Running Happy with Falesha Ankton: Sprinter, Hurdler and Brooks Beast Athlete

[caption id="attachment_4110" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Taken from http://www.rapidforce-kps.com/category-s/48.htm"][/caption] Toni Carey (@toni_carey/@blackgirlsrun) I recently had the chance to catch up with sprinter, hurdler and Brooks Beast Falesha Ankton! It's something about talking with professional athletes that make me want to train just a little bit harder. Hey, whatever, works, right?? And Falesha didn't disappoint. The two-time University of Washington Husky All-American is entering her second season as a volunteer assistant working with University of Washington Assistant Coach Raul Sheen and the sprints and hurdles group. She had me ready to lace up my shoes and ready to speed train!  Not only did she give great advice about overcoming mental hurdles, she gave me the inside scoop into the best drills for runners and Hot Yoga! Read on to be inspired, but be warned. You're going to want to Run Happy! BGR!: You ran track in high school and in college. What inspired you to take to the pavement? FA: I took tap dancing lessons starting at the age of 5 and I thought I wanted to be a dancer when I grew up. Track came to me later in life. I first learned about the sport in 4th grade when my elementary school, Joe Henderson, had a track meet at the local high school . It was 4th graders vs. 5th graders and I ran the 100, 200, 400 and 4x1 and I beat all the 5th graders. At that moment my Father knew I would be a track and field athlete but I was still clueless, I wanted to be a professional dancer. My dad kept trying to convince me for years to run track, I finally gave into my father in the 10th grade. (I told him I missed tryouts in the 9th grade, at registration for my sophomore year he found out high school track team didn't have tryouts he walked me to the first day of practice my 10th grade year.) I fell in love with track that year, the challenge of trying to conquer something new, the team atmosphere, the adrenaline rush when the starter gun went off. After 12 years of tap dancing I quit and pursued track full time. I guess I can say the rest is history and I never looked back after that year and I kept making new goals that propelled me to where I am today, a Brooks athlete. BGR!: You're also a professional runner for Brooks (which sounds awesome, by the way). When/where will you be competing next? FA: Right now I am in off-season, I will start to put together my outdoor season over the next couple of months. My first meet will be in late March or early April of 2013,I usually have my season opener at the Stanford Invitational because of the great weather and it is close to home. BGR!: Most people agree that training for shorter distances is drastically different from training for longer distances. Are there any good exercises or drills that are good for any kind of runner? FA: As a sprinter my workouts are drastically different than a distance runner, but at the end of the day we are both trying to run fast. A drill that I think will benefit any runner is hurdle walk-overs, it helps strengthen your hip flexor and in result improves your posture, balance and hip mobility. This drill will help create a more fluid stride and increases your range of motion when running at any distance. All you need is about 8-10 hurdles and you are set!  BGR!: What are some of your favorite non-running exercises? FA: Every runner needs to be flexible and have a strong core, but sometimes we get tired of static stretching and doing crunches. During the Fall I like to switch it up and get off the track when I can, so I incorporate Hot Yoga. Hot Yoga helps with my flexibility and strengthens my core, the heat helps me get my muscles loose faster. When training you can spend up to 3 hours working out on the track and it does wonders mentally to change up your scenery. So Hot Yoga would be my favorite non-running workout, it can be deceiving but it is a very hard workout. BGR!: You wrote about "10 Training Tips" for those trying to achieve your level of fitness. Number three on your list is "mental mindset" which is something I deal with constantly. What advice do you have for those who want to tackle the mental challenge of running and working out? FA: It's important to set new goals that are obtainable and try to achieve them in each workout. Many people look too far in the future and don't stay in the present. I like to have small goals for each workout that don't deal with my body, but deal with my mind. For instance, Monday is always hard for me to get fired up about so I would tell myself to stay focused and worry about one interval at a time. Tuesday I hurdle so I would try to get myself amped up to attack the hurdle and get my adrenaline pumping. Creating small goals that pertain to the type of workout you are doing can be the key whether it is running, weight lifting or even spin classes BGR!: You also suggest keeping a daily workout journal. What do you use? What does yours include? FA: I think it's very important to keep a workout journal so you can know what workouts you had a hard time with and look at your progression. I have two forms of journals, my workout sheet and my daily journal each have different purposes. My coach prints out my workouts weekly and on each day I write the time it took for each interval and if any part of my body was hurting, this sheet is for little notes. Then when I get home I write in my workout journal a more detail version of my day and workout, how I felt mentally, if I got enough sleep that day, what I ate, if I felt in shape. I love to look back at my workout journal and see my journey in the pages, see the days that were rough and smile because I was able to bounce back and kill the next day’s workout. I use it as motivation and to see what didn't work for me and how to improve my upcoming season. BGR!: I love this video. What's your secret to staying focused and not getting distracted when training? FA: I don't take things too serious. I like to enjoy the moment. I can turn my focus switch on and off at the drop of a hat. I enjoy running and hurdling and like to bring the fun a positive energy to practice, but when I get in my blocks I have my serious face on and it's time to get work done. My event helps me get focused because of the 10 obstacles in front of me, all it takes is one distraction and you can be flat on your face. You learn at an early age that you must always be looking forward and thinking about the next hurdle, you can't worry about the people next to you. The only mission you have is to get to the line first. BGR!: What's your favorite post-workout meal?  FA: After a good workout I like to refuel my body right away, with a chocolate protein shake and a banana. When it comes to dinner I like a hearty meal, usually consisting of baked or grilled chicken, broccoli and a baked potato. BGR!: You're also an assistant coach for the University of Washington. How to you motivate your athletes? FA: I have a unique relationship with each athlete. I try to get to know them so I can understand who they are as a person and as an athlete. Some of them love for me to have a lot of energy and pump them up before a race and others like for me to be calm and to be reassured that they are 100% prepared to run fast. I love to always be honest with the athletes and give them tons of feedback, it lets them know that I am truly invested and in return motivates them to be the best they can. BGR!: What does "Run Happy" mean to you? FA: To "Run Happy" to me means to enjoy what you do. I don't get too down on myself after a race or practice. I try to find something positive in every race and interval that I do. I respect my competition and congratulate them after a race and having a great sportsmanship is a trait I think that one who Run's Happy will have. I get nervous before races but when I get in the blocks, I take a deep breath and smile, I remember that this is a sport I love and no matter the outcome I am honored to be apart of it.  


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