In our Checklist series of interviews we feature amazing people doing inspirational things in the world of fitness and the outdoors.
This week we speak to Great Britain long jumper Abigail Irozuru about her training, balancing athletics with a separate career and what she carries around in her kit bag.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
In the sports world, I may be viewed as Abigail the British long jump athlete who is often making a comeback from injury woes. Thankfully, the past year has been kind to me! I‚Äôve been blessed with good health and some good, consistent distances too, which has led to a few Great Britain and England team representations.
I am also a 2012 UCL (University College London) law graduate, still keen on venturing back into the law post-athletics career. Alongside training and competition, I run a business ‚Äď Manchester Tutors ‚Äď that provides educational support and private tuition to students in homes, schools and academies across Manchester and internationally via an interactive online tuition platform.
What projects are you currently working on?
My big project is preparing myself ‚Äď mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally ‚Äď to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. That‚Äôs been my focus since returning to the sand pit in May 2018.
In other areas, I‚Äôm working on business expansion providing high-quality online tuition in numerous subjects from Maths and English to languages and humanities subjects. I‚Äôve worked in education (teaching and tutoring) for over a decade now, so I use this knowledge and experience to inform my selection process for new tutors and also to be able to connect with parents, students and teachers looking for additional educational support.
What was the last thing you trained for?
The last major event I trained for was the European Indoor Championships which took place in March 2019 in Glasgow. It was my first major championships and British vest since 2012. So to be able to jump the standard quality for selection and then reach the final here is something that I may not have fully appreciated at the time, but I am very thankful for it now, looking back.
Finally, I hope to be able to round off my success this year with a GB vest and selection to the IAAF World Championships in Doha in Sept/Oct.
What kind of schedule/program do you follow?
I follow a 3-day rollover cycle as prescribed by master coach and guru, Dan Pfaff (he‚Äôd probably hate me giving him such high praise!). It provides me with a solid framework with flexibility to adjust my program to fit into where I am in the competition season. Some weeks this may mean I have high load and high intensity over 5-6 training days; whereas other weeks it may mean I only train 3-4 days in the week, with lower reps and sets on the track, in the sand pit and in the gym.
Ultimately, my training goal is to stay healthy and train at a good intensity and regularity to be able to jump far and contend for medals nationally and internationally.
On a daily basis though, training goals are always specific to what the training is on that particular day, and they relate to a process in order to produce a desired outcome, e.g. target a specific point on or before the board (process) to improve accuracy at take off and improve frequency of white flag jumps (the outcome). Or, in the gym, I may have a technical process goal to bring my elbows through quicker in my cleans which will lead to bigger numbers.
How do you evaluate a training session?
I keep a detailed training diary. I think I‚Äôve kept one since 2006 or 2007.
I focus on KPIs (above). And if I can do that, I will warrant that a success even if my success rate isn‚Äôt 100%. Did I nail the process or did I focus on too many other things? If I allowed myself to get distracted by all the other things I was getting wrong in training, then that would be an unsuccessful session. But I will always try to find one victory from the session and one thing to work on. This habit keeps me humble on good days and keeps me hopeful on the bad ones.
The European Team Championships in Poland 9-11th August and the Birmingham Grand Prix. Then, most importantly, the UK Championships at the end of August 2019. Last year I finished fifth.
This year, I want to reach the podium, preferably 1st or 2nd place‚Ä¶ and with an IAAF World Championship‚Äôs standard too (6.72m)! That would be the dream. From there, it‚Äôs obviously the IAAF World Champs in Doha‚Ä¶
What are the key items in your kit bag?
Softball ‚Äď Portable. Lightweight. More effective and targeted approach to rolling out tight areas in my legs, back and psoas.
Golf ball ‚Äď Bright orange, distinctive and therefore hard to lose or mistake with others. Mostly used to relieve tightness underfoot so my ankle and calf move freely.
Theraband ‚Äď Multifunctional strong and long therapy band, used for stretching, mobilising and strengthening muscles. (From ¬£3.19, Theraband)
Spikes/Gym shoes ‚Äď I wouldn‚Äôt be able to compete without my spikes! And lifting weights is one of my favourite training sessions in the week.
Hydration tablets ‚Äď I struggle to drink enough water during the day anyway, so particularly if I‚Äôm about to have a hard, long session, hydration tablets are key. (Featured: SiS | $18.17 - Amazon)
What trainers do you use?
What apparel do you use?
I wear Adidas kit and always bring full kit to training, whatever the weather, because I‚Äôm ultra prepared. That‚Äôll be shorts, long tights, crop top, vest/t-shirt, long sleeve and a tracksuit. (I may leave the tracksuit at home in the summer.)
The only real preference I have are the type and style of my leggings/tights. They need a drawstring so they stay up when I‚Äôm running and they need to be full length. I feel restricted in ¬ĺ length tights because of the way they sit on my calf so it‚Äôs now my general rule to not even bother with them, even during the summer. I also prefer to keep my legs compressed and warm for as long as possible, especially since I currently live and train in Manchester!
What one item of your gear would you implore someone else to use?
A softball! I believe they do such a good job of targeting problem tight areas, so much more effectively than a foam roller or cricket ball. And if you can afford to, purchase the vibrating softballs which add another layer of intensity. Self-therapy is something every athlete or individual interested in fitness and general health and wellness should be taught and do on at least a weekly basis.
Where‚Äôs the best place you ever trained or competed?
For the distance and happy memories of the few hours before, during and after the competition: Sofia, Bulgaria ‚Äď where I jumped my PB of 6.80m.
For the holistic experience, Guadeloupe. For the fun, party vibe in and out of the stadium. It‚Äôs a French-speaking Caribbean nation and the intermingling of those two cultures was beautiful. The food was INCREDIBLE. I actually needed to remind myself I was there to compete so I didn‚Äôt overeat. And the hotel we stayed at had its own private beach and sea cove. I was literally in heaven.
Finally, despite back problems on the day (I think I stopped after round 4) it was my first win against a top, high-calibre international field and a big season's best of 6.64m. This was great, because after the meet I was interviewed in front of the crowd on the loudspeaker and I responded to all the questions in French, which delighted the crowd because I guess they didn‚Äôt expect the Brit to speak their language. Overall, an unforgettable few days!
What‚Äôs the exercise you hate doing the most?
Something in the gym‚Ä¶ perhaps a single leg hip thrust or a jerk.
What‚Äôs your ultimate workout song?
A few years ago, Talking Da Hardest by Giggs used to be my amping up to compete song. I don‚Äôt have one now though. And mostly just put on either a current Christian songs playlist or Afro-bashment mix ‚Äď mood-dependent.
How many push-ups can you do in one go?
If you could compete/train anywhere in the world where would it be?
Phoenix, Arizona (Altis) / wherever Dan Pfaff is.
Who‚Äôs your fitness/sporting hero?
I don‚Äôt have heroes, really.
Is there any sport you‚Äôre really bad at?
Anything with small, fast-flying balls such as tennis or squash.
What‚Äôs your favourite post-competition/challenge meal?
Grilled sea bass with a load of fries or potatoes in olive oil, garlic and herbs plus tenderstem broccoli (basically fish and chips haha) YUM! And a Kinder Bueno. And/or warm chocolate brownie drizzled in warm chocolate sauce and a dollop of pistachio ice cream.
Main image credit: @gs.elvenizelos