In This Series
- Olympic Training Tips from the Greats
- Track Cyclist Joanna Rowsell Shand
- Boxer Josh Kelly
- Swimmer James Guy
- Triathlete Gordon Benson
- Rower Helen Glover
- Triple Jumper Nathan Fox
- Slalom Canoeist Joe Clarke
- How To Train Like An Olympian
Welterweight Josh Kelly thought his Olympic dream was over after he suffered an injury at the start of 2016. We spoke to the 21-year-old Sunderland boxer the day before he jetted out to Rio to see how his training helped him turn things round.
I was a bit of a chubby kid. I started boxing when I was seven because people used to say things at school and I got into a few playground fights. My dad had been into boxing for a long time so he took me along to help get the weight off. I didn’t really get into any trouble after that.
I had my first fight when I was 12 – you have to be 11 to start fighting in England. I won my first, lost my second and then went 13 or 14 fights unbeaten. That’s when I thought, “yeah, I'm all right at this”.
I’ve been training for Rio since I was 18. In 2013 I won the English national championships and started training with Team GB. London had already been and gone so Rio was my goal.
I was injured at the beginning of 2016 and half gave up on boxing for a bit. I wasn’t training and I put a bit of weight on. Then in February I realised I needed to sort myself out. I got back into training, dropped about two stone [13kg] and qualified for the Olympic Games. I was absolutely buzzing.
I train Monday to Thursday in Sheffield with Team GB. I train at home on Friday and then have two days’ rest. I need it because they’re hard weeks – I’m training three times a day.
In Sheffield I train once at 7am, once at 12 noon and then again around 3 or 4 pm. I get up and get weighed in at 7am, then go to the track for running. Strength and conditioning is at 12 and it’s sparring, pads and bags in the afternoon.
We do a lot of weightlifting to help build strength and muscle for the ring, stuff like squats and deadlifts, bench presses, weighted pull-ups… A lot of people think arms and shoulders are the main thing for boxing but legs are really important – that’s where most of the power comes from when you’re throwing a shot.
At home I do long runs here and there for recovery and to keep my weight down, but at the track we work on speed and intervals. We do something called three threes, which is three minutes on as fast as you can, rest for one minute, three minutes on… you do that three times to push up your lactic acid and emulate being in the ring. Amateur boxing comes in spurts so you need to get used to your heart rate going up and down.
My favourite bit of training is the afternoon as that’s when we do all our boxing. Running is definitely my least favourite [but] I love sparring and working on the pads and bags. After that I chill for a bit and then I’m normally in bed by eight o’clock absolutely shattered.
As I get closer to competition my training changes. The runs get shorter and I don’t lift heavy weights – I do speed circuits instead. Your sparring drops off and all the sessions get sharper and faster to prepare you for the fight.
I’m usually proper chilled out before a fight. Some people go through breathing exercises to focus and don’t speak to anyone, but I’m laughing and carrying on even five minutes before I get in the ring. That’s when I perform best, when I’m enjoying my sport.
What do I get to eat? Not what I want. I have to eat really healthily because I’m one of those people who looks at a cake and I put on a stone. My fighting weight is 69kg. As an amateur you get weighed in every time you fight, and you don’t want to put on too much weight in between because it’s twice as hard to get down again. We have weight limits at Team GB to keep us in check.
For breakfast I have wholemeal bread with two poached eggs and some smoked salmon. For lunch I have carbs and protein, so maybe pasta, chicken and veg. At night I have fish and veg, or chicken and veg… it’s quite bland but it gets you through the day.
If I’ve finished a competition and I don’t have to make my weight for a while I’ll have cheesecake – the caramel one from Nando’s. I could smash a whole one of them, maybe two.
I’ve not been to Brazil before. I really want to see the Christ the Redeemer statue. I can’t wait to get some sun as well. We’re not allowed to do much sunbathing because it affects your performance but after my category has finished I’ll support the others and maybe get to the beach. I also want to see the sprinters and see how fast they actually run. When you see them on telly they don’t look that fast but I bet it’s crazy.
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