Taking on seven disciplines requires incredible discipline – and a whole lot more. Just ask Team USA heptathlete Chari Hawkins. The track-and-field star has travelled the world to become the best she can be. Now, Chari has her sights set on Tokyo, with a goal of running on clouds to the 2020 Olympics.
Chari Hawkins is an up-and-coming star in heptathlon. Originally from Rexburg in Idaho, USA, Chari now trains in San Diego, California.
A five-time All American, Chari won bronze at the 2016 US Indoor Championships before becoming British Outdoor Champion in 2018 while studying at the University of Bath, England.
But these achievements didn’t come easy. Chari admits she didn’t start out as the fastest, the strongest, or the one who made it look effortless. Undeterred, Chari’s focus was purely on making progress, not achieving perfection. It’s the same approach she takes today.
“I wouldn’t say that I’ve overcome all of my weaknesses,” Chari says. “You find new weaknesses every single day. I’ve always been very open and honest about my mental struggles, especially with performance anxiety. Mental health is something that is so important, and I do what I can every day to address any issues I have in the healthiest way possible."
Developing mental strength has been a focus for Chari since her abilities were questioned early in her career.
“There are always good and bad influences in everyone’s life. That’s why I’ve always done my best to be my own inspiration,” Chari explains.
“The only person we really need to answer to is ourselves. We need to be the person that we are proud of. Whenever others question my ability, I do what I can to re-center my own thoughts and think about what will make me happiest. For now, that’s the journey of fulfiling my full potential in track and field."
Chari hopes this journey will lead her to the ultimate stage in track and field: the 2020 Olympic Games. And mental training is a big part of the process:
“I really believe that if an athlete isn’t able to physically practice due to an injury or sickness, they can close their eyes and train inside the mind, and it can be just as beneficial. If I have an issue moving forward in an event, visualization really helps – practicing in the mind can be the difference between improvement and stagnation.”
Alongside the mental training come the technical and physical demands of competing in the seven heptathlon events (100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin and 800 meters).
“Heptathletes wear many different hats,” Chari explains. “It’s almost as if you have to be seven different people one after another. The progress may come a bit slower, because we aren’t focused on the same discipline 24/7, but we definitely learn on a much broader perspective than others in the track world.”
Chari shares the ups and downs of being a pro athlete on Instagram, and makes sure she portrays an honest picture of her life on and off the track.
“I find that the more I am myself, the more accepted I feel both internally and externally,” Chari says. “Trying to be as perfect as possible brings a lot of pressure. There are endless profiles on social media that are ‘perfect’, because perfect is a complete fabrication. There is only one of you. Why not be you?”
So, just as when she started out, it’s progress, not perfection, that Chari strives for.
“Perfection is overrated, and honestly, it’s boring. Imagine being perfect… You never were stressed, you never felt ugly, you never gained or lost any weight that was undesired... And absolutely everything came easy. We would be absolutely bored out of our minds.
“Striving to be the best we can be is exciting, because it never ends.”
How did you start running? In seventh grade, I started running to be with my friend, and I really never looked back – even though my friend quit right after!
Why do you run now? Running really challenges me. It gives me so much opportunity and really allows me to work hard to become my best.
What was the most important race you’ve run to date? When I ran a 2:15.01 in the 800, it was not only a nine-second personal best, but the race that allowed me to hit the qualifying standard for the 2016 Olympic Trials.
What is your pre-race ritual? Lots of water, lots of meditation. Other than that, I try not to have much of a ritual… it puts me in a state of mind that has me feeling dependent on the ritual, and I don’t like that energy.
What do you think about while running? I try my best to stay focused, especially because my runs are usually shorter and very intense. When I really want a goal, I try to think of my goal the entire race to push me as hard as possible.
What is your go-to training meal? I love bagel sandwiches, but I also love a good steak.
How do you recover after a tough run? Lots of ice, supplements, physio, light training, and my (cell-energizing) cm2 sport band and web.
What song is your go-to for the run? I don’t actually listen to music when I run. I try my best to put myself in a mindset that’s similar to what I experience during a race.
Who is your “team”? I run out of San Diego with an elite group of sprinters... they are incredible. It’s such a blessing to be surrounded by people that are just so much better than you... they push me every day to be the best that I can be.
Apart from endurance sports, what is your passion? I love people. Keeping in touch with the people I love is so important to me, and if I could, I would spend all day on the phone talking with my siblings, friends, parents, etc. just catching up and joking around.
What was the best piece of running advice you ever received? You can do anything for 2 minutes (which is roughly the longest amount of time I spend racing).
What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps? Don’t give yourself any other option than success. If this is your dream, don’t make it your plan B or C, make it your plan A.
Why On? Usually when I try on shoes I feel like I need to “break them in“. My feet tend to get hot in new shoes, and when I first put on my On shoes, it felt like I was already wearing shoes that my feet were comfortable with. My feet got less tired when I ran, never got overheated, and they are so light, making all of my runs feel effortless.
What’s your favorite On shoe and why? My favorite shoes are the Cloudflow and Cloudflash. I love the way they fit and love the way they feel when I’m running. It’s almost as if I forget that my feet even exist when they are on.
What’s your favorite item of On apparel and why? It’s hard to beat the Comfort-T. The material is so soft, super comfortable, and fits all body types. I also love the Running Pants. I wear them literally right after I wash them because they are absolutely the perfect running pants.
Chari is inspiring girls all across the world and recently participated in the Girls on the Run 5k event in San Diego. She was also featured on Fox 5 San Diego and in the Everygirl. Find out more about this event and her other features below.