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Iconic Female Athletes Share The Secrets Of Survival On #DayoftheGirl

Diana Nyad and Norma Bastidas discuss grit, guts, and grace.

Diana Nyad and Norma Bastidas. Image by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Visionary Women.

It takes more than guts and grace to keep going when the going gets tough — and yet that’s exactly what champions do, day in and day out, to achieve greatness. But we don’t need to be working on a feat of historic levels to apply the principles of persistence — also known by researchers as “grit” — to our everyday lives.


In honor of the United Nations’ International #DayoftheGirl on Oct. 11, two extraordinary female athletes, Diana Nyad, motivational speaker, author, and renowned long-distance swimmer, and Norma Bastidas, a survivor of sexual violence and Guinness World Record breaker for the longest triathlon, are sharing their top tips for athletes of all shapes, ages, and sizes at this week’s Visonary Women salon in Los Angeles.

Here are three key mantras the women live by and urge us all to live by too.

Never, ever give up.

When Nyad says to “never, ever give up,” we should listen. In 2013, she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage, swimming 111 miles in 53 hours from Havana to Key West. It was her fifth attempt. She was 64 years old.

“I shouldn’t even be alive right now,” she said, referring to the deadly jellyfish and sharks that could have killed her along the way on her journey to break the record. “But I’ve learned that if you just don’t quit, you will reach that other shore, whatever it may be.”

Nyad stressed the value of what she calls “noble friendships” that helped her along the way — and how important the team was in reaching what was ultimately a personal goal. It’s a great reminder about the importance of collaboration in and out of sports.

Make each day worthwhile.

For Bastidas, her athletic career has not just been about escaping shame; it’s about empowerment. After growing up in Mexico, she suffered egregious sexual violence before escaping a human trafficking ring in Japan and starting a new life in Canada. When she became a mother, she decided she no longer wanted to just survive, she wanted to thrive — and set an example for her children and for girls everywhere that victims have the power to overcome.

“I don’t want to live a life of nightmares anymore,” she said. “From now on, I just want to live a life of dreams.”

Her 64-day journey to complete the longest triathlon in the world was chronicled in a documentary called “Be Relentless.”

Nyad and Bastidas don’t come across as women who fear much of anything, but the struggles of their past still linger and push them forward. For Nyad, her biggest fear is wasting time. She believes that if you make each day worthwhile, that’s a worthy enough goal because, at the end of your life, you’ll look back and have no regrets.

Know boundaries, not limitations.

Both women reject labels, such as old, immigrant, survivor, woman, because they feel they’re too limiting when it comes to setting goals. “My circumstances are not who I am,” said Bastidas.

Nyad agrees: “You’re never too old to chase your dreams,” she said.

Importantly, the athletes did, however, point to setting boundaries rather than limitations when it comes to prioritizing training and good health each and every day. Knowing how easy it is to find numerous excuses for not getting a workout in or taking the time to rest when it’s needed, they each stressed that learning to say “no” to distractions is a crucial part of staying focused on success.

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