High Jump Wars: The Empire Strikes My Lower Back

Author: Nicole C. Maloy, W’95

A year ago, I decided to try high jumping again after a 17 year break. I may be crazy, but I’m no fool – I spent a month beforehand doing extra conditioning. High jumping is not something you inflict on your body without some kind of prep. I did jogging, strengthening, and lots of stretching. And still, after my one high jump practice, I spent three full days walking like a penguin. A very sad, uncomfortable penguin with lower back issues.

The plus side: My body remembered much about the high jump. The rhythm of my run was still there. The actual takeoff required more strength, which could be obtained with additional training.

The minus side: Oh, my legs. Oh, my back. Oh, my abs. Oh, my feet. Oh, my goodness.

Post practice ice on the ankles. Just like old times.

Post practice ice on the ankles. Just like old times.

I wanted to give it another go, but my body first needed to recover. Beyond that, I knew it needed much more conditioning before I could even think about jumping again. With that obstacle in place, and the semester getting busier, the idea became more and more distant. Until now, a year later. I remembered how much I enjoyed that practice, which had been quite promising despite the aftermath. I loved meeting the jumpers on the team, including Kristen Judge, C’12, with whom I now share the outdoor record (Annie Holland is coming for both of us – she is currently jumping 5’ 7” and is only a sophomore). I smiled at the idea of competing one more time, with friends and family to cheer me on at my first track meet in close to two decades.

With Kristen Judge, C’12, my co-outdoor record holder in Women’s High Jump at Penn.

With Kristen Judge, C’12, my co-outdoor record holder in Women’s High Jump at Penn.

But first things first. Whatever shape I am in, it isn’t good enough for high jumping. I knew that I would have to start building habits that would bring me closer to real preparedness. First, running. If I could do that consistently, then I would add strengthening to the mix. All along the way, there would be serious stretching. When all three of those were up to my own satisfaction, then and only then would I be ready to find some way to actually practice jumping again. Finally, once I could regularly get myself over a good height in practice, cleanly, I would register for a local meet in the Master’s division.

In January, I started running a mile in the mornings, and did it consistently. For context, keep in mind that I was (am?) a high jumper. I used to run from my mark to the bar, take off, land on a soft mat, and voila. To me, a mile is long distance. The distance runners fascinated me – I’d say, “You can run 3.1 miles, without stopping once! Just completing that impresses me, but you also do it fast!” They would reply, “You can jump over my head! With no assistance! How is that humanly possible?” The entire team was one big mutual admiration society.

Penn Women’s Varsity Track & Field Mutual Admiration Society - the Juniors, Spring 1990.

Penn Women’s Varsity Track & Field Mutual Admiration Society – the Juniors, Spring 1994.

So, I was doing well with my little mile runs, but winter 2013 threw two hurdles my way: snow and ice. Not running on those, no sir. To slip and break myself would fall well outside of my detailed conditioning plan. But I didn’t want to lose the progress I had already made. What were my options? I remembered a conversation between two guys I know (one of whom I profiled in January) regarding their fitness program, which includes jumping rope. Eureka! It’s far more boring to hop in one spot than to run outdoors, but it’s great cardio, it’s a fast warm up, and it’s better than nothing. Side benefit – post-running or jumping rope, my long stretching sessions have already brought results. Might I stretch with a goal in mind? Dare I dream of getting back into a split? I haven’t done one since my high school dance team days, but why not try? Just for kicks, let’s add that to the list. I’ll try not to hurt myself.

So, fellow alumni, *if* my preparation continues to go according to plan, I hereby aim to accomplish the following in 2013 before the end of the outdoor season this summer:

1)      Compete at a meet in the Master’s High Jump. Maybe I’ll put red and blue on one shoe to honor my Penn days, and white and gold on the other for my high school. (Go Bison!)

2)      Get into a split for the first time since 1991.

Let’s see how I do. Will you be rooting for me?

(Read Part I, High Jump Wars: A New Hope)

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Memories of Penn, Nicole M.

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