The British pole vault record-holder tells AW about her January training and why warm weather camps are crucial to setting her up for performing well in the heat of competition

With a focus on lifting heavy, sprinting fast and pole vaulting, Holly Bradshaw believes her January training block in South Africa is invaluable at the start of an Olympic year.

“I like to go away in January because it’s so cold here and the quality of training is so much better out there,” she says. “I’m getting up to running at 100%, able to max in the gym and I’m jumping off a long approach.

“We’ll spend three-and-a-half weeks out in South Africa and we’ll get four or five solid pole vault sessions done and four or five speed sessions and that’ll pretty much last me all the way until the Olympics.

“Once we’re home, we’ll drip feed it once every 10 days and around competitions but, once you get into the indoor season then start competing outdoors, it’s hard to build momentum and speed like that.”

AW: What are the essential components of training at this time of year?
“Pole vault is such a confidence sport,” admits Bradshaw, who was fourth in the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships.

“It’s about being confident and building momentum and that’s why we go to South Africa in January. You want to be in a nice, hot environment that feels safe. You’ve been before, you know the wind is good and the facilities are good, and it’s about getting the 16-step approach run dialled in so that when it comes to competitions, you can really build momentum.

“Speed work is also so important and it played a massive part in how I performed last year. That’s another reason we go away; my 100% flat out sprint will be a lot different in South Africa to in Loughborough!”

AW: Favourite session at this time of year?
“Pole vaulting is always my favourite, but if I’m not allowed to choose pole vault then I think it would be a weights session; I love doing cleans, jerks, anything like that.”

AW: Least favourite?
“A metabolic circuit. It’s horrible, you’ve got an exercise to complete within a minute and then, depending how fast you complete it, you get the rest of the minute to recover, then move on to the next one.”

Getting ready to beat the heat

Tokyo’s heat will be a challenge for many athletes, but warm weather, it seems, brings out the best in Bradshaw. The Olympics can’t come soon enough.


MONDAY: Pole vault, off full approach

TUESDAY: Explosive throws and weights

WEDNESDAY: Tempo, gymnastics and circuits. “We do two kinds of gymnastics sessions,” she explains. “One is strength gymnastics, so it’s using gym apparatus for strength gain, while the other is skills-based and more linked to pole vault, so using the gymnastics equipment but going through the pole vault motions.”

THURSDAY: Rest – swim/yoga

FRIDAY: Speedwork, pole vault off short approach, plyometrics

SATURDAY: Weights, general strength circuits

SUNDAY: rest – swim/yoga

Incorporating gymnastics

Bradshaw has a gymnastics background, and her training group – regardless of previous gymnastics experience – use it as an integral part of the training mix.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a gymnast or have never been a gymnast, it’s all pretty basic movement stuff but it’s good to keep it in the programme,” she says. “Gymnastics works different muscles that you’d never use if you just did a circuit with crunches and press-ups. It’s working all the little muscles you didn’t even know you have.”

In addition, she does hot yoga once per week for stretching and mobility.

» This article was first published in our training special, included with the January 30 edition of AW magazine, which is available digitally here or to order in print here

» Our training special featured an exclusive Pulseroll offer. Click here to find out more and access a discount code to get 10% off your next purchase

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