I describe myself as an ‘athlete with the biggest smile’, but that can be hard to maintain when you’ve had as many ups and downs as I’ve had in my career. Yet I stand by it, because you must stay positive through adversity. On the world stage, you learn to overcome hurdles – both in life and on the track.
One of my biggest challenges was the knee injury that wrecked my medal chances at the World Championships in 2013. The continued impact of hurdles was causing my knee many issues and I didn’t get the results expected of me. That can be pretty hard to deal with, but I couldn’t let injury beat me, so my coach and I adapted and changes to the 400metres.
The World Championships are coming up again this summer and it’s bringing back old worries. In order to mix up my workouts and make sure I wasn’t impacting my knee too much, I started getting into high-intensity interval (HIIT) type of training. And I love it!
I’ve recently graduated as a trainer of new HIIT-inspired workout, STRONG by Zumba®. It is so much fun – but the sort of fun that you need to work really hard for! STRONG by Zumba is an intense cardio and bodyweight training programme, where every move is synced to the beat of music. With music at it’s core, you’d be forgiven for thinking it is just the same as traditional Zumba classes, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
STRONG by Zumba is a dramatic move away from a Latin-inspired dance class. It is serious kickboxing, burpees, squats and lunges all matched with bespoke music. In a fitness industry first, the routines were designed first, and then producers tailored the entire soundtrack to the moves. The music aspect of this programme really speaks to me because I love grime music and always put headphones in when I’m prepping for a race to take my mind off of the stress – music is empowering and key to any training I do.
Music gives that extra boost to push through the pain barrier – and this is also where STRONG by Zumba stands apart, as studies show that moving in sync with music allows the body to use energy more efficiently as well as distract people from pain and fatigue, elevate mood, increase endurance and promote metabolic efficiency.
So after a day with wonderful Natalie, the instructor teaching the the official STRONG by Zumba instructor training course, I came out an ambassador for the brand. It was fascinating to see the thought that goes into building a fitness programme like this. I can even offer STRONG by Zumba classes, as soon as I pluck up the courage!
Being an ambassador can be quite intimidating, facing a group of people who expect you to perform. But as soon as the music got going it was as if all the training flooded back and I went into auto-pilot. Just remember to stay strong – pain is short-lived, but the joy of beating your fears or overcoming obstacles will remain with you for a long time.
*as written by Olympic athlete Perri Shakes-Drayton, a STRONG by Zumba ambassador