Dina Asher-Smith: Britain’s fastest woman
Last year, in July 2015, Dina Asher-Smith became the first British woman to run 100m in less than 11 seconds. Then, at the tender age of 19, her time of 10.99 seconds toppled a record that had stood for 35 years! Since then, she has also racked up victories and smashed records over 200m at the world Athletics Championships and, most recently, the European Championships in July, where she won her first senior title. As athletics takes to the stage at the Olympic Games in Rio, healthy caught up with Dina before she pulls on her running spikes, to find out what drives this young powerhouse.
Q How did you get started in athletics?
My primary school [Perry Hall in Orpington, London] entered me for my borough’s cross country championships – and I won. From there, I joined my local athletics club, Blackheath and Bromley, and I just kept coming back.
Q What do you love most about it?
I love the fact that it’s personal. When you line up you’re racing eight other girls, but ultimately you’re running against the clock, trying to beat your previous fastest time.
Q What advice would you give to young women looking to get started?
Just go out there and try it! It’s the easiest sport to get involved in; you can just jog down the road or around the park – and if you like it, find your local Parkrun or track.
Q How do you deal with not performing your best?
You have to stay mentally strong, and keep believing in yourself. Even though we strive to be the best we can be every day sometimes you’re bound to underperform. As long as you remember all the hard work you’ve put in then staying positive isn’t hard.
Q How are you coping with all the attention that comes with being Britain’s fastest woman?
It’s cool! But it can also be temporary, so I really don’t think about it too much. There are loads of fast girls right now, any of whom could take my place, so I don’t get caught up with that title. I just focus on trying to run personal bests.
Q How are you feeling about competing in Rio?
I am super excited! I have always dreamt of becoming an Olympian and now it can come true. It is going to be so much fun.
Q You’re studying for a degree in history at King’s College London. How do find combining uni with the demands of training?
It is demanding, but overall I enjoy it. Both sides of my life require a lot of attention and dedication but I feel that they complement each other well. If I’m stuck with an essay I can just go and do my track session and forget about it and vice versa. At times, they provide a welcome break from each other.
Q What’s your most important bit of training equipment and how do you train with it?
Without a doubt, a combination of the Technogym’s Skillmill, and power lifting platforms. The Skillmill allows me to practise holding good running positions and also enables me to improve the drive phase of my stride, both of which are vital in a 200m. And power lifting gives me the strength needed to build my speed.
Q What music do you train to?
Usually something upbeat, to mimic a quick, running rhythm. Genres are typically rap or pop, but nothing with intense lyrics so I don’t get bogged down and sad, but simple, happy, bouncy music.
Q Take us through a typical day?
When Uni is on, I will wake up, go to a 9am lecture, then go to class later in the day or spend a few hours in the library typically, returning home for about 4pm. Then I sleep, eat and get ready for the session, train 7.30 until 9pm and then come home and get ready for the next day.
Q What’s going into your shopping trolley on a typical week?
A lot of salad and protein, which can come in the form of meats and fish, obviously! This time of year having a low body-fat percentage is vital, so I’m building towards that while also making sure my muscles have plenty of fuel to grow.
Q How healthy is your day-to-day diet? Do you have to watch what you eat carefully?
Definitely. My day-to-day diet is healthy. I’m lucky that I like vegetables because I eat an awful lot of them.
Q What’s your guilty pleasure food-wise?
I love lasagne and cakes. I don’t eat them often at all, but they’re things that I commonly crave.
Q What’s your greatest fear?
Funnily enough I’m not really scared of anything… Nothing freaks me out to the point of being a fear.
Q Who’s your sporting hero?
Christine Ohuruogu. She is such a successful athlete: Olympic and double world champ, and such a lovely lady, too! She’s really humble and down-to-earth, and genuinely interested in giving something back, especially to her home borough of Newham, London.
Q What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given, and by whom?
That you have to work hard to be successful. My mum instilled this in me from a young age, and I’ve abided by it ever since.
Q What keeps you motivated and what tips can you give to healthy readers to help them stick to their exercise goals?
I just think about how disappointed I’ll be if I don’t perform to, what I believe to be, the best of my ability… that’s enough to keep me going! Luckily, I don’t get those days very often, but even so it’s quite easy to motivate myself. I have hilarious training partners who make sessions 1000 per cent easier, and I always think that in the future I’ll be grateful for the work I’ve done today.
Q Are you creature of habit? If, so, do you how do you maintain them?
Not really, I am pretty relaxed and free flowing. I tend to do what I feel like when I need to but, of course, when it comes to athletics and training I switch to being regimented and making sure that everything gets done precisely and to the best of my ability.
On the starting line
Dina’s likes and dislikes in less than 10.99 seconds…
Sand or snow? Sand
Cinema or box set? Box set
Coconut oil or olive oil? Olive oil
Lip balm or lipstick? Lipstick
Manicure or pedicure? Manicure
Chocolate or chips? Chips
Green tea or builder’s tea? Green tea
Couscous or quinoa? Quinoa
Pilates or yoga? Pilates
Spinning or swimming? Swimming
Morning lark or night owl? Night owl
Dina Asher-Smith starts her Rio Olympic Games campaign in the 200m sprint today. Has Dina inspired you to start running? Let us know by tweeting us @healthymag