When You’re an Athlete, You Die Twice

But hey, at least I’m not a cat.

Chris Wojcik
6 min readAug 21, 2021


Photo via Giselle Villasenor Photography

“An athlete dies twice.” — Roger Kahn

The alarm clock goes off at 6:30 am. I wake up and shoot out of bed like a bat out of hell. It’s time for training.


I think I should rest today,” whispers some voice inside me. I know that that’s fear and anxiety talking — the devil on my shoulder, so I deliberately stuff my body’s warnings of its physical limits down deep in my mind where I won’t be able to notice them. There’s no time to contemplate “how I’m feeling”, this isn’t a Lauv album, this is 7 days before the Pan Ams, and it’s my year.

I need to push myself today. Any day that ends in “Y”, I need to push myself.

I stand up and arch my back. My spine cracks in symphony as I lean back, and then I add a couple of pops with my jaw to finish the verse. I don’t know if your jaw is supposed to be able to pop at will, but mine does.

This is the life I chose. It hurts, it kind of sucks, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. This has been my dream since I was 5 years old.

I’m an athlete, at least for now.

My Neck, My Back, My Anxiety Attacks

When I’m deep in a training camp, my body constantly hurts, my mind is always on the verge of a downward spiral, and I fantasize about quitting the thing that I love most. Most days, I just want to light my dreams on fire and watch them burn.

I yearn for self-sabotage, but a voice in my head screams “NO!” every time I veer slightly off course. I’m married to the discipline, and it’s an abusive relationship.

Before the 2019 World Championships, I told my friend I was going to quit after that tournament. The training camp for that one pushed me to write a suicide note — my second Jiu-Jitsu-induced suicide note that still lives in my Google Drive.

I can’t take the heat, but I’ll never get out of the sun.

What’s my problem?

I always talk like this before competitions, where “my best” has to be the best. I put every ounce of my being into becoming the best I can be, and it takes everything out of me…