Flying High With Competitive Pole Vaulter Allison Stokke
02.23 / MISSBISH Flex Zone
What started out as a way to get involved in a high school sport has catapulted—literally and figuratively—Allison Stokke into a world of athletic fame and opportunity. The competitive pole vaulter is an international champion and has even competed in the Olympic Trials. On top of that, she’s modeled for major athletic brands including sportswear giant Nike, lululemon, and GoPro. You may think that Allison has to train all day every day in order to complete these achievements, but she proves that taking time off for relaxation and introspection is just as important as your hardest work days. While chatting with Allison we learned about how she stays focused on reaching her goals, traveling the world, and more. Check it out for yourself below!
Can you give us a little background on your childhood and how you got into pole vaulting?
I was a competitive gymnast for nine years. I eventually became pretty burnt out on it. I also wanted to compete in a sport for my high school, so one of my teammates from gymnastics who had recently started pole vaulting and a couple of other family friends recommended I try it. To be honest, I didn’t really know what it was at first, but it sounded way too fun to pass up.
Did you ever think that athletics would take you all over the world? What’s it like to be a record-breaking athlete and major fitness model?
I had always dreamed about competing abroad, of course. Competing internationally is something you have to earn—it’s a big rush. To be able to see the world through that lens, especially with incredible training partners, is such a unique opportunity that I would never want to, and could never replace.
The same applies to modeling. When I first started, it was fascinating to be exposed to such creative talent—and that fascination continues to grow on many jobs. I truly enjoy spending time with the people I work with; and, so often, it’s like a reunion every time we are booked on the same job. And we get to travel the world together! Growing up as an athlete, and pursuing it throughout and beyond college, has allowed me the opportunity to be a model. I am grateful that they can work hand-in-hand.
What has been a highlight of your career?
If I had to choose, I would say being able to compete at Olympic Trials. But there isn’t necessarily one. My whole career has been thrilling, trying, educating—you name it. I do feel as though my current training center, Altis, has helped me conceptualize everything I have felt, experienced, and learned throughout my career. We have an incredible group of coaches and therapists that are always teaching, learning, and collaborating. So many aspects of pole vaulting and training—and even general life parallels of athletics—have started to make sense. It has made me realize I truly enjoy pole vaulting simply for the sake of pole vaulting.
You’ve been thrown into the center of the debate about oversexualizing female athletes without asking to be. How were you able to focus on your athletic career and block out any unwarranted attention?
Most of my athletic career, I feel I have focused more on the goals I have set my heart on. When I was in high school and was starting to look at colleges, I knew I wanted to compete; I knew I wanted to attend a Pac-10 (now Pac-12) school, and I knew I wanted to compete at NCAAs. I think knowing the direction I wanted to work toward helped to turn everything else into white noise. I choose to be an athlete and I do understand that many other factors come with the job. It is one of many extraneous elements that stand in front of all athletes—female and male. But at this point, I know who I am and I know what I stand for, so I do my best to let that channel my focus and my actions.
“Figure out what it is that you care about and want for yourself, and then find a path that will take you there. And don't forget to enjoy that path."
Having dealt with that kind of issue first hand, what is your advice to other young female athletes dealing with the same problem?
Figure out what it is that you care about and want for yourself, and then find a path that will take you there. And don't forget to enjoy that path. You can distance yourself from the issue, but given the nature of the internet and social media, many things are out of your control; you don’t have to act like "that person" for them if you don’t want to. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, and you can’t control the opinion of others.
After dedicating your life to pole vaulting for years, have you ever felt burnt out and wanted to quit?
Yes I have, and I’ve even stopped for periods of time. But I believe it took me those times to realize I truly do love the sport and it's not just about goals and accomplishments.
You’ve mentioned that giving yourself time to rest is just as important as working extra hard. What’s your favorite way to de-stress and relax?
I love to cook while listening to a good album or playlist. If I’m traveling, I’ll find a good tv show—and maybe watch the entire season.
Any tips for people trying to find a fitness routine that works for them?
One thing I always need to remind myself is to ease into it, whether it’s a new training cycle, or I’m starting back up after a solid period of time away from training. It can be easy to fall into the trap of going all-out at once but then burning out to a point where your fitness routine just fizzles. So find some way to balance your exercise around your life and ease your way into it. I don’t believe in a “NO DAYS OFF” mentality—sometimes a rest day or a more conservative workout is necessary. I would also say to allow yourself some flexibility in terms of the specific workouts. I.e., if you’re traveling and assumed you would have a full gym at your hotel, but all you have is a bunch of mismatched dumbbells and a stationary bike, then figure out a way to translate your workout to utilize those things. If you don’t let yourself be creative, it can be easy to rationalize that you should just wait until you are back in a normal setting.
What are you focusing on right now and what’s the next major goal you’re set on accomplishing?
I’m taking this year as a low-pressure year in terms of training. I’ll focus more on personal goals, and—not wanting to sound too cheesy and cliché—trying to “be the best that I can be.” As I mentioned earlier, I’ve learned a ton these last few years and I’m enjoying taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture to figure out my next direction. In the modeling realm, I am focusing on learning more about what we do—often we are told what to do but not why we are trying to do it. A photoshoot is one piece of a huge puzzle and it's interesting to look at all of the other pieces too.
What are three hidden gems in your hometown of Newport Beach, California?
I’m not sure if you call this a hidden gem, but one of my favorite things to do in the morning is to grab a coffee and sit out on a jetty (small “piers” made up of rocks) on the Newport peninsula. I also make it a point to visit Alta Café, Sabatinos, or A Market when I go home.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
Driven, creative, feminine, eye-opening, unapologetically stylistic, a lifestyle, and something to aspire to be.
Who’s your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she’s an inspiration to you.
I am inspired by the women in my family and so many of the women I work with and train with every day, but I don't know if I have one specific woman.
Photos by: Aldo Carrera