Scroll through Alysha Newman's Instagram and one thing becomes immediately obvious: she has an amazing physique and knock-out looks. She could be a runway model—if runway models had biceps and a six-pack, or held the Canadian national record for the pole vault.
Newman is one of those people who exemplifies aesthetic athletics. Yeah, she looks great, but looks aren't what got her where she is today. She's an Olympian who puts the right nutrients in her body, then works her ass off.
We chatted with the RSP-sponsored athlete about how she trains, eats, and what she hopes to accomplish in the next few years.
The Basics: Food and Fitness
Newman's success begins with a clear understanding of her priorities.
"If I were going to put it on a scale, my mentality is priority number one, nutrition is number two, and practice is number three," she says. "I put my nutrition before practice because I have to fuel my body with the best nutrients to get the best results."
Most of us are familiar with the 80/20 rule for our aesthetic goals. Basically, it says that if you eat clean 80 percent of time, the other less-clean 20 percent won't sabotage your progress. Newman says it works even better for those long days of tough practices.
"It's extremely important to put the proper nutrients in your body, especially during long, hard, and critical practices," she says." If you don't eat right, it's like putting cheap gas in your car. Yeah, it'll drive, but not as well as it should. Our bodies are the same way."
Although she's only 23, Newman has some sage advice for those interested in making nutrition a priority: "I've experimented over the years to understand which foods work best for me personally. Everyone's body reacts differently to food so you can't just pull a pre-made diet off the shelf. You need to learn what's right for you."
Newman's diet needs to include lots of the things she actually enjoys eating, because she literally spends almost the entire year training.
"My pre-season runs from October 1 to January 1," she says. "This is the time of the year where I'm getting in shape. I run, lift, and try to maintain as healthy a diet as possible. I've learned that my pre-season is the most important phase in my yearly preparation."
Once January arrives, Newman enters her official season, which runs until the first week of September. Although she has to calibrate her training to her competitive events, she still maintains a grueling workout regimen.
"During the week I stick to a specific schedule," she explains. "I usually have two technical days comprised of pole vaulting, gymnastics, and plyometrics. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I run—anything from tempo runs to quick 60-meter sprints. I finish those running days with weight training. Whenever my competition schedule allows it, I take off Saturdays and Sundays to rest."
Nine months of intense training, competition, and globe-hopping travel can take a toll on a person. Newman recharges her batteries by taking off four full weeks between her competition season and her pre-season.
"The time I give myself in September is critical to my success in the following year," she says. "For those four weeks, I don't set foot on the track—I try not to even think about track and field. I treat myself to a complete physical and mental break, so I'll be eager to get back out there come October."
The Olympics: Rio and Tokyo
After spending her youth as a competitive gymnast, and much of her college career chasing a national record, Newman says making the 2016 Canadian Olympic team was a dream come true, and the culmination of an intensely personal quest.
"Twice every two years I'd camp out in front of the TV for two weeks straight, first to watch the Summer Games, then for the Winter Games," she says. "I kept telling my mom I would be part of it someday."
Sure, lots of kids tell their parents they want to be Olympians. "But it actually happened to me!" she says. "I earned the privilege of representing my country in the Games. It still feels like an unbelievable accomplishment. All my sacrifice and dedication was completely worth it."
Newman's youth, ability, and competitive drive make her a definite contender for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
"I want to be the first Canadian pole vaulter to ever bring home an Olympic medal," Newman says. "It's going to take everything we're doing now and then some. Being great at the pole vault takes lots of maturity and lots of reps. My goal is to just keep getting stronger and more confident in my abilities."
What keeps her motivated? Her future.
"I have so much more that I want to accomplish, see, and build to become the person I hope to be," she says. "That's what inspires me most—to see what I can accomplish in my life."
The Poetics: Fame and Legacy
Fame doesn't always change people for the better, but in Newman's case, it has.
"Being in the public eye has changed me a lot, but I think in a really good way," she says. "Knowing that young girls and boys look up to me is fantastic. All I want to do is inspire them to pursue their dreams—even if those dreams seem impossible. I love that my passion for track and field inspires people in other ways. I believe so deeply that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, and I want to pass that belief on to others."
It is this positivity that makes Newman such a fantastic role model. Her belief in herself has been the foundation of her success. As she said when describing her priorities, your mental state is the most important thing. Get that figured out and nothing can stop you—an important lesson she's ready to share with anyone who has big plans for their future.
"It all starts with having a dream or goal you want to accomplish," Newman says. "Often, the most beautiful things are the hardest to accomplish, but you must never underestimate yourself or your abilities. Find your path, commit to it, and embrace every minute of your journey."