Episode 14: An Olympian's Insights on Chronic Pain with Joanna Zeiger



Joanna Zeiger raced as a professional triathlete from 1998 to 2010, placing 4th in the 2000 Sydney Olympics triathlon and winning the 2008 Iron Man 70.3 world championship. She's a seven-time Olympic trials qualifier in three sports: marathon, triathlon and swimming. Joanna still pursues her passion for sports as a top masters runner. In 2009, Joanna was involved in a terrible bike accident that left her with multiple rib cage injuries, resulting in ten surgeries to correct structural and nerve damage and difficult-to-resolve chronic pain. Through her company, Train Away Chronic Pain, Joanna helps people with chronic pain achieve better well-being through exercise and mental skills training. When she's not coaching or running, she's researching. Her book, The Champion Mindset: An Athlete's Guide to Mental Toughness, was published in February 2017.


  • Joanna outlines her earlier athletic experience and how reaching for a water bottle led to her career-altering accident.
  • Her initial anger at the injury, the resolve she developed, and ultimate acceptance that her career had to shift.
  • How Joanna reevaluated her personal goals and found new challenges.
  • Realizing that you may not achieve everything you put your mind to—and why that's okay!
  • What Joanna values spiritually, recognizing how her potential varies from week to week, and finding a healthy locus of control for herself.
  • Taking the time to cry it out when you need to, but also developing more effective ways to cope and push forward.
  • Joanna's definition of mental toughness and realizing when to call it quits for your own good.
  • The Sisu Quiz: a metric for gauging your level of mental toughness.
  • Avoiding letting your negative thoughts take over, and Joanna's favorite positive self-talk phrases.
  • The dangerous temptation to take on too much physical activity too fast.
  • Joanna's funny "Grey's Anatomy" experience at the doctor's office.


train away chronic pain

Joanna's coaching program

the sisu quiz

Joanna's quiz to test mental toughness

Joanna on Twitter


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Lauren Selfridge