Isobel Pooley: 'Nobody sets out to be a role model'

Isobel Pooley
Isobel Pooley is the outdoor British high jump record holder

British high jumper Isobel Pooley is currently working towards a place in Team GB's squad for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 22-year-old, who won a silver medal for England at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, set a new British record in outdoor competition of 1.97m earlier this year.

In her second column for the BBC Sport website she discusses relaxing, going back to school and adjusting to being a role model.

... And relax

Never one to be left out, I spontaneously joined in with another group's yoga session the other day. Doing the practise again made me realise how integral it had been to my success and consistency in competitions this summer.

When I was travelling to a lot of new and intimidating places on the Diamond League circuit the simple acts of unrolling a yoga mat and going through familiar poses was a grounding practise which calmed my nerves and let me return to a safe and productive mindset.

Isobel Pooley
Calming nerves through yoga and bringing familiarity when visiting strange places all helps to keep the smile broad

Slowing my breathing down and focusing on my own space reminded me that wherever you physically are, mentally it's possible to shape your own landscape.

Having realised this I regret ever neglecting my yoga practise and I will certainly be doing it more often again now, even if it's just in my front room with Spotify on and a few candles!

Back to school, selfies and self-awareness

It's funny how successful people seem to become "role models" without realising it. I'm not sure that anybody sets out to be a role model but I know that leading by example is one of the most powerful influences a person can give others.

I never imagined that jumping over stuff would lead me to where I am today as a person, individually as well as in the broader context. I have plenty of fantastic role models in my life and I'm always touched if anybody awards me that title.

Sporting success comes from commitment to principles like discipline, resilience, ambition and respect which will surely help anybody - in all areas of life.

Isobel Pooley with pupils at her former school, Court Moor School in Fleet, Hampshire
"I never thought jumping over stuff would lead to me where I am in life"

I visited my former secondary school, Court Moor School in Fleet, last month. The year sevens were generous in giving me their rapt attention during an assembly and were full of questions and a fierce, enviable enthusiasm about next year which helped me to see the Olympics as purely exciting and not daunting or pressurised.

It often seems absurd when the teachers thank me because I feel that I get more out of the interaction than the kids do! Going back to my home town made me think about how closely our lives are all intertwined and how one person's success can touch dozens of other lives - in both directions on the timeline.

One for all, all for one

What the general public don't see is the vast team effort that goes into supporting GB athletes through their training so that they can compete at the peak of health and fitness.

From my perspective, having immediate access to medical personnel means that I feel confident to push the boundaries in training, knowing that they are on hand to aid my recovery afterwards.

The sports science team use the most up-to-date research to optimise our training so that we get the maximum possible return for our hard work in the gym and on the track.

Psychologists, nutritionists and sports lifestyle advisors help us to hone other areas of our lives that can make a massive difference to our performance.

No I in team - a shared vision

Poora Singh (British Athletics Therapist), my coach (British Athletics National high jump coach) Fuzz Ahmed, Isobel Pooley, Robbie Grabarz and Derry Suter (British Athletics Therapist)
Pooley's support network includes coaches, colleagues, therapists and a whole host of back-up to call upon

My coach is helping to shape me as a person, not just as an athlete. I have learned so much about working with others to bring out the best in all of us in order to build towards a shared aspiration.

Knowing that the team are behind me on every step of the journey makes me even more determined to break new ground and advance our shared journey into the super world class.

Mince pies, cheese straws, cheesey jumpers & Olympic planning

At British Athletics' NPI (National Performance Institute) in Loughborough the daily tasks of training and therapy are slowly being infiltrated by mince pies, knitted jumpers and tinsel.

There's a feeling of optimism as we all start to look ahead to the indoor season and to 2016 in general which is set to be a year of massive opportunities. The bulk of winter training has been overcome and the momentum is behind us as we prepare to march into the biggest of all - an Olympic year.

For most athletes their journeys started long ago and will see plenty more events beyond 2016 but for now the undeniable goal for everybody is a medal-winning performance in the Maracana Stadium next August.

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