Job title Athletics
Employer Mintridge Foundation
Iona took up athletics when she was 11 years old, she soon realised she was not built for many other events but endurance she could do. But it wasn’t until she was 15 when she began to train properly and dedicate more time to the sport.
She enjoyed athletics as a hobby and trained 2 times a week with her sister and friends. When she was 15 she began to increase her training to 3 or 4 times a week as she began to take it a little more seriously (but still making sure enjoyment was the main goal). When she was 19 Iona was selected for GB juniors and realised running could be more of a long-term career.
After graduating from the University of Birmingham she secured a scholarship to study in the USA and this allowed her to train as a professional athlete. A year later she was selected for her first Senior team at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and finished 8th. Iona is now looking forward to the season ahead and has her eyes set firmly on Tokyo Olympics.
Here Iona discusses how to get into athletics, her career and advice for young sports athletes aiming for a career in sport.
What does it take to forge a professional career in sport?
A lot of patience, consistency and love for what you do. It goes without saying it is hard work, but I think the main struggles for me have been funding the lifestyle, and balancing family and social with the demands of elite sport. Getting yourself in the right environment and learning how to balance these is very important.
Your advice to young people on how to achieve success…
Motivation: Mix up your training! I like to sometimes run on my own, in a group or with one friend. Sometimes I do speed work, strength and endurance. Not making my routine the same is vital for my motivation.
Confidence: Understand how the body works and realise that we are all very similar. It is true some people have natural abilities in different sports but once you get to the level of considering going professional then it is usually no longer the physical element but the mental. If you are getting consistency, patience and enjoyment from your training then all that is needed is self-belief. This often only comes once you have had that competition or session where everything went right. It is something that develops over time once your fitness/ability also does.
Fitness: Fitness comes with consistency in training. Don’t over think it. If someone is fitter than you, usually it’s because they have managed to get that consistency. This is why getting your training environment right and spending time of injury prevention strategies is so important.
Nutrition: My advice on this is again, don’t overthink it. Make sure you are getting lots of fruit and veg, water and then ensuring you have enough carbs and protein for recovery. The goodness is in the veg!
Advice for Young Athletes Attending a Trial…
Believe in all the training you have done leading into it. You have got to do what you have done many times before just in a different environment. Learning to deal with the demands of that new environment are not easy and the more you do it the more comfortable and normal it will become. For me, learning breathing techniques to keep calm and focused help when I am in environments out of my comfort zone.
Best advice you were given?
‘I’ve read the book – and it’s a good ending.’ My coach always says this. It reminds me not to worry about the little things and if things don’t go to plan .. don’t dwell on it, is all part of life!
Iona Lake is an Ambassador for The Mintridge Foundation a registered charity dedicated to enhancing life skills in young people through sport. They provide a support network for young people by harnessing the power of positive sporting role models. For more information on how they can support your sports programme visit their website.
More advice on how to become a professional sports athlete…
Football – Fil Kamps
Gymnastics – Grace Harrison
Judo – Nekoda Davis
Hockey – Shona McCallin MBE
Wheelchair Basketball – Jordan Jarrett Bryan
Cricket – Patrick Foster
Trap Shooting – Georgina Roberts
Archery – Danielle Brown MBE
Climbing – Molly Thompson-Smith
Basketball – Marko Backovic
Sailing – Hannah Diamond