Back to the Grind

So it’s been a fair few weeks now since the aftermath of the Aviva Indoor Grand Prix/my last update, and much has happened in the meantime… Following on from a short but successful indoor campaign we’ve wasted no time at all in getting back on the horse and back to the grind! The Indoor competitions have served as ample guidance for the areas we’ve needed to work on in preparation for the upcoming summer season – the business end of the year! Plus, the string of personal bests has provided some confirmation that the new training regime I started back in October is working well and capable of producing the type of results necessary to secure a place on the Olympic team. In athletics you often train 3 or 4 consecutive months at a time (toiling daily for that extra centremetre or fractions of a second) before having the opportunity to test yourself in competition – be it over a 13 second run, a leap over a bar, or a hop, skip and jump into a sandpit. So it’s always good to know that the ‘end product’ is benefiting down-the-line, and such is no better indicated than by a new Personal Best performance during competition.

Training since the Indoors has been pretty unforgiving to be honest; no sooner than 3 days after starring at the Grand Prix was I reduced to all-fours on the infield of the Lea Valley track, mid-way through a session ‘watering the grass’, as coach Jarrett has so kindly coined it – needless to say this hasn’t been last time that I’ve taken it upon myself to assist the groundskeeper! Focus over the last 6 weeks has moved away from the Indoor appetizer of 5 hurdles to the main course: the 10 high-hurdles, spread over 110 metres that Outdoor races plant in your way. There’s been greater emphasis on speed-endurance and holding technique under fatigue, so sessions on the track and in the gym have tended to include longer recoveries but higher intensity work. So far so good though, a nasty chest infection and a few niggles have threatened to throw us off course but despite these speed bumps progress has been very promising, and compared to this time last year it’s fair to say I’m now a completely different athlete! So only 4 weeks remain until my first Outdoor competition of this Olympic year, I’m really pleased with where I’m at and I now can’t wait to fly out with the rest of the squad to a Warm Weather Training Camp in Italy, to add some polish before my season debut!

Aside from training, the latest chapter in my hunt for sponsorship has kept me especially busy over these past 6 weeks. This month in particular I’ve attended numerous events and networking opportunities, meeting some really incredible and accomplished people along the way. It’s extremely touching to meet people, strangers in fact, who express admiration for my quest and want to help in what ways they can. I really am grateful to all those who reach out to provide support and assistance at I time when I need it most, whether it be some kind advice, a sponsorship donation, an out-of-the-blue facebook message suggestion or independent enquiries on my behalf amongst personal networks. I very much appreciate all of your efforts and these gestures certainly do motivate me to keep working hard; spurring me on even more to prove that your belief is indeed well placed! So a big thank you to all these individuals reading this (you know who you are!) and to these organisations: the Adam Gibbons Sports Foundation, Blue Mountain Water, OO Club, Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers A.C. and The Crowland Show… As the saying goes: “if you’re absent during my struggle, don’t expect to be present during my success”.

However it hasn’t all been hard work and no play, catching up with friends from school and University is a rare treat that I’ve been able to do a little bit of recently. Likewise it’s been cool to get involved with some of my affiliate’s projects, in particular being a part of Dame Kelly Holmes’ ‘Team Day’ for her trust at Reading’s Majewski Stadium was a whole lot of fun. It’s great to support the fantastic work that the charity does and working alongside other talented sportsmen and sportswomen in doing so, like Jenna Downing and Sam Brearey, is inspiring in itself! Doing a Spring Collection photo shoot for Rampant Sporting was also great fun, especially with Lucy Boggis, a.k.a Gladiator – Tempest, on hand to show me how it’s done (a really talented heptathlete and long-time friend who was a teammate on my very first international team back in 2005!). On that note a big shout-out to up and coming sports photographer Tom Flathers who produced some fantastic pictures, some of which you can see in my gallery, when he photo-diarised one of my recent training sessions over at Loughborough University (the first picture above is taken from his work) – watch this space!

I’ve also managed to squeeze in a few school visits this month, including a practical session I held at Mary Webb School in Shrewsbury; I have to say hats off to teachers, as managing 95 12 year olds for half a day was arguably more exhausting than any training session ever could be! I always enjoy going into schools, serving as a positive role model to pupils in this way is a real privilege and having benefited greatly from sport through primary, further and higher education it’s great to coach and share my experiences with youngsters. However the end of my session coincided with the arrival of Derek Redmond, after meeting him he went on to deliver a fantastic presentation to the entire school, so on this visit it was me who left at the end of the day feeling inspired! I’m looking forward to doing more visits over the coming months where time allows and to working with the government’s National Citizen Service initiative this summer on behalf of the charity I support (do drop me a line if you are at all interested in the services I offer to schools and organisations). So I’m off to a training camp in the south of Italy next week, just as it seems the good weather in the UK is about to turn – but don’t hate me too much somehow I don’t think sun bathing, sightseeing and gelato feature highly on the itinerary!

Until next time,

~ Julz ~

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About JA

professional athlete
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