Pro-Focus: Nicola Adams
Without question, the break out star of the Olympics was flyweight boxer, Nicola Adams. The Leeds lass with a big smile who can certainly pack a punch. Being from Leeds myself and boxing being the sport that got me off the couch and got me active three years ago, having the opportunity to meet Nicola Adams and be able to pick her brain about training was kind of ridiculously awesome.
Nicola is the ambassador for the upcoming Energizer Night Run – a 5K or 10K run after sundown on April 13th in Battersea Park. She’s really passionate about anyone and everyone coming out and giving it a crack and getting active. We had a good chinwag about training, mental strength and of course, her Gold medal winning moment. Check it out.
You’re the ambassador for the Energizer Night Run. Do you prefer running at night?
Yeah, it’s quieter, it’s a bit more peaceful, there’s a lot less people around. But the Energiser Night Run’s going to be totally different. It’s gonna be exciting, it’s gonna be fun. It’s not about running fast and who comes first. It’s just about getting involved, taking part and trying something new. You’ll be able to run with other people, have a chat on the way. I’ll be there as well to help everybody along and help boost them up.
When you’re in training, what kind of distances do you cover in your run?
The biggest run we’ll probably do is a three mile run and the rest of the runs we do are intervals, so middle distance running or full out sprints.
You started boxing aged 12. Were you active in other ways before that or was that your introduction to activity?
I was quite active but I think boxing was my first experience doing something different. I definitely embraced a challenge there taking on boxing which is normally a male dominated sport. But at the time I was only 12, all the kids got put in together and you go off and you have fun and I think that’s what it’s all about.
Perhaps you were too young to realise it at the time, but do you think the boxing was benefiting your life in other ways? Did you become more confident and outgoing as a child as a result of it?
Yeah, it definitely improved my confidence and the team building as well – making new friends and being able to socialise. They’re all skills that you take on through life. Just having that determination as well and will power and wanting to take on new challenges.
When you first went into a boxing gym, was it an intimidating environment for you to go into as a woman? What was the reaction of the boys you were training with at the time?
No, not really. I was only 12 years old so I didn’t really notice anything. Maybe if I’d been older, I might’ve noticed a bit more. I just remember walking in, seeing everybody punching the bags. It was like a proper boxing gym, in a basement type building – it was hardcore. And I just loved it. They just said ‘right, get your gloves on and go join the other juniors.’ Because I had a coach who didn’t mind training females, it was fantastic.
I’m guessing you rapidly became the girl not to mess with in school.
When did it go from being a hobby to something you wanted to take to the next level? Was it a conscious decision or did it all just flow pretty naturally?
Yeah, it just kinda flowed. I had my first competition when I was 13. I’d been training for a year and my coach said ‘you’ve got a bit of a talent, have you ever thought about going into competition?’ and I said yeah, I’ll give it a go. I think that’s the thing, just having that little idea, that bit of inspiration to have a go at something new.
I wanna delve into your training a bit. I box a bit myself and I love the training process so I’m really fascinated by what yours is. So, talk me through a typical training week for you.
I’m up at 7am, we do a check weigh to make sure we’re all within our 5% of our weigh division. After that we’ll go for a run on the track, come back, have breakfast. Around 10.30/11am, we do strength and conditioning; bench press, pull ups, sit ups, that kinda thing, then have a little break for lunch. In the evening, we have the boxing session, which will include bags, pads, sparring, skipping…it’s pretty intense!
Yeah, that’s a pretty full on schedule! Do you have a favourite and least favourite session of the week? Are there any that you just dread doing?
Not really, to be honest. I love the sparring part. I think it’s just working hard when you’re really tired that’s the hardest part of boxing training. You always have to get yourself into that position where you think to yourself, ‘I can’t go anymore.’ That’s where you have to embrace the challenger in you and think yeah, I can do it, I can go a little bit further.
How big a role does nutrition play in your training? I know you love a Nando’s every now and then.
Yeah, I do! We actually have our meals delivered through the week when we’re at camp, so we don’t necessarily have to worry about what we’re eating. The lighter weights get smaller meals. If you’re trying to lose weight or put on weight, there’ll be maybe more protein based, or if they’re trying to boost up they’re energy it’ll have more carbs.
One of the things I love about boxing is that it really hits everything fitness wise. You get great cardio, lots of good strength and conditioning in there. Do you do much cross training or do you find you get everything you need from boxing?
Yeah, I get everything I need from boxing really. I think it’s one of the sports where you do absolutely everything – it’s a complete all over body workout.
Let’s talk a little about the mental side of training. I think in every sport people reach a point where it gets really tough and you have to push through, but I think in boxing, it’s imperative that you do that, ’cause the consequences could be quite dangerous if you don’t. What do you do when you reach that point and need to push through?
I just think to myself, it’s only eight minutes of your life and you’ve just got to push through and you’re capable of winning. I always try to stay positive with myself even if I know it’s not going the way I’d like it, I try to change it, try something new.
Back in 2009, you suffered that really serious back injury which obviously must’ve been a real test of mental strength for you. How much do you think that played in to your recovery?
Oh, massively. It made me so much more determined to get back into the sport and to get back moving again. It was a real hard time. I went from doing 300-400 sit ups a day to not being able to lift my shoulders off the floor, so you can imagine how much hard work went into getting me back up to speed. It’s all about embracing the challenger in you and having the willpower to not give up.
Do you use any specific techniques mentally to help stay motivated and get in the zone?
When I’m warming up, I’ll just say to myself: be fast, be first, be the best. And those are my words of encouragement to myself.
I think a lot of the controversy surrounding women and boxing has been around this idea that it’s against our natural instincts to be aggressive – I think this is all a bit of a nonsense argument myself – do you think consider boxing to be an aggressive sport?
No not really to be honest, ’cause you can’t box with aggression. If you went in there thinking ‘I need to be really aggressive and I need to be angry’ – you need to be able to think strategically, so you can’t be angry and aggressive while you’re in there. It’s almost like a game of chess.
This is exactly what I say!
You’re trying to out maneuver your opponent. You’re constantly thinking, ‘if they do this, I’ll do that or I’ll do this to make them do that.’
When it comes to women and fitness, we have really scary statistics when it comes to women in this country. What I think is really interesting about your story is the role your mum played in it. She was going to work out and took you with her, so she was a really great role model. What more do you think we can be doing to get more women involved in sport, especially from a young age to make it a habit they’ll carry through to adulthood?
That’s what I’m trying to do at the moment, get more women involved in sport. I’m hoping a lot of women and girls will show up to the Energiser Night Run, maybe they’ll go on to get into running or maybe through speaking to me they might try a bit of boxing as well.
Do you ever get sick of talking about the Olympics?
[big smile] No!
Good! Is Olympics pressure different to regular competition pressure or did you approach it the same way?
To be honest, I didn’t really feel any pressure for the Olympics. The pressure for me was qualifying for the Games. If you can imagine, I’m going to the qualifiers and everyone’s like ‘yeah, it’s fine, you’re gonna qualify, you’re already tipped for Gold’ and I was just thinking ‘I haven’t even qualified for the Olympics yet! What if I don’t even qualify?!’ I think that, for me, was where most of the pressure was. But once I qualified, pressure was out the window!
As a fan and spectator, I don’t think we could’ve wished for a better Olympic final. It was gripping from start to finish. In the second round, when you knocked Ren Cancan down, did you have a bit of a moment where you thought ‘I’ve got this now’?
[laughs] Yeah, yeah!
You know what? You could tell! You bounced around a bit, you had a bit of a spring in your step afterwards and you were like ‘I’m gonna bring this home now!’ Was that a real turning point in the bout for you?
Yeah definitely. After I scored the knock down, I was just like ‘yes!’ and I just heard the crowd go absolutely mental and wow…it was so positive for me it was…oh it was amazing, it really was. I just couldn’t believe it. Espeically ’cause she’s a three time world champion, she’s a good opponent.
Were you aware during it that you were winning? Did you feel like ‘I’m ahead on points, I’m doing what I need to do’?
Yeah, I felt like I was winning and I was ahead on points but my coaches in the corner were telling me that I was only two points up to keep me focused and keep me going til the end.
As the bout was finishing, did you feel or were you conscious at all that you were making history at the time or was that lost in the moment?
Literally the whole way through the Games I just thought ‘I just want to win a Gold medal’ It wasn’t until after when everyone was saying ‘you’ve just made history’ that I was like ‘Oh yeah!’
Congratulations again on your win. It’s done so much for women’s boxing and not just boxing, it’s just a great example to other women that you know what? I can take on combat sports, that’s a thing I can do, which I think a lot of women just genuinely weren’t aware of as it’s never really shown on a platform like that. So thank you for that.
Don’t forget to register for the Energizer Night Run and get yourself down there for some good times.