The British outdoor high jump record-holder hit new heights in 2015. She spoke to Jessica Whittington about her early memories, this year’s Olympics, food and more
I started off just out in the garden jumping over stuff. We used to run and jump straight like you would naturally. My mum said high jump should be run in a curve and then did the scissor-kick technique in front of us. We didn’t believe her but then at school a couple of years later we did high jump in a PE lesson. Turns out she was right. I was pretty reckless as a kid so I just threw myself over it.
It was unfortunate that I got an ankle injury so close to the Beijing World Championships. I spent a week in denial, saying that I hadn’t got an injury at all, telling myself that I wasn’t really hurt. But the doctors really helped me through it all. I couldn’t have done it without the medical team at British Athletics.
I’m grateful for the experiences I had in 2015. It wasn’t always that much fun at the time, but I can look back on it and realise that it makes Rio look even more possible because I have seen what the top end of the sport looks like. I’ve seen where my place in that should be.
I’m trying to take up some hobbies outside of the sport. I’m learning German and doing an evening course. I need things to do outside of athletics, but I’m not in a hurry to do a master’s degree.
My favourite session is weightlifting. I used to hate it because I didn’t know what I was doing on the technical side of things. Obviously it’s quite dangerous if you do it wrong, so when I didn’t have any technique I found it really frustrating and a bit scary, but now I know what I’m doing I feel like I’m really achieving something. I’m not going to share my PBs – I’ll make everyone else feel weak!
I love food. I love talking about food, I love thinking about food, I love food shopping, I love eating. There’s now an academic aspect to food that was never there before. There is nothing that I don’t eat, nothing is off limits, it’s just the quantity and timings I have to plan and think about. I have a lot of protein in my diet. Meat or fish and veg is my ‘good for me’ meal. A more indulgent meal would be pizza – it’s a beautiful thing.
The Commonwealth Games was a great experience for me because it was such a big championship. At the British Champs the result stunned me but actually it was the only result that I had prepared for. The only result that I had entertained was 1.97m or 2.00m so secretly I was gutted not to get 2.00m.
The final seconds before a jump can be crucial. The important thing is that it’s consistent. Whatever you do, just make sure that you do it every time. I’m still learning, so what I do before my jump is rehearse what I’m going to do just one more time.
My final thoughts before a jump are “come on! I can do this”. Positive affirmations in those moments can make the world of difference. Anything positive is the key – sometimes I think about being on a beach just before I jump. It doesn’t matter what the thought is as long as it’s positive.
I love competing in Bedford. I have jumped loads of my PBs there and I don’t quite know why. I just have this really warm, good feeling about Bedford. When we went to the Commonwealth Games my coach said: “Look at the track surface, what does it remind you of?” It was like Bedford, so Hampden Park isn’t Hampden Park in my mind, it’s a very big Bedford. I produced the best performance of my life at that big Bedford because that’s what I do in Bedford. It’s all psychological.
TYPICAL WEEK’S TRAINING FOR ISOBEL POOLEY
Saturday – Technical drills; high jump; technical running; lifting session; abdominal and core work; mobility session
Sunday – Mobility and proprioception drills; plyometrics; abdominal and core work
Monday – Recovery: yoga; stretching and mobility; abdominal and core work
Tuesday – Technical drills; high jump; technical running; lifting session; abdominal work; mobility; rehabilitation exercises and acupuncture afterwards
Wednesday – Mobility and proprioception drills; soft tissue therapy afterwards
Thursday – Technical drills; high jump run-ups; technical running; lifting session; abdominal and core work; mobility and rehab exercises; yoga session
Friday – Recovery day: physiotherapy; abdominal and core work
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes
» Isobel Pooley was speaking to AW at Bohunt School in Hampshire where she gave a talk and masterclass to students