Please let me introduce you to a down to earth, funny yet witty, hard working and incredibly talented Great British Olympic Gymnast Lisa Mason. Lisa Mason needs no introduction, for she has been dominating the Gymnastics scene for as long as I can remember. She announced her comeback into the sport in January 2013 after retiring in 2000 and has since competed in numerous competitions in a bid to get back fit to give herself a chance to compete in the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow next year.
Lisa took the time out her very demanding and busy training schedule to talk to me about all things Gymnastics *past and present* her current training regime and her future plans.
I began the interview by addressing Lisa’s early life and career.
You began your journey as a Gymnast from the early age of five training at the Huntingdon Gymnastics Club. What were your earliest memories there?
I was put into gymnastics by my mother at age 5 because I was always up to mischief with my 3 brothers so she wanted to channel my energy lol.
I moved to Huntingdon at age 10 as the gyms I had previously attended had burnt me out and I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to continue in gymnastics.
I was very rebellious as a child so one of my earliest memories at Huntingdon was me refusing to warm up one day so my coach chased me around the gym until I did lol. We really did have some mad times.
Has gymnastics always come naturally to you as it is now?
Oh definitely….I always had a natural knack for it, I don’t think I would have ever been able to return after 13 years if it didn’t come naturally, but with any sport natural talent only takes you so far. People see the finished product when you’re out there competing but what they might not recognise is alot of blood, sweat and tears goes into it!
Briefly describe the first competition you competed in, outlining the routine you had to perform and where you came in the competition?
My 1st competition was aged 5 years and I won! As you can imagine, my routines were very basic at that age. I think I did a forward roll and a cartwheel on the beam and finished with a squat jump off the vault.
You won your first title aged just 14, which is worth noting you were the youngest ever gymnast to win the senior title!
How would you describe the pressure of being so young competing with individuals much older and experienced than you, did it ever phase you?
I wouldn’t say it phased me because from age 11 I was put on a tracking system/development squad for G.B and my skills were always a lot more advanced for my age group. As a junior gymnast, I was always training with the senior squad girls. I knew my competition very well so competing against them wasn’t intimidating at all.
The fact that I was the youngest ever senior British champion I guess didn’t really matter to me at the time because I was always thinking “Ok, so what’s next”
*I then proceeded to acknowledge Lisa’s long list of achievements in her Gymnastics career*
You went on to dominate your sport, picking up a lot of ‘first titles’ to add to your list of achievements.
Examples of but not limited to winning the Senior British Champion for three years in row, being the ‘first’ British Gymnast to win Gold at a Grand Prix, the ‘first’ Brit to makes the finals in both European and World Championships and most significantly, being the ‘first’ British Gymnast at the World Championships to earn the highest ever placing in the All Round Category which in turn, greatly contributed to Great Britain sending a full team to the Olympic Games.
With that said, there is no question you have a natural hunger to succeed and are full of resilience to not let anything get in your way, especially after overcoming a nasty fall in 1995 causing you to break your arm and have 12 bolts inserted.
How do you stay so motivated to continue pushing your boundaries to the next level?
It’s haaard!! But nothing worth doing is ever easy right? At the moment I’m loving being back in the gym. My mind set is completely different, I’m in the gym because I want to be!
I am still no where near 100% fit and I still have a LONG way to go if I’m going to be in with a chance to qualify for the commonwealth games next year.
Let’s talk training (My fav part)
It’s not often we get to hear first hand an Olympic Gymnast give an insight into their fitness routine. Talk us through a typical training session in the build up to a major competition…
Do you solely focus on gymnastics training or does your coach incorporate other training techniques and methods from different sports to get you competition ready?
My training is a lot different from regular gymnasts. I’m 31 and have to look after and maintain my body a lot more. KT tape is my best friend and greatly helps in aiding me with this.
Training and preparing myself this time around I think a lot more about it. I’m more educated about my body and know what it needs and most importantly what it can deal with.
I’m the only female gymnast I know that takes protein shakes lol and to be fair Pro Athlete Supplements sent me some of their shakes and I love them! They really have helped me massively with my training.
When getting ready for competition most of it is gymnastic training that involves conditioning and stretching but I do like to go for a few 20 minute runs a week to make me feel sharper. I am a fan of good old fashioned free weights but coming up to competition, I wouldn’t do so much of the free weight exercises.
As a retired Gymnast you became a Gymnastics Coach, Choreographer, a Sports Model and Stunt Double. What lead to the amazing decision to embark on a comeback in Gymnastics aged 31 and after a 12 year absence from the sport?
I was asked to take part in a show at the London Olympics by Aisha McKenzie, an ex GB rhythmic gymnast who is now a fantastic world class choreographer! When the opportunity came I jumped at the chance and getting back into the gym again, whilst performing in front of an arena again was such a buzz that I couldn’t shake it off. I sat down and spoke to a few close friends and my mum and decided to give it one last go.
There is no failure in trying and if my body holds out great if it doesn’t then I have had a blast trying.
After announcing your official come back , you underwent five months of intense training where you took part in your first competition back in March claiming ‘English Vault Champion’ and were placed 4th in the National British Championships towards the end of April 2013.
What competitions do you see yourself entering next?
As much as it was great winning the English and finishing 4th in the British, I was nowhere near ready to do any kind of real damage.
Theses next few months are for me to get to grips with the new code of points (Rules and pointing system used in gymnastics to create routines) to step up my work load as I am now officially doing all four apparatus as opposed to the two I was originally going to do.
I am currently working on getting fitter and stronger and am putting some new routines together to see if at the end of the year, I can hopefully be of some competition for these youngsters lol.
What is the hardest part about being a professional athlete?
Finding someone who gets what I do, that understands my training it’s not just a hobby. When you have a bad session and you are hurting, knowing that you can’t just quit… for me that’s hard!!!
I have also educated my friends now and they know if I’m preparing for a competition, its healthy eating and no alcohol so for my birthday my 3 girlfriends cooked me a healthy dinner.
But the normal “ahh we are going out do you want to come?” and I’m all “Sorry girls got training in the morning”…..Normal everyday things I guess.
On this occasion, I thought I’d conclude the interview by asking Lisa three questions *Gymnastics aside* in a bid to provide her fans and readers of this article a snapshot of what she is like away from the public eye…
Describe yourself in three words
Fiery, Loyal and Loving
What is your favourite pastime?
Spa days and shopping.
Sweet or Savoury? (Elaborate)
Savoury all the way…I love cooking!!! The possibilities are endless with savoury dishes as there’s so much more excitement involved.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Sounds bad but I love me some KFC hot wings!!
There is no denying that this young woman has got the strength, determination and desire to succeed in her quest to qualify for the commonwealth games next year after 13 years out of the game.
It’s even harder to believe she has only been training seriously for six months and know she definitely has more to give. I personally cannot wait to see Lisa’s journey unfold and look forward to watching her blossom over the next coming months please god!
If you too want to keep up-to-date with Lisa’s progress, ensure to follow her on the social networking site Twitter under username @lisamason1982 , where she tweets a bunch of great inspirational messages as well training updates.
Throughout this article, Lisa has demonstrated that ‘age is nothing but a number’ when it concerns striving for optimal fitness. If you tell yourself you can achieve, there really is no limits!