Paralympic long jump silver medallist in 2012, Stef Reid speaks to Alex Ferguson about what it takes to get to the top
Training six days a week, Stef Reid is no stranger to the track and weights room at her training base in Loughborough. The 28-year-old’s training comprises three running sessions a week, which involves speed endurance work during the winter and longer-recovery work once the season gets underway.
Her final session of the week targets her start and speed over a distance between 40m-80m. Reid explains how her training has changed: “I used to train twice a day, every day, but I’m 28 now, so I need to be smart and careful about the way I am training. It’s a new approach, but it’s really streamlined things as we gear up for the next cycle. My philosophy this year is to do as little as possible to achieve the result that I want!”
The integration of warm-weather training has also paid dividends for Reid and she believes that spells in warmer climes help prepare her for a stronger start to the season. “I go to South Africa in January for warm-weather training, because it’s a fact that you run faster in hot weather,” she said.
“Unless you have a domed 400m track, the radius that you’re dealing with on an indoor track is completely different on an indoor 200m track. You can’t get up to the same speed because you’re constantly navigating corners. I also go away just before the start of the season, I’ve just been to Spain, which is just another shot at getting some hot weather and some speed into my legs ready.”
Known predominantly for her exploits as a long jumper, Reid’s two jumping sessions in the week are broken down into two different stages. The T44 athlete says: “You need to be able to run fast and take off. Not every sprinter is a long jumper and that’s because it’s difficult to translate flat speed into horizontal distance.”
Reid’s training ensures that she makes that transition when it comes to competition. She adds: “You have to practise and train the take-off position. Instead of doing a full jump, I will train from six strides back and run, jump, take-off and practise a perfect take-off position with a great drive knee.”
The eloquently spoken Reid also packs in landing drills to her first jumping session of the week, something which she identifies as being integral to her improvement. She says: “I will stand on a box and jump into the sand, practising keeping the legs up and holding that for as long as possible to maximise distance.
“One of the most difficult things I find is that I take off well, but I’m rotating forward in the air and sometimes I’m almost landing on my hands because it’s difficult to learn how to control your body.”
Reid’s opening session helps when making the transition to the full run-ups the following day. She explains: “The reason why I do the drills on a Wednesday is that I do the longer run-ups on Thursday, which will help with my muscle memory. I’ll remember what I’ve done on the previous day and take that into the full approach.”
A lot of Reid’s strength training comes from heavy Olympic lifting sessions in the gym. She says: “Cleaning is massively important because it’s an exercise that helps to co-ordinate power through your whole body as opposed to just doing a jump squat.”
Cleaning just 5kg under her bodyweight (60kg) is enough to make any gym goer’s eyes water, but lifting hasn’t come without its challenges. The Keith Antoine-coached athlete further explains: “Obviously on one side I have an immobile ankle that doesn’t bend all the way because of the prosthetic, I have two very different forces going through my hip, but we’ve found a way to sort that.”
After losing her right foot in a boating accident at the age of 16, Reid has had to overcome a number of challenges associated with having a prosthetic limb. She points out: “The biggest challenge, which is a constant struggle, is you have two limbs that don’t match. You’re dealing with different forces that are going through your body. The problems that can be caused are with your back and the way that you weight-bear and train. I have to be really vigilant about how my body develops and what it does because it’s always compensating.”
The Paralympic silver medallist also emphasises how important it is to make sure that she looks after her body, from her training regime to body maintenance and upkeep. Reid adds: “If you look at my back, it’s muscularly developed differently from one side to the other and that’s because I use different compensatory mechanisms.
“It has its challenges in the gym when I lift and huge implications when I long jump because the hip isn’t quite strong enough because obviously of where the injury took place. If I want to keep training the way I do, I have to stick religiously to my physio, drills and my prehab, otherwise it compromises everything.”
With a long list of achievements to her name, Reid is still looking to make inroads into her PBs in both the long jump and the sprints and adds: “I want my world record back in the long jump. Marie-Amelie Le-Fur took it last summer, but my goal is to hit 6.00m in Rio.”
Although Reid is considered a long jumper, she says: “I still love to sprint and I don’t believe I’ve run my fastest race yet. I’d like to get in the mid-13s (for 100m) for sure. I don’t normally target placings as I can’t control what other people do. If I can do 13.5, there’s no reason why I can’t be in the 27-second region for the 200m. It’s a tough ask, but very doable!”
With a Paralympic silver and bronze medal among her collection, Reid has made no secret of her desire to win gold in Rio 2016, as well as competing at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. She says positively: “I won bronze in Beijing, silver in London, and I’d like to cap things off with a gold in Rio.
“I know it’s a long shot, but I’d like to compete at the Commonwealth Games as an able-bodied athlete. I’m not afraid to say I’m going to go for it. It’s a great goal to have and I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t think it was possible.”
» Stef Reid can be followed on her journey via her website stefaniereid.co.uk. You can see Stef and some of the world’s best Paralympic stars in action at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Birmingham, which will host the IPC Athletics Grand Final on June 29 at the Alexander Stadium. For more information visit britishathletics.org.uk.