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Training confidential: Phillips Idowu

The Olympic gold hopeful shares his route to fitness

Training confidential: Phillips Idowu

Phillips Idowu is hard to miss. There’s his 6ft 4in frame. There’s his dyed hair. And then there are the medals, most notably gold at the 2009 World Championships and 2010 European Championships. With a little summer event in east London on the horizon, the 33-year-old talked us through his preparations

How’s the training going?

I feel as if I haven’t fulfilled my potential yet. There’s so much left to do. I don’t want to get to the end of August and feel like I’ve not done everything I can possibly do, or not been in the best possible shape, to come away with that Olympic gold medal.

Do you have a strict sleeping pattern?

I have a pretty regimented routine. I try to get to bed early, meditate, and relax before I fall asleep. It’s getting better ahead of the Games.

How do you meditate?

I have a meditation CD that I listen to before bed. It settles down my brain waves so the next day I can get up and I’m already focused on what I need to do. The thought of an upcoming race and other high-pressure situations doesn’t affect me when I’m meditating. It’s not just mentally advantageous. I find that being relaxed before sleep can help your muscles recover.

What music do you tend to listen to when training?

My MP3 player is constantly on. I’ve recently been getting into some soul ballads, like those by Michael McDonald. What A Fool Believes is a mellow song and perfect for ensuring I’m as chilled out at the track as I am back at home.

What do you eat before training?

I always grab a handful of fruit in the morning, while boiled eggs give me energy before hitting the track. But my ultimate recommendation, if you don’t have time to boil an egg, would be a jam sandwich on white bread. That works wonders and gives you enough energy to train hard without feeling bloated.

Is there something special you do to increase your jumping distances?

We’ll spend a lot of time on the free weights in the gym and focus on the lower body from the back downwards — hamstrings, quads, calves: the muscles you need for jumping. Using free weights instead of machines is the best way to tone your muscle because your body has to contend with weights going in all sorts of directions, which makes the smaller muscles work with the bigger muscles. Machine equipment is more guided, so doesn’t work your smaller muscles.

Any other tips for working out?

People tend to think that the best way to get abdominal muscles is to perform loads of crunches and sit-ups. But I find that my abs always look and feel the best when I do sets of short, sharp sprints — four back-to-back runs of between 20m and 30m with 15 seconds’ rest between each set.

Does vanity ever play a part in working out?

I don’t think too much about it. I’m grateful for a good body, but it’s not my ultimate goal, it’s a by-product of working hard to jump as far as I can. I do take my top off when I’m walking on a beach though [laughs], providing I’m in shape.

What’s the most hi-tech piece of kit you’ve trained with?

I used a flotation tank on a weekly basis during my training for the 2008 Olympics. It was all about sensory deprivation, so I’d be inside a tank, floating on salt water for an hour in the dark. You fall into a trance and it works. It also soothed my muscles and helped them recover.

What do you like most about training?

When a session looks hard on paper and you go into it and find it easy, that’s my favourite feeling. That’s when you know you’re in pretty good shape. I don’t dislike anything about training, really. The cold, the rain, the snow — I don’t let anything bother me. Not even aching legs can put me off. The trick is to set yourself a near-impossible goal to keep yourself focused. Most triple jumpers will aim to hit 18m — the magic number — in training, but I work to hit that and beyond.

Idowu wears the adidas team GB kit for London 2012. To win a once-in-a-lifetime experience visit

(Image: Rex Features)