Charleigh Kiara, sprinter. Lifestyle photoshoot by Michael Leckie August 2016

I met Charleigh Kiara only recently on a shoot and instantly knew what a babe she was! I’m so in awe of what she does, especially given that I have never been a natural sprinter, myself! Speed sessions are an awesome workout – so much bang for your buck! If you still need a bit more inspiration to get yourself down to the track, read on…

Charleigh Kiara, sprinter. Lifestyle photoshoot by Michael Leckie August 2016

A word from our featured athlete…

Hey! So, I’m Charleigh, I’m a short sprint athlete, specialising in the 100m, with a passion for running fast and lifting heavy weights! Qualified as a personal trainer, I’m currently studying for a BSc Sports and Exercise Sciences degree. I currently run ‘Girl’s Only’ gym classes at a local school where I focus on my campaign to get teenage girls into fitness and strength training. Check me out on Instagram and Twitter @charleighkiara, give my Facebook page a like (Charleigh Kiara) and watch out for my athletics website and blog coming soon!

Tell us your favourite outdoor space to train in London and why? This could be a park, a pool, a skate park, the velopark… literally any outdoor area you love to train in.

My favourite outdoor space to train in London has to be Mile End Athletics Stadium! After spending many years training at tracks in Kent, surrounded by bushes, fields, and the chirps of birds, it is so inspiring to train with the views of the city in the background, even with the sounds of cars, buses and noisy kids!

Your ‘go to’ gym or indoor space to train in? Is it down to the equipment, the staff, the other people who train there?

When I’m in London, my go-to gym is definitely Gym Box in Stratford, Westfields. It is perfect for what I need to use the gym for! It has a functional area with a 10m space to do sled pulls, box jumps and medicine ball throws, it has a strength and conditioning area with olympic platforms to perform cleans, and, most importantly, it has a non-motorised treadmill which is perfect for me to practice my sprints and technique whilst getting a bit of cardio in!

Not that we need any excuse to take the scenic route but… Of all the awesome running, cycling & walking routes in our fair City, which one gets your heart racing and your fingers and feet itching to lace up or clip in and why?

Unfortunately I don’t do much road running because my workouts are mainly track based. But I have jogged down a few streets in the city and I particularly like the route along Wapping canal.

Tell us about your current fitness addiction? (Class, sport, gadget etc…)

Well as a sprinter I absolutely love anything HIIT based! The one class I try to go to at least once, if not twice a week, is PowerWave, which is a 20 minute workout using a multifunctional device for the entire body, working on posture, core strength and endurance.

Do you have a sporting hero or idol and if so, who and why?

My sporting hero is of course, Usain Bolt. He is just indescribable. His work ethic, his character, his passion, his performance – it just amazes me. Not to mention, the publicity he has brought to the sport! If I were to choose a female idol it would again be a jamaican sprinter – Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. She is considered “the greatest female sprinter of all time” and she truly is awesome!

What motivates you to get out there and get a workout done when you’re really not feeling it? Because let’s face it, we all have those days, especially with British weather to contend with!

Luckily, I never really get days where I’m not feeling track, I have a really cool training group, so we all get each other through the sessions. The odd occasion I do have to train by myself, I can find it hard to get into, as I have no one to sprint against to really push me to my limits. The gym is never really a struggle to me either, thank God! I love throwing weight around but admittedly, when it comes to cardio or core, I definitely need to have a quick scroll through Instagram to look at all those girls with the perfect abs to really push me to get going! I think the main struggle for me is when I’m injured… I get extremely demoralised which then leads to lack of motivation. When this happens, I find reading Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s Instagram captions really help me because it’s a great reminder that even the elite battle with injury.

Your favourite place in London to fuel + hydrate / refuel + rehydrate before / after a killer session? Any hidden gems?

Now this is going to be a anticlimax! My favourite place to refuel and rehydrate after a workout has to be… Nandos! I mean come on, chicken! Haha.

Who is your favourite training partner and why? Go on, show them some love!

The first person I call on my phone when I want to hit the track for a session is @bigboatstrainingroom! He’s a fellow sprinter and personal trainer, and a great coach! He helps me a lot with technique and tempo work. Not only on the track, but in the gym he is known for his sport specific strength and conditioning workouts, and believe me, they’re a killer!

No matter how successful, we are all still a work in progress and it’s SO inspirational to see others striving for greatness in one way or another. We would love it if you could share with us a current fitness or lifestyle goal and tell us a bit about how you are working to achieve that goal? It could even be a previous goal that you set for yourself and subsequently smashed! Put it out there, be proud of your achievement! #humblebrag

Currently I’m plagued with shin splints, so the goal right now is to just rehab those and get back into training properly on the track again 3 days a week. Competing at the British Universities Championships in the 60m this indoor season is also on the horizon, depending on how well my injury heals, but it is something that I am working towards currently! Stay tuned!

Briefly talk me through your perfect session? From warm up to cool down…

My perrrrfect session would be on the track (of course!). So I would start off with a light 400m jog around the track followed by some dynamic exercises to active my muscles, this would include: fire hydrants, donkey kickbacks, hip openers and glute bridges. Followed by some technique drills to create muscle memory and dynamically stretch the muscles preparing them for some hard graft! A few drills would be 10m x 2 of: bounding, high knees, A, B and C skips, hamstring extensions, lunges and side squats. Then the main session would have to be a speed session with block starts! The start is the favourite part of the race for me and probably my best part, so any chance to get the blocks out I do! The session would be composed of 1 x 100m, 3 x 80m, and 1 x 60m with full recovery (5-10 minutes) and during recovery I make sure that I’m constantly moving to prevent blood pooling which occurs when you stop exercise and start to feel dizzy or nauseous. To warm-down I would just jog 400m around the track.

What is one piece of advice would you give to an athlete who is new to London?

If you’re looking to get into athletics I would highly recommend joining a club. Try to find one close to your house  (much easier to motivate yourself to go!) and with a good coach and team of athletes to train with. There’s nothing worse than training by yourself, especially in Winter and like I mentioned before, I’m always at my fastest when being pushed by training partners. It’s also invaluable to get advice on form and style from a professional, you’ll avoid picking up bad habits this way and you’ll be surprised at how much faster you can get after tweaking a few things here and there.

What is your favourite genre of music or artist to listen to during your workouts?

My music taste varies but when I workout I have to listen to something with a beat! It could be anything from trap, hiphop, rap, afrobeats, reggaeton to dancehall. Whenever I compete I have to put on repeat ‘Vybz Kartel – Pressure’ throughout my warm-up!! Something about that song really gets me in the zone haha!

Finally and most importantly… How do you ‘ B R E A K T H E L O O P ’, what does the phrase mean to you?

Breaking the loop to me means breaking down barriers and changing stereotypes! Especially those associated with girls partaking in sports exercises that are typically masculine. Girls, get lifting! Get sprinting!

You can find Charleigh here & here – Go and show her some love!

Charleigh, loved having you as part of our My London series! Thanks so much for answering our questions and good luck with the British Universities Championships!!

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