The Checklist: Training and kit advice from a world-class GB pole vaulter

The kit, the workouts, the food and the heroes
Advice from a world-class pole vaulter

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 pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw about her training, her studies, what she carries around in her kit bag and what exercise she hates doing the most.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a 10-time British Champion, British Indoor and Outdoor record holder, 2018 European Outdoor Bronze Medallist and 2019 European Indoor Silver Medallist.

I have trained professionally since 2011 alongside studying a BSc in Sport & Exercise Science at Manchester Metropolitan University in which I got a 1st Class Honors. I'm also starting a MSc in Sport & Exercise Psychology in October – I hope to be a Sports Psychology researcher after my career in pole vaulting.

I am also a massive coffee geek!

What projects are you currently working on?

One project I'm currently working on is getting the right training and lifestyle balance.

Being an elite pole vaulter doesn’t take up every hour of the day, there is a lot of down time and I am useless at being bored so I am currently helping conduct some research with two other researchers surrounding ‘post Olympic blues’, which is keeping me busy.

I am also starting an MSc in October which is something I have wanted to do for a while now as I love studying. I also coach pole vault a few evenings a week down at the Loughborough National Performance Centre, which I just love.

What was the last thing you trained for?

As a track and field athlete the big event is the Olympics every four years so you always have that in mind when you’re planning training. However, throughout the four years there are many other championships including Worlds, Europeans and Commonwealth Games.

I had the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March which is the last major championships I was training for. However, as soon as that was over my mind was straight onto the next thing which is the World Championships in October this year.

What kind of schedule/program do you follow?

My training is very varied and I train five times a week for around 3-5 hours each session. My training schedule consists of pole vault once a week, weights sessions 2/3 times a week, gymnastics, explosive jumping and throwing, various running sessions including short acceleration sessions (30m), medium speed runs (50m) and then speed endurance running sessions (90-120m). I also do yoga and stretching work most days.

I have many training goals which I may attempt on a daily basis, however for this year my overall training goal has been to get much faster.

How do you evaluate your performance of a training session?

I like to evaluate my sessions both objectively and subjectively. I sometimes compare any numbers I have from previous sessions and check how far I am away from them. However, I feel evaluating subjectively is important too.

Some days just aren’t PB days – or even close – however, it could be really good session for other reasons. I think using both methods is vital for an athlete. I am an optimistic person and finding the positives in any situation is my strength and something I value a lot.

The Checklist: Training

What’s next?

The World Championships in October and then of course Toyko 2020. I have qualified for both competitions so staying healthy and being in the best possible shape of my life is my project. Getting fast, vaulting well and being confident are my main goals.

What are the key items in your kit bag?

Hockey ball: I love the foam roller however the hockey ball is crucial for my glutes. In pole vault, sprinting fast is vital and my glutes get super tight. That starts to affect my hamstrings and back, so rolling around with a hockey ball in my glutes is a winner.

Protein bar: You never know when you’ll need a little pick me up during training. Sometimes I underestimate the volume of my sessions or accidentally get my nutrition wrong leading into a session, so an emergency bar is vital for me. It may stay in the bag for one day, one week or even one month but at least I know it’s there if I need it.

Thera-Bands: I use these to activate my glutes, warm up my shoulders and for foot strengthening exercises. They are so versatile and useful – if you haven’t got some already go get some now! (From £3.19, Thera-Band)

Training diary and plan: It’s so important to have a plan and then note everything I do down. Training components, training numbers, PBs, notes on how I felt etc! It’s awesome to reflect back on what you did, how you felt – I think having a training diary is something simple but gives you structure and confidence when you look back and see how awesome you were.

Water bottle: Sounds like an obvious one but you don’t know how much the quality of a session can be compromised if you don’t hydrated. I like to use electrolyte tablets too for extra sweaty sessions.

What trainers do you use?

Mizuno Wave Rider 22. I like to have lots of support in my trainers however they still need to be comfy and these trainers have both and I love them!

Mizuno Wave Rider 23 – Buy now: Amazon | $119.95

The Checklist: Training and kit advice from a world-class GB pole vaulter

What apparel do you use?

I use trainer spikes (splats) to compete in because of my history of injury in my achilles region. These shoes are basically trainers and then a spike plate merged into the bottom, they give me the comfort of a trainer but then the grip of a spike.

I use sweatbands on my wrist when jumping as it’s important to keep my grip dry and they helps a lot.

I compete in a one piece suit – it is crucial that nothing is flapping about when I compete as anything that risks knocking the bar off isn’t desired. These also have sweat-resistant pads on the thigh section for when I'm competing to help keep my grip dry.

The Checklist: Training

What one item of your gear would you implore someone else to use?

Mizuno have launched a new training shoe called the TC-01 (Amazon | $133.47) and it is super versatile. I use them to lift heavy weights as they’re super flat like lifting shoes but also super comfy, they also have a little more flexibility so you can use them for other training components like circuits etc. They're great for working out in the gym.

Where’s the best place you ever trained or competed?

I loved the Beijing Bird’s Nest in China as it just blew me away with how incredible the stadium was, but my favourite place to jump is a street meet in Germany called Rottach Egern. I have special memories from this place and it’s without a doubt the most beautiful location for a competition ever – it is situated on a lake and the pole vault bed is actually on scaffolding in the lake.

What’s the exercise you hate doing the most?

Rope climbs or chin ups!

Quickfire questions

What’s your ultimate workout song?

Fasta by Kah Lo

How many push-ups can you do in one go?

I have never done this as we stick to low reps however I predict I could do around 40.

If you could compete/train anywhere in the world where would it be?

South Africa.

Who’s your fitness/sporting hero?

David Beckham.

Is there any sport you’re really bad at?

Swimming – I just seem to sink! And I hate water.

What’s your favourite post-competition/challenge meal?

Don’t really have one as I just take what I can get really – but I am usually so starving that I could have sprouts in front of me and I would just eat them all.

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