“It’s a foundation for everything else we wish to build”: Laviai and Lina Nielsen on the importance of building mental strength

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Twin sisters Laviai and Lina Nielsen share the same dream – to take home medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The British athletics hopefuls sat down with Stylist Strong to share what strength means to them.

Looking to be inspired by incredible women? Welcome to our new column, ‘This is what strong looks like’.

This week, British athletics stars Laviai and Lina Nielsen tell Stylist Strong about how they’re motivating themselves to build strength – both mentally and physically – ahead of the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo next year.

1. What does ‘strong’ mean to you?

Strong to us means resilience. In the physical sense, it’s being able to push yourself beyond your limits time and time again. And in the mental sense, having the power to overcome adversity.

2. What part does physical strength play in your idea of ‘strength’?

Being able to push our bodies to places we never thought we could reach has played a big part in our own personal character developments. If you’ve ever lifted a personal best in a deadlift, or run a couple seconds quicker in your 5k run, you’ll know exactly what we mean. It’s this very powerful feeling of accomplishment, like you can achieve anything you put your mind to, and we’ve become brave and courageous as a result. And this bleeds into so many other aspects of life. 

Often, outside of sport, if there’s a big task ahead of us or something that seems impossible, knowing that we’ve tested our body and achieved incredible things within sport gives us the courage to tackle anything head on.

3. What impact do you think mental strength has on your life?

To us, physical strength is a major factor in the whole idea of strength, but by no means is it front and centre. Often in sport, your body could be at its fittest, strongest or fastest, but if your mind is not in the right place, then all that physical strength is rendered futile. In that way, mental strength has a huge impact on our lives as it works as a foundation for everything else we wish to build.

Laviai and Lina Nielsen
Laviai and Lina Nielsen: “Mental strength has a huge impact on our lives as it works as a foundation for everything else we wish to build.”

4. How do you motivate yourself?

Proving that we can. Pushing yourself through that last rep in the gym or at the track when you didn’t think you could reminds us that our bodies are strong and capable. That feeling of pride, the feeling of satisfaction, the feeling of proving yourself right is our motivation. 

5. Looking at physical strength, some women feel intimidated at the gym/working out. What’s your best advice for getting through this?

It can definitely be difficult, but having small goals really helps! When you have your own goals and knowing that nobody else has those same goals, you realise that you are not in competition with anybody else but yourself. Your entire focus will shift to your aims and without even realising it, you’ll have forgotten about everybody else in the gym.

6. What should we remember when looking at other people’s fitness regimes on social media? And in fact, social media in general?

You have to keep in mind that social media is a highlight reel. Use it as inspiration by all means, but never as a guideline. We’ll never really know someone’s full journey, or the ins and outs of their training regime.

7. What’s your advice for women who are looking to gain strength, both physical and mental?

Start small. It’s important to have desires, but it’s also important to hold on to our expectations. When we focus on the “end goal”, whatever that may be, we forget about the small steps it takes to get there.

Also when we think about the end goal, sometimes we feel like it’s so far away and that’s where we may lose motivation. Enjoy the journey of gaining strength because there is strength to gain in the journey!

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The Nielson Sisters featured in the recent adidas campaign for the launch of the adidas MYSHELTER rain jacket.

Images: adidas MYSHELTER/Getty

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