What it takes to be the best YOU! – Lucy Phillips
6th Jul 2016
I can’t really remember the exact date that I met Lucy, it was probably towards the end of 2015, I know I was working a late shift at the gym and I’m pretty sure she was doing some stretching, possibly some handstands. My job at that time was to tidy up and maintain positive member experiences; in other words, talk to people…
How awesome is that right!? Lucy had told me to check out videos of her on YouTube, I was seriously impressed. Vaulting makes the calisthenics stars of today look like they just aren’t trying hard enough. Who needs a static bar to do a handstand on when you have a moving horse?
A few weeks ago I managed to catch up with Lucy at the gym and she told me that she is now ranked No.1 in the world for Vaulting. I remember saying to myself at that point, ‘there is a great story here, I need to know more.’ And so this post began…
In speaking to Lucy and reading up on Vaulting I realised one major thing, I do not know very much about horses or vaulting. Sure, I have written pieces about weight-loss and golf before, but it has always been something tangible that I have experience with. So with that in mind I thought I would break it down for you into some simple facts about vaulting and Lucy to gather some context.
- Vaulting is gymnastics on a moving horse
- It is an extremely demanding and satisfying sport
- It has a really large following in Europe
- Lucy has been doing gymnastics since the age of 5 and at age 7 started to Vault
- Lucy was selected to compete for Team GBR when she was 11
- She has represented Team GBR at every Championship since 2002 either in team or as an individual (she was individual reserve in 2006)
- Lucy now has a team that help her compete as an individual, her parents Bill and Liz are a massive part of her success
- The preparation that goes into a 1-minute set is huge, I mean like massive!
- Lucy completed a scholarship program at the University of Birmingham where she studied sport science; this helped her in pursuing her dream, as she could train and compete around her studies.
- She also completed an MSC in strength and conditioning at Coventry University (also on scholarship)
- Lucy now works for the British Equestrian Federation and is helping the logistics team prepare for the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio this year
- Lucy’s sport is ‘non-funded’ and she is therefore immensely thankful for the support she receives from her family
So… Lucy is now ranked No. 1 in the world for Vaulting which is amazing! To anyone who has just met her it might seem like a flawless step into success however she has had to make huge decisions and commitments to be the best version of herself. At one stage she was travelling with her parents 6 hours up to Scotland and 6 hours down again each weekend to be eligible to compete, whilst juggling her GCSEs. She even still maintained her positive and light hearted nature when telling me that. Not to mention the health impacts of what she does; a fall in her sport could be the end of her career. One injury nearly blinded her when her horse’s mane whipped up and cut her cornea.
Then there is the preparation work that goes into a show, getting the horses from the UK across to Europe, making sure all the routines are planned which means being in in peak physical condition to compete. The mind plays a huge role, but so does technique, margins in the sport are very small and the slightest imperfection can have big repercussions. I think the thing that amazes me the most is that Lucy starts learning from the ground up, how to move on the floor, then on a barrel (pictured below), only when the moves are perfect on a barrel can they be taken over to the horse. Some moves that Lucy is learning now might not even feature in her routine for another year, simply because of the time it takes to get it right.
In talking with Lucy I got the sense that she was truly in a rhythm, a child at heart in many ways; but also someone who knows how to get the best out of her training. She has developed confidence and maturity through trial and error. Her mentor, Louise Hazel helped in-still balance in her life, she helped Lucy plan her weeks every Sunday night, a habit that has stuck with her and helped her reach for her dreams. She draws inspiration from Bill Beswick, a sports psychologist, and she quoted him straight away when talking about her sport, “To be the best you have to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”
It is not until the last few years that Lucy has really reached her true potential; for a long time she wanted her mother, Liz, to Lunge for her (lunging the horse is 25% of the process, a lunger controls the pace of the horse in canter.) Liz has had to overcome her own fears in order to help Lucy along her path. For a long time, Liz was too scared to fail her family. It took a loss in the family for Liz to realise that the best thing she could do is face her fears, take the reins (pun intended) and help lead Lucy to become best version of herself.
“You can be in the best shape physically, but on the day and in that environment if you bottle it, then it’s over.”
Patience, determination and strong character are all the things that stand out when you talk to someone striving to be the best, and Lucy is no exception to that rule. I have always believed that it is not how you handle the smooth seas that determines how good you are as a sailor, rather what happens when the waves become bigger.
Lucy has been through the training, the early mornings, the mental preparation, managing a full time job, the long days, the travel, and injuries. She has battled mentally and physically to compete, she has had set backs and faced people who find her physique intimidating. She has spent 20 years pursuing her passion and now trains in strength and conditioning 3 times a week, with sprint work mixed in for good measure. She vaults on her horse, Pitucelli, 3 times a week for 1.5 hours at a time. There is stretching, yoga and even a vaulting barrel at home that all add to Lucy’s routine, this, as well as the team and family that surround her with determination and positive energy are what go into making a world No.1.
I’m sure that there have been times when she has felt like giving up. I know from my own journey in fitness that there are days when all you want to do is lie in bed and watch TV with a big bowl of junk food. The truth is that no matter what you do you will always have to face things that you don’t want to do, they wait for you along the path to your dreams. What defines your character is how you negotiate the route, how you manage your plan to your dream. That’s where true inspiration lies!
That’s why I thought Lucy’s story is such a great piece of inspiration, she is a great example of what WE ALL can achieve if we have the fortitude to stick to the plan through thick and thin!
Now I hope you can go out there and have a fantastic start to you week!
STAY STRONG and KEEP MOVING!