You returned to athletics action in 2011 with noticeably bigger arms. Does this more muscular physique make you even quicker?
Yeah, I’ve bulked up a lot. Look at me, man. To be honest, my coach [Glen Mills] doesn’t like me getting too big on top like this. Basically he thinks it means I’m running with more power than fluency, which is not so good. Because I have new strength my arms might move in a different way when I run and it can affect my technique. So I have to either lose the muscle or somehow learn how to not use it while I’m running.
You’ve lost some body fat as well as packing on muscle. Would you say you’re in your best ever shape?
Muscle-wise, yeah. Although a few years ago I was in really good shape. There’s a photo of me from back then with my shirt off on the wall back at my aunt’s house in Jamaica. My abs in that picture are amazing. Seriously, I look extremely hot in that photo.
Is core work particularly important to sprinters?
Yeah, definitely, because everything goes through your core. But it’s important to me especially as I have suffered from back problems [Bolt suffers from scoliosis, the curvature of the spine], so I have to have a strong core and back to stop me getting pain in my back or tight leg muscles.
What is the toughest part of your training?
Ice baths. Definitely the ice baths, man. I did one today after training and it is even worse in London than in Jamaica. It is way colder here. I don’t know how you do it, but you do. The ice is definitely colder in England than in Jamaica. It’s to recover faster from training but sitting in ice for six minutes is no fun, trust me – especially for a Jamaican.
You’re known for being ‘relaxed’ about your training. How rigid is your schedule?
When I’m in London, we don’t always have a structured time. When the coach isn’t here we do it any time we want. When the coach is here it might be about 2pm. If I’m feeling lazy it might be a later session but if I’m feeling good I might go at 12pm. In Jamaica it’s normally later, about 4pm, as it’s too hot in the daytime. So the answer is, well, it’s pretty relaxed.
You don’t have a nutritionist. That’s quite unusual for an elite athlete…
For me there is no way a strict regime would ever work. My coach understands that. He never dictates to me. Some athletes think all the time about what they eat but that’s not my style. If I want some KFC hot wings, I’ll have some. But that doesn’t mean when the competition is on I don’t train to my absolute best. I can’t tell you what foods have protein in. I can’t tell you how one vegetable is better than another. I just know that vegetables, potatoes and pasta are good for you.
Have you got any tips on how to run faster?
A big mistake people make is to over-stride to try to get quicker, but if you do that you’ll lose a lot of power when you push off. You need to get power through your ground contact, so getting the right angle is as important as stride length. I do a lot of leg extensions and leg presses for leg strength but a lot of your power comes from your hips, so you should work your hip flexibility too so you don’t tighten up. The main thing, though, is to stay relaxed. People see me messing about before a race but if your body is relaxed, you run faster.
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Mark Bailey is a features writer and interviewer who contributed to Coach magazine in 2015 and Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach, until 2019. Mark has also written for national newspapers including The Telegraph and The Financial Times Magazine, as well as magazines and websites such as Cyclist and Bike Radar.