How Professional Hurdler Tameka Jameson Optimizes Her Mind & Body For Peak Performance

Most successful people have been able to create longevity in their careers by capitalizing off of their strengths. Yes, the weaknesses serve as a vessel of motivation, but it is the strengths that I feel present the opportunities. Also, understand that small progress is still progress.

As a part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tameka Jameson.

Tameka Jameson is a Professional 400m hurdler who represents Nigeria’s Track and Field National team. She earned a full athletic scholarship to attend The University of Miami, while there she was named to the ACC All-Academic team and earned NCAA All-American honors. She holds a BS in sports administration and communicational studies

Some of her athletic accolades include competing at the NACAC (North America, Central America, and Caribbean) under 23 championships for Team USA, as well the World Indoor Track and Field Championships in 2014 and 2016, respectively. She represented Brooks Running shoe company as a sponsored athlete. One of her biggest accomplishments took place during her final competition of the 2016 Olympic year when she won a Bronze medal in the 400m hurdles at the African Championships held in Durban, South Africa. Tameka is currently training for the 2020 Olympic games that will be held in Tokyo Japan next summer.

Fast forward, as a entrepreneur and mother of a 7year old, Tameka keeps her eyes fixed on what truly drives her passion and that’s her ability to give back and impact. Tameka is a high school hurdle coach and founder of Impact The Next, an organization dedicated to encouraging the next generation to be the healthiest version themselves through unique personalized fitness training. In addition to that, she hopes to bring resources an opportunities to less fortunate athletes around the world by hosting speed and agility clinics, that will provide coaching from former professional athletes.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up as country girl, before moving to the city at 11 years old. I joined Glenarden’s summer Track program, located in Prince Georges County, and had much success competing all over the United States, some meets included in the AAU Jr. Olympics. That exposure put me on the radar entering high school to where I would then go on to earn All-American and All- Metropolitan status, Washington Post Athlete of The Year, I won multiple individual state Indoor and Outdoor titles and become apart of Eleanor Roosevelt’s dominating relay team that made history as the first American High School to win both the 4x400m and 4x800m relay at the prestigious Penn Relays.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.

The success I experienced at a high school level in such a short period of time really opened the doorway to unthinkable opportunities, however, I had this innate capacity for seeing progress, which I thought was unique because most teenagers don’t have the patience to do so. I also experienced bits and pieces of success in college, that included ending my junior year as the 29th fastest 400m hurdler in the world as recorded by (International Association of Athletics Federations.) I don’t think I was as successful as I knew I could have been. There was always something that stopped me from taking advantaged of the opportunities, whether it was injuries or doubt! I also gave birth to my daughter my redshirt year of college, so I never really had the chance to capitalize off of the momentum junior year.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Collectively, there have been people in and out of my life that have either been blessings or lessons. I’ve been able to use both as building blocks to achieve some great things.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Ah! This occurred in 2014 at the Nigerian All-African Game trials. I was battling back injuries that year and knew it would be tough to not only run a personal record, but get remotely close to running 56 seconds in the 400m hurdlers, which is slow, but it would have been close to my seasons best that year and would have landed me a spot on the national team headed to Morocco. I lined up at the start, knowing I couldn’t complete a hurdle drill during warm-up properly, let alone could barely walk. I told myself I had traveled to far to just call a quits! Well, the gun went off and I ran straight to the back. I end up stopping the clock at a whopping 1:09! The kicker is, I ran faster than that in High School! My teammate and I laugh about that to this day! My advice would be to never risk the health of your body for an opportunity just because it looks good. That decision I made put me out for the rest of the season.

What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your career?

I would strongly suggest to magnify your strengths. Most successful people have been able to create longevity in their careers by capitalizing off of their strengths. Yes, the weaknesses serve as a vessel of motivation, but it is the strengths that I feel present the opportunities. Also, understand that small progress is still progress.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am currently working on my website that will offer coaching and consulting services to youth organizations of all sports, as well, services provided to individuals. I’ve always felt I was called to make an impact in the heart of where it all started, and because Track and Field has been a microcosm of life for me, I know I can be the vessel to deliver my expertise to the generations after me.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

1. I keep my sight on the overall objective, which is do what I train everyday to do and that is compete.

2. I listen to uplifting and encouraging podcasts.

3. I laugh (I call someone that I know will make light of a situation, or watch funny skits.)

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize yourself?

Yes, I’ve been practicing Pilates for almost a year now with the help of my instructor, Lara Tyler. My breathing technique has improved drastically, to where I can control my breathing better during high intensity workouts. This allows me to complete my reps without breaking down and falling victim to poor mechanics. It is amazing how something I once took for granted end up being the very thing I needed to excel in my career.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

I speak positive affirmations over myself, daily! If a negative thought approaches, I replace it with two positive thoughts!

How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?

Contrary to what anyone may believe, I have to work twice as hard to achieve the body I want and keep it up to par because I had a baby. It has been 7 years since giving birth to my beautiful daughter, and I still struggle with loose skin. As an athlete, my body went through drastic changes that included, pelvic rotation, weaker back muscles, abdominal muscle separation and the obvious, excess weight gain. I didn’t see my college race weight and surpass that until 5 years later. I focus on strengthening exercises through Pilates that promote stabilization that facilitates the use of both local and global muscles.

These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?

Yes! Studies have shown, if you can stick with something for 21 days it becomes a habit, GOOD or BAD! Ultimately, it is up to the individual to choose which route they want to go.

Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

Create a sensible and realistic regime that is non-intimidating and is feasible for you. In order to rid yourself of bad habits the goal, in my opinion, is to start small. Never overwhelm yourself to the point that you completely stop trying.

As a high performance athlete, you likely experience times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?

So, what I have found to be very beneficial to anyone practicing a healthier lifestyle is that you have to create some type of consistency, which can normally be supported by a routine. Take a look at this pandemic, for instance. We all have been affected by it in whatever capacity it may be. Although training, going to the weight room, traveling, competing, and taking care of my body is second nature to me, it took something out of my control to disrupt that routine. However, even in the midst of a mass hysteria, I may not be able to practice amongst my teammates, use the gym at EXOS, or even travel, but because of my dedication and commitment to my goals I haven’t skipped a beat. This approach stands as motivation to keep me sharp.

Do you have any meditation practices that you use to help you in your life? We’d love to hear about it.

Yes! Meditation plays a major role in my overall health and wellness journey. I have incorporated it into my morning and night self-care routine. I take 5–7 minutes to silence everything around me, I grab my yoga mat and scroll through different meditation practices via until I find one that speaks to me. Some times, I will light candles and sage, if my spirit feels little bit heavier than normal.

Many of us are limited by our self talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?

Yes, as mentioned before, any time negative thoughts or feelings of self doubt try to creep into my mind, I replace it with two positive thoughts. I truly believe, what we feed our mind is what we will inhabit.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As crazy as this sounds, very rarely do I volunteer to share my success stories, unless someone insists. People acknowledge it, whether it be through word of mouth and putting a name with that particular successful moment, but I tend to share my struggles, the challenges that have directed my focus back to what matters most and what it will take to keep that level of focus to see it through to the end.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

A strong passion for any object will ensure success, for the desire of the end will point out the means.” — Henry Hazlitt

I came across this quote a couple years ago and it really stuck to me. It resonated deeply with how I’ve always chosen to approach anything. If I don’t do it with passion, you can bet, I wont do it at all. Passion allows me to put my best foot forward, in the most genuine, authentic manner. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to have a private breakfast with Michelle Obama. I recently watched ‘Becoming” on Netflix and I gained a newfound respect for her as a mother, wife, and as the First Lady of the United States. She empowers the generations under her to make positive choices and develop life skills by using her platform to give back. She has a sincere desire to make a difference. More importantly, she didn’t allow her responsibilities as the First Lady to identify her as a person. She stayed true to her core values as hard as it may have been to do so.

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