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Christmas with an Olympic athlete

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We catch up with our Healthy Sleep Ambassador, Katarina Johnson on how she’ll be spending this Christmas this year.

While we’re all snuggling up in our Christmas jumpers Katarina has to keep up her training and make sure her training suits the weather conditions.

It becomes more about life conditioning of the body. A lot of long runs to get the lungs going. A lot of drills to condition the body to move in the right way and also gym work to strengthen every single muscle in the body!

I don’t dread the cold weather this year because I’m in the sunny south of France!’

Illness and injury are always a risk in sport, with one cold or bout of the flu threatening to halt training programmes and push back progress.

‘I am quite careful and cautious when using gym facilities. I always take a hand gel with me everywhere and make sure I use it before my hands go anywhere near my mouth/face! Injuries in the winter are less common for me. It’s just about being sensible and speaking up to the coach if I’m feeling run down that week. I am aware of not pushing my body too far over the edge too – still working hard but finding the proper balance.

Sleep is so important, especially because I have started doing two sessions a day now. I have to have a 40-minute nap in-between sessions to recharge and allow my muscles to recover properly before starting again.’

Even at an Olympic level you have to be able to give yourself some time off (even if it’s just one day!) – so how will Katarina be spending Christmas?

‘I will be spending Christmas Day in my aunties house with my entire family. There are around 20 of us give or take. Thankfully I am not in charge of the cooking or hosting so I just show up and enjoy! There’s no real prolonged ‘time off’ for me. I will get Christmas Day off but you have to keep the body ticking over. The tracks tend to close over Christmas so it will be more runs in a local park or going the gym and less technical work.’

Kat’s dogs are her pride and joy – so what canine presents will she be treating them to this year?

‘I’ve already bought them little tartan bow ties to go around their collar. And probably just their favourite treats. My next door neighbour bought them a doggy selection box last year, which I thought was pretty cool.’

KJT on bed

Katarina’s Return from Rio

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Our Healthy Sleep Supporter and GB heptathlete, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, talks to us about her experience at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio where she missed out on a podium finish, but came away with a world record.

“I have mixed emotions about my performance in Rio. I cannot deny that I am disappointed with my overall performance as I did not achieve what I set out to do and what I believe I am capable of doing but I have to keep things in context. I’m still young and have time on my side – people keep reminding me, at my age Team GB greats such as Jess and Mo hadn’t competed in an Olympics so to be pushing for medals already is great; it is very clear to me what I have to work on to be standing on top of the podium as a World Champion in London 2017 and further ahead, Olympic Champion in Tokyo 2020; and I gave it my all which is what I demand of myself.”

Although Katarina didn’t get the gold that was in her sights, she’s learnt a lot from her time out in Rio and is taking a positive from her world record in the High Jump.

“I’m delighted to have jumped a world record for my event in the High Jump. Ironically, as many people highlight to me, my jump of 1.98m was higher than the jump that actually won the Olympic High Jump title. Although this is something to keep in mind for the future, I don’t spend much time thinking about it now – I love the heptathlon and I’m hugely proud to have competed for Team GB in an Olympic Games. The pride I get in representing my country is something that I cannot put into words and the support I always get is something that I cherish. I love competing in major competitions and in front of big crowds so it was great to set a new British and Olympic heptathlon High Jump record at an Olympic Games and I’m hopeful that there will be much more to come.”

After the games, Katarina took time out to enjoy the city and relax after a high-pressure situation.

“After my event, I tried to take in the sights of Rio. It is a beautiful city with stunning scenery which those that follow me on Instagram will know I enjoyed. Since Rio I’ve spent a bit of time back home seeing family and friends. I’m in the off season which is an important time to rest, relax and recharge the batteries which I have done. I am very fortunate to get to travel to various parts of the world to compete but there’s no place like your own bed!”

As much as Katarina enjoys her sleeping regime (around 10 hours a night!) Katarina is looking forward to getting back into her strict training schedule.

“I’m now starting to do a bit of light training as I will have to be back in full training towards the end of the month. The next major event for me is the London 2017 World Championships which I am really looking forward to. It will be back at the London Olympic Stadium which I seem to perform really well at each year and am really looking forward to giving my all to become a World Champion in front of my home fans. Just saying that sentence makes me want to get back to training now …”

We’re already looking forward to seeing Katarina bouncing back in full force!


Warm Weather Training – Preparing for the Rio Heat

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The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio will obviously have very different conditions to where our healthy sleep supporter Katarina Johnson-Thompson trains in Liverpool, so it is important she gets her body used to the conditions she will be competing in. Not only this – warm weather training offers unique training and recovery opportunities:

“I went to Tenerife, Spain for 10 days for my warm weather training. It was a mixture of a training camp where I worked on the technical aspects of my regime, but also a recovery session from the heavy training block I did throughout the winter in Liverpool.

For most athletes, warm weather training is a part of their yearly schedule, as the weather conditions can make a huge impact on training and recovery, especially when compared with the weather conditions Britain has to offer.

“It’s become an annual trip, as it’s really beneficial to train with minimal distractions. The warm weather also aids muscle recovery and is relaxing and more enjoyable to train in. When I’m away I can really focus on my technical training and recovery.”

While it may be the best thing for her training schedule, it can be difficult being away from home comforts.

“When I’m in Tenerife I don’t enjoy being away from my own bed. Your own bed is always the best and in this particular case, that is definitely the truth. After I finish a hard training session in the winter I look forward to passing out in my own bed – but the same can’t be said for Tenerife!

Sleep is an important part of recovery for any athlete, so it’s important to feel relaxed and able to sleep to make sure the next day’s training can be maximised.


Image credit: Mark Shearman Athletics Images