Kadeena Cox MBE is a 4-time Paralympic Champion and World Champion across 2 sports; athletics and cycling. But her dedication and drive extends far beyond the world of sport. She’s got 2 degrees, she’s the founder of the KC Academy - an organisation that provides opportunities to diverse ethnic communities in cycling - and was recently crowned Celebrity Masterchef winner 2021.
For an athlete, striving to be the best is part of the job. Chasing gold medals, world records and personal bests can be motivating, but that’s not to say that losing a place on the podium is necessarily a bad thing.
For Kadeena, learning to be resilient in the face of setbacks has been a constant in her life. From an MS diagnosis in her 20s to injuries and an eating disorder during her competitive career, Kadeena has learned to take the positives from tough situations and not let her life be defined by medals.
Here, the lululemon ambassador shares the lessons she’s learned about resilience throughout her incredible career, as well as her personal journey with mental health.
Never underestimate mental strength
“I dove into sport without thinking about my mental health until 2019, when I spoke about struggling with an eating disorder.
It didn’t occur to me how important it is to take a step back and think about how everything was impacting me. I didn’t take time to grieve my old life before MS, and slowing down allowed me to do that, looking at my life in a different way and focusing on the important things.
It’s important to ask for help when you need it – there’s no shame in that. In the Black community, mental health isn’t really spoken about, and my family struggled to understand my eating disorder.
I’m hoping that stories like mine, and those of Ellie Robinson, Ellie Simmons, Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, help to normalise the conversation. Some people think we’re invincible superheroes who just get up and go, but we all struggle.
It’s about your outlook more than your disability
When I was diagnosed with MS, there was a real lack of understanding around the condition and what it meant for individuals. I thought it would mean I’d lose my independence.
The more people I’ve gotten to know with MS, the more I see that having less independence doesn’t mean they don’t have a really good quality of life. It’s all about your outlook on life, rather than the disability you have.
Being diagnosed with MS has made my life amazing. It’s given me so many opportunities, like being the athlete I am and a baton bearer for the Commonwealth Games.
If I could speak to my younger self, I’d tell myself that life will be different than expected, but it doesn’t mean it can’t still be good.
Losing doesn’t define you
When I lost my world title in 2020, I wasn’t upset that I lost. I was upset about my performance, which I thought was horrendous, and that I didn’t compete to the best of my ability.
Even if I’d had the best performance of my life that day, it might not have been enough, but I’d be content if I knew I’d done all I could.
Sometimes losing is the best thing for you. This year, I came fourth in my 400m and didn’t defend my title. I was proud of what my body achieved in that moment. Now, my head’s in such a different space, and I’m using that fire in my belly to come back better next year.
There will be life after medals, and we’re not defined by titles. We should be defined by the person we are, showing sportsmanship, humility and generally being a nice person. Nobody likes an arrogant winner.
It’s not always about medals
I’ve got confidence in my ability, but sometimes I doubt my body. I’m getting older and I’m really prone to certain injuries.
I’m trying to get out of that mindset and know that if I keep putting in the hard work, it’ll come together if it’s meant to be. Win or lose, it’s important not to be defined by medals.
Nothing should ever stop us from being able to do what we want to do. If you have a dream and a goal in life, your skin colour, religion and so on should never stop you.
Cycling is a very white, middle-class and predominantly male sport. A lot of young kids don’t think that they can be in that space. That’s why I’ve set up KC academy, so young people can connect with elite athletes and see more people that look like them in cycling.
I’m the first and only Black person in able-bodied or Paralympic cycling to get a gold medal, and that shouldn’t be the case. Representation is key.
You need to make time for recovery
Rest and recovery is probably more important than training. Sometimes my coach will decide that I shouldn’t do a session because my body wasn’t in great nick that day.
I use a foam roller, yoga mat and bands to do pilates and exercises for strength – key things that make lifting big weights and achieving fast times possible. So, it’s really important to support your body with the right tools and choices around training.”
lululemon is a technical athletic apparel brand designing gear for yoga, run, training and everything in between—but they’re more than just that. They’re a mindful movement that believes if we push past our sweaty boundaries, we’re able to build the strength to push ourselves in other aspects of life. Follow @lululemonuk and @kad21 now.