Jones, 32, has no formal dancing experience, but as a three-time Olympian—twice in the 100-meter hurdles and the last in the bobsled this winter—she knows how to move.
Fittish: Hurdles have a natural rhythm to them, right? Has there been any crossover to dance?
Lolo Jones: As a hurdler, there's a lot of emphasis on rhythm, and so I know what it feels like to be in rhythm. The problem that I'm facing is I keep losing my timing. I keep wanting to rush things, and that's also probably due to the fact of, you know, you're trying to be the fastest.
So now you're trying to relax into it.
Yeah, Keo (partner and pro dancer Keo Motsepe) says that I'm getting more comfortable with the dance moves, so that's good. Every time you do the routine, you get a little more relaxed, which I need because I'm very uptight. There's still a very long way to go.
You posted an Instagram on Thursday of Keo dragging your limp carcass across the studio floor. So the five-hour rehearsals are going . . . well?
It's been really tough. Obviously I'm used to training for track and going four to eight hours, but it's a different type of training. In track practice, no one is there watching besides my coach. It's a very closed, private atmosphere, and now you always have a camera following you. It's very different. There have been times when I come home, I'm just as exhausted as from a track practice. And on top of that, we're doing interviews. You're dealing with the whole TV aspect, and that's what I don't have to deal with in track.
You ended your track season early, citing exhaustion. Have you gotten much rest?
Part of that was, I knew I was going to be on the show, but I couldn't tell people I was on the show. I mean, I was tired, but I actually had a lot of energy to finish that because we had the break (due to the Commonwealth Games) before going back over to Europe. But I knew that if I had done the three remaining Diamond League races, I would have had to go to Europe, compete, and then fly straight to New York and start dancing. After talking with my agent, we decided to end the season early and take a few weeks off. Otherwise you're going to get burned out. And they were right: Had I not taken those two weeks off to recover, I would have probably been out even before the show started because I didn't realize how tired I was from the Winter Olympics.
It was truthful, but at the same time, I couldn't tell people, "Oh, yeah, I have this other thing," because we weren't allowed to say we were on the show until months later.
Part of you must have thought going into this that nothing would be as hard as training to be an Olympian.
Well, nothing still is harder than training to be an Olympian. This is tough, it's just tough in a different way. It's a challenge, but it's not really challenging for me. I mean, I've had way harder workouts for track. What's tough for me is doing the practices and then doing the interviews. And also I'm working different muscles. My feet, that's been the hardest thing for me, to be in those heels. I normally don't have any feet problems—I run in the most comfortable shoes every day in practice, and now I'm forcing my feet into shoes that are two sizes smaller. I guess dancers wear smaller-size shoes so they can feel the floor. So that, and my feet are just trying harder every day.
Did you enjoy movies that involved dancing before DWTS? Like, say, Dirty Dancing.
What girl doesn't like Dirty Dancing? I'm a big fan of that movie, obviously. I actually want to recreate some of the scenes with Keo. Like, "Teach me this, but in the way the movie did it."
So there's not been a trip out to a lake for lifts.
I keep telling him I want to go to a lake and practice.
Track athletes are, in a sense, used to performing on a stage. Have you noticed any similarities between your normal job and dancing?
I'm definitely used to the hush and the aspects of competing in front of an audience. What's different is Keo was telling me a camera follows you as you're doing the routine. With track, a camera comes in your face, but then it leaves you and you just race—the camera is to the side. So that will be different, having the camera super close to you as you're trying to compete.
And then the other aspect is having fans vote for you. I was telling someone just recently, I never have had to cross the finish line and then look to the fans, like, "For me to move on to the next round, I need you guys to vote for me." I cross the line and my performance moves me on or it doesn't. I'm curious to see how that aspect is.
You may need to take your social media game to the next level.
It does. But at the end of the day, people just want you to be real, and honestly, they can tell when you're not. I've just been trying to share this journey and make it fun or inspiring whatever it needs to be on that day, and I feel like if I just keep it genuine that people will want to vote for me or not, you know? I don't think there's any kind of magical tactic. Maybe you should ask people who have way more Twitter followers than me.
Have you been able to keep a good sense of humor about all this?
I have. But then there have also been times where I get really frustrated and annoyed, and I'm like, "Oh, shoot, the cameras are one. They just saw the devil come out of me."
Do you feel like it's been harder to learn this now that you're not in high school?
Yeah, definitely. That's been the hardest part, is just learning the routines. For track and field, I've been doing it so long, I only have to work on sharpening things. I know how to hurdle. Now, having to learn every day, that's what gets me so tired. It's not my legs, it's my brain. And when Keo teaches me something, he does naturally what every great choreographer will do. "Oh, this doesn't work. Let me change it." I'm like, Keo, I think I just forgot my dog's name.
Photos: Red Bull