Great heights!

GREGOR MacLean, Montrose, is the Scottish number one-ranked pole-vaulter, and he also holds the Scottish record.

He is based at Loughborough University, and here he describes his strenuous training regime.

Gregor writes: I started winter training at the beginning of October and ended on January 7; this comprised running, weights, technical vault sessions, gymnastics and general strength exercises.

Running sessions were in two categories; speed endurance and speed development. Endurance consisted of multiple sprints over a longer distance than we would use vaulting, and was a leg killer. Development sessions were easier, anything from six sets of two 60m to three sets of 3 90m flat out sprints. This was much easier on your legs but was a big cardio workout.

Weights sessions for me were about packing on body weight. By the end of the previous outdoor season I weighed 73.6kg, far too light for a pole-vaulter. I needed to be 80kg before my first indoor competition. My first five weeks of weights were gruelling, having to lift heavy weights with a lot of repetitions.

My bench press consisted of five sets of 15 at 70-75kg, for me a big weight. By the end of the third set my pectoral muscles and shoulders were in agony. Other exercises were Olympics lifts, front and back squats, box step ups, military press and weighted jacket pull ups.

With my technical vault sessions, we went back to scratch starting with shorts approach run ups into the long jump pit. I had picked up bad habits from the previous season so I was working on timing and planting the pole in the sand.

Once the plant was sorted we started pushing my run up further and further back from four strides to 18 strides. After 10 weeks, we moved onto the pole-vault pit to started work on the more technical stuff, such as the start of the swing and rock back.

I was not the best at rocking back as I tended to just pick my feet up and shoot for the bar instead of kicking with my back leg to start the rotation of my pelvis and shoulders, so this was the most important part of the technical stuff for me. After an intensive 14 weeks training we were back off of full approach (18 steps) into the pole-vault pit and getting ready for competition time.

My gymnastics is the worst part of my training by far but my coach would still make me do it. We were doing back and front somersaults, back and front flips, round-offs, round off back somersaults. We would be using the gymnastic high bar as well, which meant we had to do giants (going right over the high bar upside down over and over and over again, very dizzy work) also we were doing upstarts and hip circles. It took me a long time to get the basics.

The final part of training was the general strength circuits, using the gymnastic P-bars for dips, the high bar for our core exercises and pole-vault specific exercises such as bubkas, legs lifts, rock-backs, chins, windscreen wipers and muscle ups. We would also use medicine balls to help with strengthening up or stability and core. And use the floor for other exercises like, press ups, sit ups, hand stand push ups and crawling exercises and stretching.

We had to get frequent sports massage, to help break down damage tissue building up in the muscles. You would finish the therapy feeling a lot worse because the muscles had been thoroughly battered to get the knots in the tissue out.

I started the indoor season on a bad spell, not jumping over 5.20m in the first two competitions.

The next competition was the Celtic Cup which was a competition for Scotland. I had opened the competition with 5.05m and then skipped 5.15m and went straight to 5.25. It took me to my third attempt to clear 5.25m, a National Indoor Scottish Record.

So even though I went on the fail the next height I was pretty happy. The next major competition was the United Kingdom indoor championships where I jumped a new lifetime best and set a new Scottish indoor and all-time record of 5.35m. I should have jumped the following height of 5.45m but because of being on the wrong poles it stopped me from progressing any higher.

I was happy with the overall height but knew I was capable of much more. The next weekend I had the Scottish National Championships, where I jumped another 5.20m but went straight to a new lifetime best of 5.40m but it never happened on that day.

I ended the indoor season on a reasonable conclusion with a jump of 5.21m at the ICC final in Lea Valley, London. As this was a team event I needed to jump relatively high to gain maximum point and overall in that competition I finished third. The team I was competing for was London North Lions who won the completion overall which was a good way to end the indoors.

Now I am back into hard training again for nine weeks getting ready for the outdoor season and the real competitions.

This means getting ready to jump really high and qualify for the European Championships and the Olympic Games in London.

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Gregor MacLean

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