kid. Most kids, especially nowadays, it’s so hard with Netflix and Hulu and video games. We had video games, but it’s on an increased level much so more with the media and social outlets that they have. For me, that was just my escape. We had a TV in the house. There were months where we had cable. Some months, we didn’t because we couldn’t afford it. I just always went back to the books. Another motivator was when I was talking about how they would give away that prize for the pan pizza. They had this program in school where if you read a book, you would be able to get a personal pan pizza. I did grow up quite hungry. My family just didn’t have a lot of food. That was a good motivator too. Even without that, there were moments I didn’t have that program and I was still reading a ton. I enjoyed reading a lot growing up. I enjoyed going to the bookstore, getting books. It was a used bookstore, like a thrift bookstore. That was quite fun.

Zibby: What about now? Do you still like to read in your spare time?

Lolo: I love to read. I don’t have as much time. I try my best, though, especially when I’m traveling. It’s usually because I travel so much. It’s three months on the road or six months on the road during the Olympic year. The things at home kind of stack up, like home maintenance. You have to go through a stack of mail. When I’m home, I get slammed with just daily life stuff. When I travel, there is nothing I love better. Okay, I’m just going to pull out a book or read my Kindle, just something. I do read, whether it’s inspirational stuff, my bible. Those are things I, daily, read. Just leisure is those common ways when I travel.

Zibby: Now people are reading your book on their Kindle. It’s all coming full circle here. Amazing.

Lolo: I know. I’m starting to get nervous as it starts to get closer to the launch date. I’ve had a few moments where I’m like, oh, my gosh, this is like some people are reading my diary or something.

Zibby: What made you write a book to begin with?

Lolo: I guess it goes back to the inspiration of books. When you’re an avid reader — that’s how I said I get a lot of source of my energy. There’s been a lot of times in my life where I felt very discouraged or going through bouts of depression or frustrated that I’m single. I’ll try to go pick up a book that will encourage or motivate me to just see something else, another perspective. A lot of those books are from the perspective of someone on the other side of their win. It’s an Olympic champion who has won, and this is how I won. If it’s a book for singles, it’s a person who’s married now and on the other side of that. They’re very happily married. I was like, where is the book about the people that are still in the battle, that are frustrated that it hasn’t turned out, that still have questions, that still have doubts and fears? Where is that book at? I just wanted to write a book that would encourage those who are very hopeless and feel like they’ve tried everything. They’ve thrown everything at a situation or a problem. They’ve come so close, but just not there yet. I hope that as they read it, they can see that I’ve had a lot of those moments. Those moments are essentially what helped me have success even though it’s not the ultimate success of, per se, having an Olympic medal.

Zibby: What was the experience of writing it like?

Lolo: It was very interesting. It was during the pandemic. I don’t know if I was in the best mind-state to write. My mind, my mental state kept shifting, obviously, with everything changing. Honestly, the biggest part was thinking you were healed in an area, and then you’re like, oh, my goodness gracious, there’s some clearing up we need to do. This is not fully — no. This was eight years ago. What’s going on? That was the tough part, reliving some moments that you really thought, I’m totally over it. You’re like, no, you’re not.

Zibby: It takes active work to get over some things that happen. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, as it were.

Lolo: No, it does not. That’s probably what I learned the most.

Zibby: When you think about the people who are trying to get over it and who are kind of stuck in the middle and can’t quite achieve what they’ve set their minds on, what do you want them to know? What is it that made you come back over and over to working on this book and thinking, I have to get this out to people? Is it going to get better? What if it doesn’t get better? How are you equipping them to deal with it? Sometimes things just aren’t good.

Lolo: Exactly. I’m still dealing with that right now. I’m preparing for my last Olympics. I’m not guaranteed to medal. I’m not even guaranteed to make the Olympic team. It might not work out for me. I might end my career and never get this coveted medal that I have been working so hard for so many years for. The piece that I’ve had to come to terms with — I’ve thought about this a lot. It’s kept me up many, many nights. I relive hitting the hurdle. I’m like, why didn’t you just finish the race so you just get the medal? You wouldn’t be here in this position. What gives me peace in knowing is that I tried everything to get that medal. When my kids ask me, at the end of the day — I don’t have kids now, but one day, I hope I do. If I don’t become an Olympic medalist and I feel like I don’t have peace, I will tell my kids, you know, I am not an Olympic medalist, but I did everything. I threw the whole book at this situation. That’s what brought me peace in knowing that I did absolutely everything in my power to get this medal. If I came up short, it doesn’t matter because I have so much pride in my effort that even the Olympics couldn’t replace that. I know that through the odds, through not making my first Olympic team, making sure I tried again, and then going to my first Olympics and coming up close to an Olympic medal, and then going to a winter Olympics and not getting a medal there, I tried up, down, left, right.

No, it didn’t work out, but here’s the thing. The beauty in that is I learned how strong I was. I learned that I’m a fighter. I learned that a failure is never going to break me. I learned that I’m bigger than any success. I also have talked to many Olympic medalists that have won. Some of them are not happy. A lot of them are not happy just by winning. They’re still not content. They’re still not content with the ultimate goal. That’s not even just Olympians. There’s a lot of businesspeople that have tons of money in the bank. They’re still not satisfied or complete. I think just finding joy in the process, joy in your effort, being satisfied with your accomplishments, what you’ve overcome — I know that they say it’s all about the journey. I hate that saying because it’s so cliché, but man, a journey is powerful if you use it to just reflect on your mental state. That’s what’s really, honestly, helped propel me. One failure has launched me into another victory. Then I’d hit another wall. That would propel me even further. I really just hope that that’s the takeaway for someone who’s like, man, maybe this won’t work out for me. I know. It might not work out for me either. Where are you going to grab your peace from? Are you going to grab your peace from something that you’re trying to chase after, or are you going to be peaceful in the moment and know that you are a fighter, you’re unbreakable, and you can overcome anything?

Zibby: You’re inspiring me right now. That was really awesome. Your message is powerful and comes from such a place of authenticity. I know that having the book out there will resonate and help you find new people who haven’t heard that before, which is really great. On the writing front, is there anything that aspiring authors should know that you learned in your writing journey of this book?

Lolo: I thought it was going to be easier. Honestly, it’s not so much — the writing part, yes, but it’s after the fact. Who are they writing the book for? That book now has to reach an audience. I guess I didn’t realize — I was like, okay, the book is done. Celebrate, yes! Then it’s like, that’s just the beginning of, now you have to make sure you’re finding your audience for that book. Whether it’s interviews or podcasts or using your social media to get the book out or even talking to your family and friends, that part right there, I guess every author has to have a little bit of marketing in them or be prepared to be a marketer of their own book if they want people to read it. I was not prepared for it like that. I was like, oh, the book is done. Bye. It’s like, no.

Zibby: No, no, no. Now it’s just beginning.

Lolo: I was not prepared for that.

Zibby: You were saying, having to almost justify to your kids that you tried your hardest, but you weren’t an Olympic medalist. For somebody who’s not trying to achieve that, just being an Olympian is a huge deal. I think for people who are trying to write books, just writing a book would be a big deal, but then there’s the book sales. If you get to a certain place in any industry, if you’re driven and you’ve gotten that far —

Lolo: — You’re going to another level.

Zibby: You can’t stop then. You’re going to stop then? I think it’s just a side effect of drive. It’s hard to not continue to drive. If you’ve been tuning up this car to drive really fast, all of a sudden, you’re supposed to slam on the brakes? It’s not the natural thing to do. Other people won’t notice how fast you’re going. All to say, I agree. I think it applies well to the publishing industry as well. There’s always something else. People are like, the book came out, but it wasn’t a best seller. They’re like, ah! It’s like, but you already had a book out. It helped a lot of people. People are like, it’s a number four, but it’s not a number one. I’m like, are you guys crazy?

Lolo: Even though they’re not Olympic athletes, those complaints are the same things Olympians — oh, I got a fourth place. Well, you’re an Olympian. It’s the same argument. It’s hilarious.

Zibby: Same thing. Doesn’t stop. Probably, every career. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the people on the outside think. It’s how satisfied you are with yourself and knowing that you didn’t quit, which is basically the whole thing. So you have the potential Olympics coming up. Your book is coming out. What else is coming down the pike for you? As if that’s not enough.

Lolo: There’s nothing else I can handle. I’m glad you said that. These two projects alone, it’s an honor to have a book coming out and then also to be fighting for my last Olympic team. Then I’m just really thrilled I have a lot going on. The book is coming out on July 20th. Then I have national team trials for bobsled July 30th. It’s a lot on my plate right now. There’s definitely moments where I have a huge amount of stress, but we’re managing, getting through it.

Zibby: Wow. One other thing I’ll just say about publishing is there’s all this pressure for everything to happen right at the beginning, pub day and getting all the word out and sales the first week and whatever. If you’re distracted with your main job, which is getting on the team, the press interviews could always wait a week or two. It’s not going to completely derail your success. I just wanted to throw that out there.

Lolo: Thank you for saying that. I feel like there has been a lot of stress about that. I’m really grateful you said that because I have to keep reminding myself this is my last attempt for a winter Olympics. I have to put my energies and focus on that. I’m really glad you said that.

Zibby: Remember why you do everything. This is like, all of a sudden, somebody else’s coaches are getting involved, if we continue this analogy. The coaches always want their players to win, so it’s up to you to slam the brakes for this a little bit. It’s going to be okay. I think the first-week sales and presales are most important to hitting the best-seller list, but it’s okay. You can always do it later. Maybe your goal is not to have it be a best seller. Maybe your goal is to have it just do amazingly well but not be one of the top ten in the world and instead, be one of the top-ten runners in the world, or bobsledders or whatever. There’s pressure in every industry. I would just say, as you well know because you’re so centered about your own journey, that we only get to do this once. Pick your battles.

Lolo: I’ll let the cards play where they play. Because I don’t have that, oh, she’s an Olympic medalist, it’d be cool to say I’m a best seller. That would be awesome.

Zibby: I’m sure you will get that.

Lolo: It’s not going to make or break it if I don’t.

Zibby: I’m sure just from your name alone and who you are, that would do the trick. It’s also another one of those things you can’t control. You can do everything you can to set it up.

Lolo: Can’t control. It’s out of my control, for sure. At this point, honestly, I am more focused on — you got the early edition; my neighbor read it — getting those reactions of people who had actually read the book.

Zibby: It’s great. It’s practical. It’s helpful. It’s great. There’s memoir. There’s advice. There’s spirituality and faith. There’s all these things, a story of overcoming adversity, succeeding, failure. It’s great. How can you not like a story like this?

Lolo: I appreciate it because that definitely is what — I can’t wait to see more people read the book and then have those moments. I’m excited for that.

Zibby: I hope you didn’t think I just meant it wasn’t going to be a best seller. I just meant why the pressure is for that first week. That’s all I was trying to say. Your publicist is going to kill me. Oh, my gosh, they’re not going to give me any more interviews, ever.

Lolo: I’m calling my publicist now. I’m going to be like, look, we’re not doing any interviews because I was just told on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read” that I need to focus on the Olympics. I’m so sorry. We’re shutting interviews down.

Zibby: Oh, no, oh, my gosh. Oh, dear, I shouldn’t have opened my mouth.

Lolo: You know what? Moms don’t have time to read, and Olympians don’t have time to do interviews. There we go.

Zibby: There you go. I’ve had a book come out in February. I have one coming out in November. I have to clear the decks just to deal with that. I have to put my podcast sort of on hold, but my podcast is my main job. I love it, so I got to keep doing a good job on it. Not to compare my podcast and your Olympic athleticism.

Lolo: No, I love it.

Zibby: I hope you know what I’m saying. Congratulations on your book. I wish you all the success in the world in both the Olympics and the literary world and everything else. I have no doubt you will be a success in whatever you do.

Lolo: Thank you so much for having me on. Shout out to all the moms that have don’t have time to read.

Zibby: Take care, Lolo. Good luck.

Lolo: Take care. Bye.

Zibby: Bye.

Lolo Jones, OVER IT

OVER IT by Lolo Jones

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