The Olympic Pole Vaulter Reaching New Heights | Alysha Newman
Alysha Newman spends a lot of her time flying through the air, which seems appropriate because her career is, quite literally, on the up and up. While the Olympics are generally the highlight of an athlete’s career, it seems Alysha has only advanced exponentially since she was a part of the track and field team that Canada sent down to Rio in 2016. Last year she broke the Canadian pole vault record three times, finished seventh in her first ever World Championships, and inked a deal with none other than Nike to become one of their funded athletes. She kicked the new year off with a bang by being one of the stars of Nike’s new #ForceIsFemale Air Force 1 campaign, and with another season about to start, we’re willing to bet that Alysha reaches all kinds of new heights in 2018. Read our Q&A with this badass bundle of energy to learn more about how she trains, how she stays inspired and her interests outside of her sport.
How did you first get into your sport of pole vaulting?
I was a gymnast growing up but as soon as I turned 13 I hit a huge growth spurt; within a year I grew from 5’5 to 5’8 which is way too tall for a gymnast! Just to be clear though, I like being tall. I also had a back injury at that time which forced me to take a whole year off all athletics from grade 8 to 9. I was always into all sports and was always playing with all the guys at school. One day my English teacher saw me racing around at recess and he called my mom and said, “Put her in track and field; she’ll do really well.” I started out as a hurdler and I loved it (still love it to this day!) The manager of the club said, “Since you’re a gymnast you should really try pole vault,” because so many pole vaulters have gymnastics backgrounds. Within the first two months, I broke the Canadian record and also jumped higher than any youth in the country. I guess you could say I learned really quick and haven’t looked back since, and here I am today.
What is your training schedule like these days?
My season is almost about to start, so I’ve been doing two workouts a day usually. Sometimes it will be weightlifting, some technical workouts, and then I have cardio days where I run for 30 to 40 minutes. I go in to the gym around 1 pm and workout for two hours, then have a break and then I’ll do another two hours. I sleep in until 11 every day. I found my biggest successes came after university when I actually started getting more rest, like 12 hours a night. We as athletes put our body through so much but when you give it the downtime it needs, it can perform even better. I think that a lot of athletes are actually following the trend of doing less, you know, cutting their workouts down and not putting their bodies through so much. Don’t get me wrong, my workouts are hard! I’m running hills and throwing up. But I perform better when I give myself some recovery and rest time.
You mentioned that your season is about to start. What will your schedule be like for the next little while?
It will be a lot of traveling. I already know that I’m going to a bunch of different countries this season. I’ll be in Europe for 20 days and have five competitions while I’m there. You don’t even really have time to train when it’s like that because you’re jumping every few days. But it’s nice when you’re jumping well because then you’re getting invited to a lot of competitions.
Are there any particularly memorable places that you’ve traveled to compete?
Probably any of the countries in the Middle East. It’s just so beautiful there, and the architecture is so modern and progressive but then there’s so much history there. I saw buildings over there that were slanted, or super skinny; it’s wild! And I was able to go camel riding, and dune buggying. Whenever I’m somewhere like that, I always try to take a few extra days (if my schedule allows for it) so that I can take in the culture.
Where do you look when you’re in need of some inspiration or some motivation?
This is kind of a weird answer, but people ask me all the time who I looked up to growing up and I obviously looked up to other athletes and Olympians, but I think what inspires me the most is thinking about the person I want to be in 10 years. I want to be the best person I can be, and I know that everything I’m doing now is going towards that. I want to be known as someone who inspires and motivates people, and lets people know that they can do and be whatever they want. I want to spread as much happiness and love as possible; I’m all about LOVE! So yeah, if that makes sense, knowing that I am in charge of becoming the person I want to be, that’s what keeps me motivated and inspired.
As a successful young woman yourself, how important do you think it is to have female role models?
It’s extremely important, and the best part is that these days you can find role models everywhere because there are so many great women doing amazing things. This Nike campaign that I was just a part of is a perfect example: you have these three other amazing female influencers who are just as successful as me but in their own different fields and doing interesting things. I just love the movement that we are seeing with women being unafraid to showcase our power and let our voices be heard. It’s empowering for younger girls to know that they can be successful doing what they love.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t pole vaulting?
That’s very interesting to think about! I’m really interested in fashion; I love modeling. I also really love event planning and interior decorating, and learning about the different trends in different parts of the world and how they are influenced by the culture of that area. I think it would be so much fun to travel to a certain place, like Italy for instance, and design and decorate a home there based on the aesthetic of that place. My mom always told me growing up to never work for someone else, so I think no matter what I’d be an entrepreneur of some kind.
What advice do you have for other young women who dream of successfully making a career out of their passion and forging their own path as you have done?
I think a good place to start is changing the way you view failure, and realizing there’s no such thing. For instance, you might dream of being a runway model but if you don’t have the right look or the right body type for that, it doesn’t mean you weren’t meant to model. Maybe you were meant to do more commercials or ads instead. You were put on this earth for a reason, you just have to find it. I would say try out as many things as you can that interest you. And don’t do something you don’t want to do; if you’re not happy in that job then you have to make a change. Obviously, you have to make money to live, but if you're happy and living well and doing good, then you're going to be successful and the money is going to come. The first step is being true to yourself.