How Professional Track & Field Runner Annie Tagoe Optimizes Her Mind & Body For Peak Performance

Habit and routine have played a massive role in my success. I did everything the same but really got good at it last year. I go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, I have the same breakfast every single day, I drive the same routine and have the same equipment to help with my warm-up and warm down. I have the same protein shake every day. I think once you do it over and over again it becomes a habit. They say it takes up to two weeks for a habit to stay.

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

Annie Tagoe is a professional athlete and model based in London, England. Tagoe competes in Track & Field for the United Kingdom and is currently training for the 2021 Summer Olympics.

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 was originally born in Ghana and came to the UK when I was 7 years old. I have lived in London since then and honestly think it’s the best place on earth. I always wanted to become a footballer; I was lucky enough to play for QPR girls, but unfortunately, we lived so far that the travel caused me to stop. After football, I went to play netball and a trampoline. I’ve just always enjoyed sports. At the age of 15, I started running track and it became a love-hate relationship. I wasn’t really allowed out when I was younger so the track was a social club for me. I got to be with my friends all the way until 7 pm, having a laugh and just enjoying training. Growing up, I was extremely popular in a secondary school which came with a lot of trouble. I used to misbehave quite a lot which got me excluded a few times in school. I remember my mother telling me that if I kept getting in trouble, then I wouldn’t be allowed to train anymore. The track helped me focus a lot more and become successful.

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

I inspired myself. Growing up we weren’t the most fortunate and so I’ve always wanted to make my own money. I’ve always been extremely independent and just knew what I wanted in life and how to get it. It was extremely hard to find inspiration where I grew up as well. When I would watch TV, I didn’t see a lot of colored people to model myself after so I thought I would be the one.

I’d also say my mother is a big inspiration for me. I know it sounds cliche, but she’s a single mother of 5 and she did everything on her own. She made sure I had training gear, competition gear, money for school, for competition, and everything else and I think that’s why I take extreme pride in my independence.

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?

My coach is my hero. Without him, my ‘success’ or what I have found outside of track would be non-existent. Through my surgeries, my ups and downs, with more downs than ups, he’s always had a plan to get me back and believed in my talent. I wholeheartedly believe that if he was not my coach, I would have given up the sport a very long time ago. When you have a support system that is so great, your imagination runs wild and you start to believe in those wild dreams. He’s honestly the reason why I wake up at 6 AM to get to training by 7.30 AM. His training philosophy has not only helped me on the track but also has helped me get my modeling career started outside of track. The rules have made me a better woman and the woman I am today.

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?

I used to cry all the time when we had run over the 300’s. I mentally couldn’t get past the fact that it would hurt before I even started running them at training. I was so scared of running them, but as I got older and I read athletes as Shelly Ann Fraser does them, that motivated me. I love Shelly Ann Fraser! I’ve become more comfortable with running those reps. Sometimes you just want to hear or see others doing it and know it works for them to be motivated.

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

The track does not last long, please find something else to do while you are still enjoying your career in the field. Be a creative, a model, go to a university, travel, etc. Do not put everything into just that field and be stuck when you come out of it. There is more to life outside of sport. I have a degree in drama and I model. I make time for my friends and family and I make sure I travel to as many countries as I physically can just to escape from track and reset.

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

During life in quarantine, I have been speaking to some athletes who are amazing but had injuries dampen their careers. I’ve been advising them of what to do, who to go and see and reminding them not to give up so quickly because they have not run for a year or so. I also like people to see the positive picture. I have also been working on modeling jobs and building my portfolio. I recently made a massive mood board full of things I would like to see happen in my life in the next few years.

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?

I like to visualize a lot of the things I will do before doing it, this way I can visualize myself in different situations and how to better it or get myself out of it before it plays out.

I like to meditate to music, not the classic calming music but music from my favorite artists such as Kanye West, Rick Ross & J Hus. I just get lost in the world of music, music really takes the pressure away from a lot of things and just allows you to get lost with the sound.

Meditation and mindfulness are another great way for me to calm down any pressure I am feeling or starting to feel. The Headspace app has such easy access and there’s so many different ways, levels, directions, and topics on there that help you get into a deep meditation. I think it’s such a perfect tool to have & everyone should really look into getting it. YouTube also has good meditation on there if you do not want to pay for the app.

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

I do a lot of Pilates and I feel that helps with my breathing. Also, in the morning and evening, before I start my day and before I end my day, I use Headspace to connect and disconnect. I love that app, it was really hard to get into especially since I am so active but once I got into it I became addicted.

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

I have a few techniques I developed from my hypnotist and psychologist. One of my favorites involves my fingers, and it’s a secret.

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

When you’ve had hard surgeries as well as hamstring and back issues, it takes time to find what works for you. I find that Pilates works better for me than yoga. I also find that stretching for an hour and then using my game ready helps me to come back the next day and perform again at training or competition. My body likes to rest a lot so I go to bed every day at 9.30 pm at the latest whether I have the next day off or not. It’s a habit I can’t seem to break out of but I love it and know it’s good for me. I have a memory foam bed which also helps with my body.

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?

Habit and routine have played a massive role in my success. I did everything the same but really got good at it last year. I go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, I have the same breakfast every single day, I drive the same routine and have the same equipment to help with my warm-up and warm down. I have the same protein shake every day. I think once you do it over and over again it becomes a habit. They say it takes up to two weeks for a habit to stay.

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?

To be very honest it’s my coach who has helped me get into a habit. We have a rule at training that if you are late you get fined £5, if you are on your phone you get fined £5, and if you forget your equipment or lay down after a rep, you get fined £5. I didn’t want to pay £5 every single day so I had to force the habits to stay quickly.

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?

Whenever I have a structure in my life I always stay in “flow”. This is because when I have a structure and know what I need to do in each area of my life, I am able to capitalize and maximize my output. It also reduces my mental strain as if I have to think about other aspects during an activity, I may not train efficiently which could have a negative effect elsewhere. You can almost describe it as being in auto-pilot because things are simple.

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

I use the Headspace app often. It’s an amazing app that helps with your meditation and easing your mind of a million thoughts.

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?

Every time I start to think negatively, I always think about where I’ve been when I wasn’t racing and I ask myself, do I want to keep feeling sorry for myself and be seen as the talented athlete with all the injuries or do I want to make a name for myself for more positivity? I think once you’ve been at a dark place it’s easier to bring yourself out of it because you just don’t want to go there again, so you do everything in your power to constantly channel your positive mindset.

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?

I try to connect athletes to some of my friends in the creative industry if they are looking to expand, and I help children from disadvantaged backgrounds get tickets to the Diamond League in London via a program called the Reach Out Project, run by Lillian. I also model so I try and get athletes into that field by telling them how to also use that to their advantage.

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

“It is what it is.” — I just feel like life is what it is and it’s up to you to make it what it is.

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 love Kanye West. I just love that he is so outspoken and believes in his truth. Nothing stops him from saying what he believes in. I wanted to be signed to Adidas so badly when he joined the Adidas team just so I could see him.

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