This past Sunday, I went to my friend’s pole vault facility for a little solo practice.
Back in December 2019, I reached a personal record (PR) when I jumped 8-6 at a competition in Navasota, Texas. Then, in 2020, COVID came along and sort of shut things down for a while. I still got in some practice now and then, but the highest I jumped that year was 8-0. Same thing in 2021.
I was on a roll in 2018 and 2019, practicing regularly, getting professional coaching and help from more experienced friends, making steady progress. During COVID, I started working out on my own a lot more and the progress stopped. I even regressed a little, I think, developing some bad new habits in my technique.
This year, I took a couple months off to clear my head — and work on that new positive morning routine I’ve mentioned — and then I decided to go back to basics with my vaulting.
Before I got involved with pole vault, I’d seen it on TV and I always thought those guys ran, stuck the pole in the ground, and pulled on it. The pole bent and sort of flung them up in the air.
Turns out, such is not the case.
Instead of pulling on the pole, what you do — if you do it correctly — is stick the end of the pole in the ground (a metal box), jump and push the pole, keeping your arms locked and straight and solid. It’s momentum and your bodyweight and physics that causes the pole to bend and catapult you into the air. If you pull on the pole, it stops moving forward and all that momentum and power you build up running down the runway stops.
That’s one of the bad habits I had gotten into. Pulling on the pole. Run, plant the pole, jump, and try to pull myself up higher into the air. What happens is, the arms collapse, the pole comes back into your body, and any power you generated is gone.
Doesn’t work so good.
So beginning in March, I started practicing once a week on nothing but what they call “keeping pressure on the pole.” Keeping the arms locked and extended.
It took a while, but yesterday, I finally got it right.
It was so cool.
After six or eight little jumps from a two-stride run, I finally made one with my arms locked out like they’re supposed to be. Yes!
I went again and … crap.
Not right. Try it again.
Third attempt … bam!
After that, every jump I was able to keep my arms extended and keep pressure on the pole. Nice, clean jumps, straight lines, landing well back into the pit.
I left practice with a big ol’ smile on my face.
Honestly, I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get it right.
Moral of the story?
Never give up!