Meet the Student and GB Athlete: Brooke Ironside

19-year-old Brooke Ironside is balancing training as a Team GB athlete with studying on the BSc (Hons) Sport, Exercise and Health Science degree at AECC University College.  

Brooke is a Team GB 100m, 200m and long jump athlete. She was selected to compete for the U20 Team in May this year. She is the fastest female in her age category in the South of England and ranked third in her age category in the UK for 200metres and long jump.  

Earlier in the year, she competed for Team GB in Germany and came second in the 100metre sprint. She also competed as part of the GB relay team, coming second in the event.  

In 2018, at the age of 15, she started working with Phill Heritage on strength and conditioning in the Human Performance Laboratory to help develop and optimise her performance.  

Brooke tells us more about her ambitions:  

“My ultimate ambition is to get to the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028. I would compete in whichever event I could – whether it was sprinting or long jump.  

“I also want to be ranked number one for my disciplines in the UK.  

“The next event that I want to qualify for is the European Under 23 Championships next year, which is being held in Finland.” 

Strength and conditioning to optimise performance  

“I’ve been working with Phill Heritage at the Sports Performance Centre at AECC University College for the last few years on strength and conditioning. He created a programme for me to strengthen up and get more powerful.  

“We did muscle tests using the on-site Primus machine. The machine assesses your muscle capacity and you can use it to assess strengths and weaknesses. You can use it to improve strength and control through specific movements.  

“The strength and conditioning programme has been really helpful. It helps me to identify which areas I need to improve in: I can focus on specific muscles that are weaker on one side than the other, to get rid of any imbalances. Things like that can hold you back and you don’t know why until you understand more about exactly how you are moving.  

“For example, I’m working on my gluteus medius on my right side as that is currently creating a slight imbalance when I run. My right quad is also slightly weaker than my left quad, which I found out when I was using the Primus machine. Having this knowledge is great, because you then work to balance it out.  

“I can definitely notice a difference since working on these things and I find it really interesting.” 

Human Performance Services

Human Performance Services Lead, Phill Heritage, said: “We have really enjoyed working with Brooke to optimise her performance. We did some simple strength testing and wrote her a programme to improve her strength and power.

“We also did some leg strength, hamstring and quad strength assessments – as hamstrings are the most commonly injured muscles in sprinters. The ratio between a sprinter’s hamstrings tends to be an indicator of injury risk, so we look for any asymmetry. We also did some body composition analysis; looking at how much muscle she has.

“We’ll soon be looking to do some Physiology testing; some VO2 Max testing – which for sports scholars like Brooke we offer twice a year for free. This test indicates how much oxygen an athlete uses and how much lactate they produce during exercise.

“We’ll support her in the run up to her key milestone competitions and get her as prepared as we can. We want to be doing everything we can to help her meet her ambitions.”

Recovering from injury 

“The strength and conditioning programme is also really useful when I get injured. I strained my Achilles tendon last season which I then needed to work on rehabilitating. I worked with a Physiotherapist on that too. It’s great finding a Physiotherapist that you can trust; mine knows all my issues and which muscles get tight.” 

Commitment to training 

“I spend a lot of time training. I train with the boys at the moment, as the speeds they are running at suit me better.  

“I train twice a day, scheduling it in around my degree work. So today I had a lecture at 11am on campus, so I went to the gym from 9am to 10.30am. I do all my university work and then I train at 4.30pm down at the track with Bournemouth Athletics Club. The hours that I need to be on campus for my course are working really well with training.   

“I’m careful to look after my body too – I don’t drink and I follow a nutritional plan to optimise my training. 

“I’m taking it one competition at a time. I want to see how far I can go with it.” 


Above: Brooke Ironside