The Routine: Susan Jones, British high-jump champion and record-holder

No springs in the shoes, just in the step
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The Independent Online

Susan Jones, 23, from Wigan, is the British high-jump champion. She won the gold medal in the European Cup at Bremen last year with a jump of 1.95 metres, equalling the British record set by Diana Davies in 1982. She also holds a sports science degree from Liverpool John Moores University. She supports herself by working part-time at Umbra Athletics, a company that produce a range of statistical track-and-field books for British athletics, including the British Athletics Annual

How did you first get involved in the high jump?
I was 12. I was competing in sprints at the Bebington Oval on the Wirral. It was a medal meeting, and they put out an announcement saying that no one had entered the Under-13 girls' high jump. I was with three friends, so we thought we might as well have a go – and I won. I jumped 1.35 metres and got a gold trophy. It was the first thing I had ever won.

How much time do you dedicate to training every week?
I train six days a week, mostly during the evenings. The girl I train with, Hazel Carwardine, who is a triple-jumper, works full-time, so I have to organise it around her. The shortest session we have will be about two hours, with the longest around four.

What are the main elements of your routine?
We're doing a lot of cleans and snatches [lifting free weights] at the moment. It's cleans on Tuesday, and Saturday is usually snatch day. It's about whole-body conditioning, but also about building up an explosive element. Back squats and leg presses train your body to be strong, but slow at the same time. Cleans and snatches, by contrast, have that explosive element. It's actually quite hard to create the kind of muscles I need without jumping, but you can only jump so much – otherwise your body falls apart! I also do quite a lot of plyometrics, straight-line bounding on the flat and a lot of single-leg hops – it's quite boring really.

What is the most boring part of your routine?
I think Sunday morning is the worst thing. I'm dead to the world and it's so difficult to get out of bed for training. I'm also forced to travel a lot for training as well, which is a bit of a downside.

Do you follow a specific diet?
I do have to watch my weight a lot. I've got an optimal range I'd always like to be in, and I try to stick to that. I eat a lot of chicken, pasta, rice and vegetables. It's just a healthy, balanced diet really. You can only get away with junk food for so long – then it catches up with you.

Do you mark your run-up in any way?
Yes, I have a specific start point and a check marker where my curve normally begins. I use tape to mark them out in training, but it tends to be just an estimate.

Is choice of footwear a crucial consideration?
It is for me, because I am very prone to foot injuries.The problem is exacerbated if I am wearing the wrong footwear. In theory, the stiffer the shoe the better, because it provides more leverage for the jump, but I tend to need slightly softer shoes because of my injuries.

Wouldn't you be able to jump higher if you had bigger soles?
Ha, ha. You actually have to be careful, because at the World Championships they carefully check the width of your soles; it's quite strict. It's also written in the rules that you can't have shoes with springs in!

Has your degree proved useful in your career as an athlete?
I just think it gave me a better understanding in general of what happens and why it happens. My dissertation was on bio-mechanics and I used the high jump as my example. Having said that, I don't really apply what I learnt to training – I prefer to let the coach work it out.

What is your driving motivation?
I just love what I'm doing, and that's enough for me. I always knew I was going to be an athlete; now I just want to see how good I can be.

Susan Jones competes today in the Norwich Union Grand Prix at Birmingham's NIA, and at the European Indoor Championships in Vienna from 1-3 March