- Kelly Sotherton's Olympic column
'I am still living the dream'Kelly Sotherton March 25, 2011
Spring has finally arrived and my focus now turns to the outdoor season, having won a silver medal in the 4x400m relay at the European Indoors in Paris. It was my first championship since Beijing in 2008 so it was a big moment for me.
I was a bit disappointed with my own performance but the team did really well to win a silver - we were probably ranked third or fourth there so to get a silver was a really superb effort from my team-mates Jenny Meadows, Marilyn Okoro and Lee McConnell.
After Paris I had a couple of days off but then I was straight back into training in Birmingham to prepare for the summer ahead. In a few weeks' time I will be heading to Font-Romeu in the Pyrenees for high altitude training.
As this is my first season as a 400m runner I will be doing things a little differently to most of my rivals but we are taking a long-term approach into 2012 and we will not be rushing into anything. So at the moment I am just plodding along trying to avoid injury and trying to keep improving week on week.
As a heptathlete having seven different events to train for keeps things varied both mentally and physically. It is impossible to get bored as you are always changing focus and if one thing isn't going so well you can always go away and work on another discipline for a while. But the 400m is all about running 400m, but it is important to keep my training as varied as possible to keep me stimulated.
We try to keep it simple but I do a lot of cross-training such as working on the bike and the cross-trainer and a fantastic piece of equipment called the Alter-G, an anti-gravity treadmill which is great for avoiding injury. I also use a hypoxic chamber which simulates altitude with low oxygen levels which helps increase performance.
I think my training sessions are slightly unconventional but it keeps me interested and I find it a real challenge but it is all done with one eye on 2012 so we can go into next year and really hit it hard.
I have now got to grips with just running, although I would much prefer to be out throwing a shot or doing the high jump as well. But it is not to be and I have accepted that now and I have just got to get on with it and run as well as I can.
Being successful in athletics is about making sure you peak at the right times. At the beginning of the season you have to look at your plans for the year and work out when you want to be running your fastest and plan your training around that those events. Having sat down with my team we have decided that the most important event for me this year is the trials for the World Championships in Daegu.
Trials never used to be important for me, but in my new event I will have to qualify for the first time to make the team, so I need to be at my peak in July. And the way I will have to taper into the event will change as well. If I was doing the heptathlon I would really slow things in order to be fully refreshed before a big event but with the 400m I will wind things back a bit but need to make sure I am still running well.
Although most of the real hard graft takes place before the season starts it is important to keep working hard throughout the season between competitions otherwise you will peak too early. It sounds quite complicated but it is just a case of making sure you are at your physical peak for the big competitions and work backwards from there.
I don't really have any short-term goals at the moment - my only priority is getting through each week fit and healthy. Every week I get to Sunday and breathe a big sigh of relief. At the moment being able to get through each week's training without a setback is everything, and that is probably not most athletes' priority. Training has been going remarkably well - and each week I am growing in confidence.
Having had so many injury problems throughout my career, I would not be where I am today if it were not for the funding. Through the Team 2012 fundraising initiative, presented by Visa, I have benefited hugely from the medical side of things, especially over the last couple of years when I have been able to go to have a scan at private hospital and get the results quickly. It enables me to see physios and doctors when I need to.
No athlete is 100 per cent healthy and so for everyone the medical support is the most important thing - there is no way I could have won as many medals if I hadn't had that support. There are a lot of talented athletes out there but most have not been as lucky as I have been. I think I am part of the 0.1% who have fulfilled their dreams, and I am still living the dream.
I believe that if you are successful in one thing you can transfer that into another area. I can be successful in the 400m and as long as I can stay healthy I know I will be a world class athlete and hopefully be in contention for a medal in the relay at London 2012. My path to London may have changed but I am still chasing the same dream.
Kelly Sotherton is a GB Olympic medalist