By Sharon Day-Monroe
Sharon-Day Monroe is a two-time, 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympian, in the High Jump and Heptathlon. And she made it all the way to Olympic trials in the pursuit of this year’s 2016 Rio Olympic games. We asked Sharon about her Olympic experience, and what it means to Go for Gold.
You’ve been to the Olympics twice. Of course, anyone competing at the Olympic level has spent most of their life in competitions, but does it feel different somehow at the Olympics, since it is such a historic global event?
The Olympics definitely do feel a lot different than any other competition. Even different than a world championship, which is also a global event where I would represent and compete for the United States. The Olympics is different in part because the entire world is watching. It is the one global sporting event that connects all people from all over the world. Everyone tunes in to the Olympics, even those who typically don't watch or follow sports. It has a way of bringing people together and promoting peace in our world like nothing else can. It is also such an incredible honor to represent my country on the biggest stage.
What does a typical day of training look like for you?
The Heptathlon consists of seven different events, which is a lot to cover and train for. On any given day I will practice two to three events. All practices begin with a big warm-up. Jogging a couple of laps around the track, then rolling out on my PVC roller and stretching, lots of active stretching, and some band work, sprint drills followed by strides.
A typical day would include beginning with a hurdle workout for the 100m hurdles. A hurdle specific warm-up adds in hurdle walk-overs to help open up the hips, and some hurdle drills, followed by starts over 1-2 hurdles. Then whatever the actual workout is, for example this could be 3x over 8 hurdles out of blocks, or 4x over 5 hurdles out of blocks.
Then I would move on to the second event, high jump. I would start with some short approach pop ups into the pit, then jump over a bungee usually, but sometimes an actual crossbar, anywhere from 8-15 jumps working on technique and timing. Then finish with full approaches.
After high jump I would throw shot put. Working with the 4k shot, I start with overhead back tosses and forward squat tosses as a warm-up, just a couple of each. Then stand throws, anywhere from 5-10 followed by A-frame drills - 5 or so of those - then full glide throws, another 5-10 of those. With most of the field events, the repetition really depends on how things are going on that particular day. If it's going really well then less is more. If it's not going well, then I try to work through and fix what I'm not doing right and may end up taking more attempts. In addition to training on the track I also lift weights 2-3 times a week depending on what time of year/season it is. On harder days I always finish with an ice bath. After practice I might also have physical therapy, a chiropractor appointment, acupuncture, or massage (but not all in the same day).
What do you eat throughout the day? Before & after your workout?
I almost always start my day with a smoothie! I have a Ninja blender with an individual blending cup so it's incredibly convenient. Usually a fruit smoothie and I add some greens and seeds to it, along with one of my many Designer Protein products. Lately I've been using the Aria women's wellness protein. The vanilla blends really well with almost any flavor, so it is easy to use in lots of different smoothie recipes. (Check out Designer Protein's Olympics campaign, Fuel Like a Champion.)
We usually practice right around lunch time so I don't always eat a "normal" lunch, I'm typically snacking throughout practice. Some of the snacks I eat include: trail mix, nuts, mini peppers with hummus, beef jerky, fruit bars, picky bars, peanut butter filled pretzels. If I had chicken or steak the night before, I sometimes cut that up and put it in a small green salad and bring that along to practice as well. After practice I usually have another smoothie or a protein shake. On days that I lift, I blend Designer Protein Organic Pro 30 with water in my shaker bottle and drink it as I'm leaving the track or the gym. Chocolate is my favorite! Sometimes I will blend up a frozen banana with peanut butter, almond milk, and the chocolate Pro 30 and pack it in a hydroflask so it stays nice and cold and I get a nice little after practice protein packed treat!
For dinner I try to keep things as simple as possible, I usually end up making a large salad with additional roasted veggies on the side, like asparagus or cauliflower. Then I add a meat protein, like chicken breast, a steak, or fish. This season I've been trying to cut down on carbs a lot more and it has been helping me stay at my target competition weight. So I don't eat as much bread (and I LOVE bread). I used to eat a lot of potatoes and rice and pasta with dinner and even would have a roll or two with dinner, but I’ve cut most of that out. For example if I do have a sandwich at lunch, it's only with one slice of bread. And if I make burgers or tacos, I do a lettuce wrap instead of buns or tortillas. I haven't cut out all carbs (that's impossible), but I am much more mindful of empty carbs and try to choose foods that are whole grain/whole wheat in a limited quantity.
How important is what you eat to your success?
Food is fuel, and as an athlete what I put in my body is an integral part of my success. Especially for an event like the heptathlon competitions and training, which are long periods of stop and go but somewhat sustained activity. Finding the right snacks is key.
I think that it's not only about what you eat but also when you eat, as well. It's not only important to eat the right foods that will give me the energy to perform well, but the timing of when I eat might be more important, especially for competition. Before competition I usually have a pretty big breakfast about 2.5 to 3 hours before it starts. I want to feel like it will sustain me with energy at least until my second event. But I don't want to feel it in my stomach or feel at all full by the time I start warming up. Then throughout the competition I am constantly snacking to maintain energy, but nothing too heavy because I am still active. It's been a lot of trial and error over the years to find out what works best for me. And it's not only food, fluids are important as well. Staying hydrated with water and electrolytes are just as important as food.
Do you meditate? Or how do you make sure that you stay focused and in the right headspace?
I do not formally meditate, although this season I did try a few instructor guided meditation classes but found it was not for me. I prefer to relax and focus in my own personal space. I also get acupuncture treatments, and that time is the perfect opportunity to meditate a little and do visualizations. I think with any career, whether you are a professional athlete like me or you spend 40+ hours in an office space every week, everyone has to have a work-life balance. I have hobbies and things that I do outside of training that keep me balanced. Crafting and working on DIY projects are some of my hobbies, which are a great way for me to channel some of my creative energy. I am also currently working on my MBA online in Hospitality Management, a great outlet from training by having something else to focus on that has nothing to do with Track.
I also think everyone needs a good support system around them, their team so-to-speak, who supports and encourages them and is on board with what they are trying to accomplish. I'm lucky that I have a husband and family who fully support what I do as an athlete, and understand the sacrifices we all have to make for me to be successful. My faith is also important to me, and that is something that helps me feel balanced and connected.
How do you let loose when you are working so hard every day?
Training as a heptathlete has me up and around on my feet a lot. So when I'm not training, I like to relax and stay off my feet as much as possible. One of my favorite things to do is craft and create DIY projects. I make a lot of greeting cards and build things for around my house or as gifts for friends and family. I recently made lawn dice, which are extra large wooden dice with the numbers burned into them. I also recently made a clock wrapped in leather that turned out really cool. I burned a large scale map of the world onto some wood planks for my living room wall. Right now I'm working on an oversized acrylic calendar for my sister. I like making things, my husband got me a nail gun for my birthday recently, and it's one of the best presents I've ever received!
Any advice for someone looking to take their athletic training to the next level?
I would tell them not to forget about the recovery portion of their workout. It will help keep them healthy and help prevent injury. Simply warming down and stretching and/or rolling out after a workout can help cut down on soreness, and make it easier to get up and do it again the next day. It can also make a big difference in their longevity in a particular sport or activity.
Sharon Day-Monroe has been an athlete virtually her entire life. She’s tried almost every sport at one time or another throughout her life, until she finally settled on soccer and track and field. Sharon attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on a soccer and track and field scholarship, and received her BS in Kinesiology there in 2008. Sharon was an all-conference soccer player for 4 years. In track and field, she was a seven time All-America and NCAA national champion in the High Jump in 2005. After graduating, she transitioned her event to the Heptathlon and has had a professional career as a High Jumper and Heptathlete since, participating in the Olympics in 2008 and 2012!
Sharon has been the #1 ranked Heptathlete in the US for the past five years. In 2014, she set the American record for the indoor pentathlon and became the winningest multi-event champion in US history with 4 consecutive indoor titles and 3 outdoor titles. In the fall of 2015, she was inducted into the Cal Poly Athletics Hall of Fame as one of the youngest inductees in school history. In her free time, Sharon loves hanging with her husband and family and enjoying the outdoors in San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles. She also loves to work on DIY projects or do anything that involves crafting and creating!