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Olympic Profile: Chari Hawkins, Champion for Physical and Mental Health

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By: Genevieve Cunningham

Olympic-Profile-Chari-Hawkins-Champion-for-Physical-and-Mental-Health

Chari Hawkins is a beast. In person, she’s beautiful inside and out. But on the track? She’s an absolute monster. As a current member of the Team USA track and field team, competition is practically a part of Hawkins’ DNA. And as a U.S. Indoor Pentathlon gold medalist and a five-time All-American athlete, winning is in her blood. But it wasn’t always that way.

From the day that Chari Hawkins was born, she was learning to compete. As the youngest of five children—and the daughter of a coach—it was the natural order of things. Her childhood was active with sports and life in general. In high school, Hawkins competed on the track and field team, the volleyball team, and the basketball team. Then, she set her sights on conquering college while pursuing a degree and collegiate track and field career with the Utah State Aggies. She was, and still remains, a force to be reckoned with.

She hopes the next chapter in her story includes the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.

Professional sports and performance anxiety

After Hawkins graduated college and became a professional athlete for Team USA, she opened up about the challenges of competition. Not the hard work—she was a true professional, putting in the practice, the training, and the necessary work behind the scenes. That was the easy part. It was the mental aspect that she shared, her vulnerability, her anxiety, her fear.

A heptathlete who must excel at seven events to generate one combined score, Hawkins discussed her past experience with performance anxiety in a 2019 article on UpWorthy. She was no longer enjoying competition and was actively trying to get out of it. She tells stories about trying to injure herself to get out of meets. She wasn’t just battling opponents in the 100 meter hurdles, 200 meters, 800 meters, shot put, javelin throw, high jump, and long jump. She was competing against an inner demon.

Hawkins was suffering from crippling anxiety. And she’s not alone. Research suggests that approximately 40 percent of adults experience some kind of stage fright. Although the symptoms of performance anxiety may look a bit different for everyone, there are some common themes.

  • Racing pulse - When the heart beats uncomfortable and unnecessarily fast.
  • Rapid breathing - This can range from slightly noticeable to hyperventilation.
  • Dry mouth - A feeling that water won’t quench. It often feels like cotton in the mouth.
  • Constricted throat and airway - This might feel uncomfortable or downright painful.
  • Trembling - It may be noticeable in the hands but can affect any part of the body from head to foot.
  • Sweaty hands - They might feel cold or burning hot, but definitely sweaty.
  • Blurred vision - Severe anxiety can cause vision to blur, or in some cases, tunnel vision to the point of blacking out.

For Hawkins, anxiety attacks plagued her life, as she described in a 2022 US News article. She would even black out and cry during competitions. One of the best athletes in the world, and anxiety was crippling her performance—and her life as a whole. But the most important part is not what her performance anxiety looked like or even how she believes it contributed to serious mental health episodes throughout her career. The most important part is how she went about treating performance anxiety. How she dealt with it. And in true Hawkins fashion, she dealt with it like an absolute champion. Like a beast.

Dealing with anxiety and coming out on top

Today, Hawkins is speaking out about self-care and mental health awareness. She wants people to know that there’s a finish line. Anxiety does not have to be a never-ending race. How did she get past this mental hurdle so that she could keep jumping hurdles on the track? She stopped hiding from it and instead dealt with it head-on.

Hawkins worked with her coaches and psychologists to manage her mental health needs. She stayed consistent. She understood the long-term nature of mental health and that there wasn’t a quick fix. Today, she proudly shares what she learned through a program that she calls 30 Days With Chari, found on her website. Through this program, she discusses deep breathing practices, daily habits, and tips to help build mental health resilience.

Does the program work? The proof is in the performance. Hawkins has gone on to place numerous times in the World Championships, including a gold medal in the pentathlon at the USATF Indoor Championship. From panic attacks to the podium’s top step she is a success story indeed.

The mind-body connection

Like any elite athlete, Hawkins’ self-care habits don’t stop with the mind. The importance of taking care of the body is even greater when you’re demanding a world-class performance day in and day out. And for Hawkins—an athlete who competes in seven completely different events for a combined score—taking care of the whole body is absolutely critical. Along with a solid mental health routine, Hawkins also values the presence of chiropractic care in her routine, something she does with the help of The Joint Chiropractic.

The benefits of chiropractic care for athletes are well-known and may:

  • Reduce wear and tear
  • Enhance performance
  • Aid in recovery
  • Minimize post-performance pain
  • Increase flexibility and range of motion in the joints

Although these benefits speak for themselves, perhaps the biggest benefit of chiropractic care for athletes is the understanding they can gain of their own body. An understanding of what’s going on, what might be causing pain, and what may help it work more efficiently. For athletes, this is crucial information.

“I like knowing what’s going on inside my body,” Hawkins says, “so that I can take care of it even after my adjustment is over.” Chiropractic care is a tool that can help support the efficiency of an athlete’s body, and that personal knowledge of the inner workings of their body is invaluable.

The benefits of chiropractic care don’t end with athletes. Everyone can benefit from the same type of care that Hawkins receives. “I highly recommend The Joint Chiropractic,” she says. “Check them out so that you can find relief and keep doing your thing.”

Even if you’re not a world-class athlete, you can gain the same benefits and begin to understand the inner workings of your body in the same way.

What makes Chari Hawkins a true champion

Sure, Hawkins has multiple accomplishments under her belt. Top 8 at the World Championships, top 8 at the Indoor World Championships, NACAC Combined Events Championship winner, National Indoor gold medalist. Through high school, college, and now as a professional athlete, she’s a champion all the way around. But it’s not the color of her medal that makes her the total champion she is today. It’s her tenacity. Her drive. Her desire is to help other young athletes stay healthy—in mind, body, and spirit. If you need a role model, Hawkins is the total package. She encourages you to get healthy and stay healthy.

With the Olympic trials just around the corner, you can bet Hawkins will be sticking to the plan: mental health, solid training, recovery including chiropractic care. America will be watching, and along with the chiropractors from The Joint, those who know her story will be cheering her on as she tackles another goal. Chari Hawkins: World Class Athlete, Mental Health Advocate, Champion of Self-Care … Olympian? We like the sound of that.

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