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THE ultra-FIT INTERVIEW

KELLY HOLMES By Guy Holland

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n 2004 Kelly Holmes approached the home straight of her career as a much admired and respected middle distance runner - who had often run her heart out, but had been so-often been blighted by injury. She was a battler who gave it her all, had achieved some notable moments on the international stage but who looked destined to never quite perhaps reach the highest heights. All of that famously changed in a matter of days at the Athens Olympics. Two stunning gold

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medals at 800m and 1500m - a unique feat in GB women’s track and field - meant perceptions, reputations and opinions would be forever altered. The former Army PT would become a giant of international athletics and an icon of British sport. Dame Kelly Holmes was living, breathing evidence of what determination, desire, persistence, talent and belief can do - particularly when harnessed in tandem with preparation. Since retiring Dame Kelly has applied much of that same determination to numerous projects and continues to make things

happen and achieve great results. This is particularly the case with her On Camp With Kelly organisation (OCWK). What started as a relatively low key mentoring project with a few young girls on a single trip to South Africa in 2004 has become a ground breaking and highly influential programme that has created a new template for support, planning, preparation, guidance and performance. Kelly kindly took the time from her relentless schedule to speak to ultra-FIT and reflect on her career, talk about On Camp with


Kelly, her future plans as well as her own fitness practices post athletics. Guy Holland: On Camp with Kelly was a partly altruistic desire on your part to put something back into your sport, but was it also based on failings that you might have identified in the system? Dame Kelly: Like most sports people who have had their time and enjoyed life changing benefits from their pursuit I had an urge to give something back. So that was certainly a motivation, but what many people don’t realise was that I had already decided to run a mentoring camp before I won my Olympic gold medals. What happened in Athens didn’t alter my intentions in any way but it did allow those plans to operate on a whole new level. The scale and possibilities changed and as an Olympic Champion, I was able to draw so much more attention to what I was doing which in turn generated interest and support. No system is perfect. We will never identify all the talent at the right time and we will never hold on to all of that talent and not every talented individual will reach their absolute

This process automatically makes role models of these sporting figures, so I just wanted to take that to the ultimate level and ensure that I really did become accessible, available and helpful to aspiring athletes as they come through the ranks. GH: And from recently revealed results it looks like it is all working according to plan! DK: Yes, what started out as a small training camp out in South Africa is now an eightyear-old project that is possibly the largest programme of mentoring anybody has put together. I have a large number of top-flight experts across areas like nutrition, sports psychology and physiotherapy, who are accessible to OCWK members on an ongoing

My position post Athens meant I was in the perfect place to act as a role model and to help, encourage and inspire athlete but a more rounded human being able to overcome hurdles, handle triumphs, accept and learn from defeats, be respectful and conduct themselves in the right way. My position post Athens meant I was in the perfect place to act as a role model and to help, encourage and inspire. OCWK is a kind of extreme version of something we’ve all experienced. As kids, most boys and girls pretend they were a particular hero when playing a sport - how many kids have ‘been’ Jonny Wilkinson when lining up for a penalty kick, or Freddie Flintoff when trying to bowl fast? I know when it came to running Seb Coe was my hero.

basis to provide advice and support. And because we have been going for so long it has been possible to look at valid measurable effects of the programme. These have conclusively proved that we have made a significant difference. GH: And you are much more than a name and figurehead. DK: Definitely, I couldn’t just fulfil a role like that … I have to get stuck in. Of course I’m aware that my name is a way of attracting attention but I am fully committed and very hands-on involved. I’m always making a nuisance of myself with phone calls and emails

JAN 2012 ultra-FIT

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THE ultra-FIT INTERVIEW

potential. When I was 18 there were so many more girls who could have been better than I was. They all gave up. I felt I could create something that would assist in the process of keeping people involved, nurture them and bring extra dimensions that would allow us to keep hold of some of our athletic youth and add that vital extra few percent that would make the difference between a champion and a good runner who nobody has ever heard of. To be a successful world-class athlete takes more than running fast - that comes as a byproduct of everything else that we do. It’s all about building the right team, creating the right environment, providing back-up support, bringing organisation to the smallest important details, encouraging and allowing the right mindset and learning life skills that will make not only a better


THE ultra-FIT INTERVIEW to the athletes! I am not even a coach and nor do I want to be, but I do know what athletes need, I know what the life is all about and I am able to apply my life in and around the sport to their careers as they are just beginning. Whatever they are going through, highs, lows, doubts, disappointments, euphoria, I can guarantee I’ve been there too. I’ve made the mistakes and I’ve taken the chances that worked out. This applies to losing luggage in flight on the way to a meeting and having to borrow and buy kit (always keep your spikes and outfit in your hand luggage!) or lining up for the biggest race of your life in the biggest event on the planet. However, none of this could happen without the brilliant team I have up and down the country who are as committed and passionate about OCWK as I am. Also Aviva has been on board from the beginning and it’s commitment to us and to athletics is immense. GH: Olympic year is now upon us. You must be very excited. DK: Just a bit! It was a long hard road to win it but that was only the very beginning of the process. We now have to deliver and I am certain we will. There has never been so much funding in British sport as there has been over the last seven years and the benefits of this are not just about this year, they’re about the decades to come. Despite the state of the global economy and all the prophets of doom we are on track and actually ahead of delivery time for the Games. It has been a remarkable feat of planning, organisation, funding, engineering and execution. If there’s one place in the world that

THE KELLY EFFECT

It has been shown that the Aviva sponsored On Camp with Kelly makes a measurable difference to athletic performance. The first ever study to investigate the benefits of an educational mentoring programme showed that 80% of the OCWK athletes had better performance results than their counterparts. On Camp with Kelly commissioned BPS Chartered Sports Psychologist Dr. Anna Waters to carry out a research project on the impact of the initiative on athletes’ performance. Detailed interviews were conducted with those athletes who had been part of the first OCWK educational camp in 2004 and other leading athletes on the programme. Analysing the interview transcripts it became apparent that six key benefits of the programme emerged - elements that have been developed into a six step mentoring model that has a direct impact on athletic performance and could provide a template for future sports mentoring programmes and a legacy post London 2012. The six steps include one-to-one mentoring from Dame Kelly, support, preparation, education, long term regular contact and injury management. Research showed that these factors lead to improvements in athlete’s confidence, self-belief, race knowledge, motivation, concentration, persistence and competitiveness. All of which resulted in improved performance. This was perfectly demonstrated by the success of Hannah England who took 1500m silver at the 2011 IAAF World Championships. Hannah said, “The support and education I received has been crucial in helping me to achieve success in senior competition. For a mentor to be effective you need to know them well and I have developed a great relationship with Kelly over the last seven years. She has been there and done it and she knows exactly what you have to do and what you need to hear.” Kelly commented, “Developing athletes of the future, with Aviva’s support, is a passion of mine. Through a long term successful mentoring programme we can develop the kind of talent in the UK that can compete with and beat the best in the world. “It can open up new ideas and bring the best out of people. Everyone has obstacles to overcome, whether they be sports orientated or personal and one way of achieving this is through this mentoring model.” ‘On Camp with Kelly’, supported by Aviva since 2004, is Dame Kelly Holmes’ mentoring and education initiative for talented young middle distance athletes. For more info visit www.oncampwithkelly.co.uk Continued on page 84

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THE ultra-FIT INTERVIEW

can deliver an amazing and uplifting global event in these times then it is Great Britain. I am a Global Ambassador for British Telecom, which is the communications and information supplier for the Olympics worldwide. It is predicted that the website alone will be receiving 10 billion hits per day! If you think there is pressure on an athlete imagine having to provide fault free global coverage 24 hours a day! Things like this just underline how vast this sporting event is, how many people it involves, how much hard work goes on, how much interest there is right around the world and how inspiring and captivating it all is. Stars will be born, amazing stories will unfold and 100’s of brand new sporting chapters will be written, future generations of sports people will be inspired. It will also be amazing for tourism, arts and culture and it’s all happening right here! GH: You still look in amazing shape, how do you keep yourself fit these days? DK: Looks can be deceiving! Some people still think I can just get back on the track and be world class. Those days have gone! It takes a bit of mental adjustment to realise you can’t and never will perform like you did before. But having a more ‘normal’ life gives me far greater insight into what it takes to live like most people with busy lives who have to get their exercise and fitness in where they can. It’s all very well for a full time athlete to talk about keeping fit and healthy when that is basically what they do for a job. When you have a multitude of commitments, are dashing around the country, attending meetings, running a business, getting up at 6am and getting home at 11pm then you get a different

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perspective on life, sport and exercise balance. And that is what I have to deal with now! Obviously it helps to have had years and years of track, road, gym and pool work ‘in the bank’ but now I train when I can. I still run but sometimes it might only be twice a week and if that is all my schedule allows then I’m not going to beat myself up about it. A little and

Whatever they are going through, highs, lows, doubts, disappointments, euphoria, I can guarantee I’ve been there too often is most effective for me these days. Regular bursts of 15 minutes here and there: press ups, sit ups and running up and down stairs. This is something we can all benefit from. There is no huge time commitment, no equipment required and no real space necessary, just the discipline and focus to do it - and that is something I still have plenty of! I have genuinely developed a huge respect for all those people and no doubt ultra-FIT readers who organise themselves so that exercise and

fitness plays such a big and important part of their lives. It might have nothing to do with sports or competing but still requires admirable organisation, discipline and application. I will always be active by nature and since I stopped competing I have been able to indulge in new pursuits such as skiing, cycling, rock climbing and motorbiking and I’m loving the freedom to do this. GH: So what is going on for Dame Kelly at the moment and what does the future hold? DK: Obviously On Camp with Kelly remains a huge part of my life and will continue to be so. I am also very excited to have just launched my own clothing line through Tesco. Something that started as a few ideas and sketched doodles on scraps of paper has now become a genuine range of leisure and exercise clothes for women. I spoke to lots of women collated as much information as I could, merged that with my own thoughts and observations and the new clothing brand is the result. I also have a range of fitness equipment available through Tesco all of which is very exciting for me. To have had an idea and pursued it to this point has been a very rewarding process. (www.tesco.com/kellyholmes). I also have a number of plans that will roll the Kelly Holmes brand into other areas where it can continue to help and support and encourage people in and around sport and physical activity. There will be more announcements throughout 2012! UF For more information on Kelly and her activities visit: www.doublegold.co.uk

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