On International Women’s day, at our Bishopsgate DW Female First event, we were lucky enough to chat to Team GB athlete Perri Shakes-Drayton about her current training, her most inspiring mentors and any advice she has for women looking to get into running.
Interviewer: How’s your current training going?
Perri: It’s going well, I’ve made a few changes to my training and I’m currently in between the UK and Florida.
Florida is a lot different – for a start, the weather. I’ve always trained in the UK and I just wanted a change. I’d been with my coach for around 15 years but I wanted to try something else - so far so good.
Interviewer: So how much time do you spend in Florida vs UK?
Perri: It’s around 6 weeks in Florida and a month in the UK. I’m trying to avoid the cold, but that’s what made me – I’m used to training in the snow, rain, whatever, but now I felt it was time for some heat. It’s good for the skin, the mood and motivates you to want to go training.
Interviewer: What’s your normal weekly routine?
Perri: I’ll train 4 to 5 times a week.
Monday – Gym (legs) & Running Session
Tuesday – Gym (upper body) & Running Session
Wednesday – Rest Day / Stretching / Yoga
Thursday – Gym & Running Session
Friday – Hill Session
Interviewer: Going back to when you first started as a young girl or young woman, getting into running, how did it come about?
Perri: It was from primary school. My teacher would put me into cross country, so I started off as a distance runner. It wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed but I seemed to be good at it. I’m not saying I won all my races, but the feeling of achieving and accomplishing something, that’s what I liked doing.
My teacher encouraged me to go and join a club so I joined Mile End and that’s where I met my coach. We started doing distance running but then kind of went down and started doing 1500m, 800m. I still wasn’t finding what I was good at, so I tried a few field events and then found I had a bit of speed, so started doing 300m hurdles then I ended up becoming a 400m hurdler.
Interviewer: And this was all whilst you were at primary school?
Perri: I was 11 years old when I joined the club and was becoming a lot more advanced than the girls at school because I was actually learning and dedicating a lot of time to the skill of running
Interviewer: Did you find at this time, there was a mixture of boys and girls involved?
Perri: No, it really wasn’t popular. Doing sports when I was young wasn’t cool, wasn’t popular to the point where I used to be embarrassed to be seen in training clothes – it wasn’t cool. I would try and wear cool trainers but the coach would tell me “You can’t wear them to run, you need to get proper equipment and proper footwear”. I remember when I got given my first pair of decent trainers to run in and a pair of spikes. Athletics isn’t the most expensive sport to participate in but that’s where sponsorships and grants really helped me get to where I wanted to be.
Interviewer: What kind of advice would you give girls or young women if they were starting out in the sport or interested in taking it up?
Perri: Be prepared to make sacrifices, do it because you want to do it and if you enjoy it and you work hard, good will come! Because I wasn’t the most talented, there were girls faster than me but it was something that I enjoyed doing and liked putting the hard work into it. Like anything you do in life, if you put the hard work into it you will achieve big things.
Interviewer: Would you say that the talent is important but the dedication and hard work are the key ingredients?
Perri: Yes, you can’t just rely on talent you have to work hard for it. Some people don’t and they get complacent. That’s the one piece of advice my mum always used to give to me is not to become complacent.
Interviewer: Were there any obstacles as a young woman in the sport?
Perri: No, there was nothing really, the guys were always really encouraging in terms of doing sport. My obstacles were injury, that’s one thing that I always talk about religiously. I have been unfortunate to get injured when I felt I was at my peak. It’s all about looking after your body and listening to your body – when you’re pushing yourself to limits you need to be mindful.
Interviewer: Are there any female mentors or idols that inspired you?
Perri: Christine Ohuruogu – she was an Olympic champion, she was from my area, she trained at the same track – she was an inspiration to me. A lot of female athletes inspire me, even in life after athletics as well. Fitness is a big think now, like I said when I was young it wasn’t cool but now it’s evolved and the fact that you can wear your lycras and trainers now and be cool – this never used to be the case.
Interviewer: If you had to suggest 3 top tips to stay motivated when training, what would they be?
Perri: 1. Find a decent playlist – music can change your mood. 2. Set goals – whether you make them public or write them down, remind yourself why you are doing it. 3. You want to look good! You do right? Look after your body, eat well, workout and it will pay off.
Interviewer: On that point, how does your diet change when you’re training or not training?
Perri: When I’m training I notice that my appetite is a lot bigger, I’m always hungry! I have to fuel my muscles, I’m an active person, my metabolism is fast and I need to fuel that. As a balanced diet I tend to stick to chicken and fish for meat. I’m not a fan of vegetables but I eat them because I know they benefit me.
Interviewer: Any favourite pieces of kit you like to run in?
Perri: Yes! Love lycra, love a funky pair of leggings, a crop top and a vest. Then a hoodie to keep me warm afterwards. When I’m wearing a matching set, it makes me feel good. I do like it, it’s my uniform and Nike do a really good job.
Interview: And colour-wise?
Perri: I love bright colours, it helps my mood!
Interview: What are your goals for this year?
Perri: We have the world championships in Doha in September so will be aiming towards that. We have our trials in August so really just looking to stay healthy and represent my country again!
Interview: What advice would you give to women looking to get into running more as a hobby?
Perri: I’d say find a friend or a group you can run with, that definitely makes a difference. Doing it with someone can really help you. Early morning is a great start; a great tip is to pack your bag or lay out your clothes the night before so that you’re ready to go.
If you’ve been inspired by Perri’s journey and would like to start running, we’ve picked out the best kit all beginner’s need to get started. If you’re a seasoned runner and you’re looking for some new gear, we’ve got all the best products for you here.