Perhaps no one was better suited to switch from single-event to multi-event athlete than Sharon Day-Monroe. Throughout high school and college, she competed in both track and soccer. This October, she’ll be inducted into Cal Poly’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a dual-sport athlete. Still, Day-Monroe encountered challenges during her transition from high jumper to heptathlete, including the longer, more grueling workouts she had to perform after making the change.
RELATED: Wrestler Adeline Gray beat all the boys on her team, then became an Olympic hopeful
Day-Monroe spoke with STACK about overcoming those obstacles and her quest to reach the Summer Olympic Games in Rio next summer.
STACK: Your father and mother were both high jumpers. Talk about the role sports played in your childhood?
Sharon Day-Monroe: My parents encouraged us to try everything. I played a lot of different sports from the time I was four or five years old, from karate to dance to ballet to gymnastics to swimming. I think that’s a big part of why I’m an athlete today, because I was able to train different muscle groups and become versatile.
You had a distinguished career in several sports at Costa Mesa High School.
I guess you could say that. I played JV volleyball my freshman year, but I was a varsity athlete in everything else all four years. Volleyball was more of a sport I did for fun. Soccer had always been my love. We won a bunch of league titles in soccer, and won a CIF title [state championship] my senior year with my younger sister, who was a freshman at the time. I won two state titles in the high jump my junior and senior years. But I never imagined I’d be an Olympian, or that I’d have a career in track & field.
During college, when did you realize you could make sports your profession?
During my sophomore year, I jumped 6-foot-4 won a national championship. My coaches and friends in the sport said if I continue to do that well, I could definitely make a career out of it.
RELATED: Undersized kid Spenser Mango grapples his way to the Olympics
You transitioned to the heptathlon after making the Beijing Olympics as a high jumper. Why the change, and how did it affect your training?
I didn’t have the best performance of my life [in Beijing], but I don’t think that had an impact on why I chose to switch. I just felt like I had more to give as a heptathlete and would do better on a world scale. The switch definitely required many more hours on and off the track. We practice two to three events every day—at least three hours at the track working on the technical events and conditioning for the 800-Meter Dash, plus some weightlifting. But there’s also a lot more recovery time required: icing after practice, getting massages, getting chiropractic work and seeing physical therapists.
Had you done throws prior to becoming a heptathlete?
No, not at all. Fortunately, I picked up Javelin—an event that can be difficult for a lot of athletes—pretty quickly. Shot Put took a little longer to get down. I think my first couple of weeks I didn’t throw longer than 40 feet, but now I throw over 50 feet consistently.
During a typical day, how many meals do you eat and when do you eat them?
I typically eat three meals, but I’m constantly snacking throughout the day—especially at practice, when we’re on the track for so long.
What’s your favorite meal?
I’m definitely a carnivore—I really like to eat meat. A good filet with potatoes is one of my favorite meals.
What advice would you give to young athletes?
I’d say recovery and maintenance is a lot more important than people realize. I could have avoided some of the little injuries I’ve had to deal with—my knee tendinitis, for example—if I’d been better at recovery early on. Take care of your body, do maintenance exercises and physical therapy. It’ll be really helpful.
The Main Event
Day-Monroe develops the strength and power she needs to be fast and explosive in the weight room. Try this workout based on her training.
- Grip the bar with one palm facing your body and the other facing away.
- Pull your shoulders down and back, straighten your elbows and tuck your chin.
- Keeping your back straight, drive through your heels to stand up.
- Keep the bar as close to your body as possible as you lift.
- Reverse the motion, lower the bar to the ground and repeat.
2. Bench Press
- Hold the bar above your chest with your arms straight.
- Lower the weight with control, then push the bar back up to the original position.
3a) Single-Arm DB Row
- Stand in a staggered stance holding a dumbbell in one hand with your arm extended down.
- Place your other hand on something secure, like a rack or bench.
- Drive your elbow toward the ceiling to bring the dumbbell to chest level, then lower the weight with control and repeat.
Sets/Reps: 3×10 each arm
3b. Pistol Squats
- Standing straight up, raise your right leg off the ground and slightly bend your right knee.
- Hold your arms out in front of you.
- Begin to lower your torso to the ground by bending your left knee until your butt is a few inches off the ground.
- Your right leg should straighten out as you get closer to the ground.
- Rise back up, and repeat.
Sets/Reps: 3×5 each leg
4a. Shoulder Flys
- Bend forward at the waist, holding a light dumbbell in each hand with your arms below your shoulders.
- Keeping your arms straight, lift the weights out to the side while pulling your shoulders back.
- Lower with control and repeat.
4b. Side-Lying Clamshells
- Lie on your left side with your knees bent.
- Lift your right knee while keeping your feet together.
- Lower and repeat.
- Do all reps, then switch sides.
Sets/Reps: 2×12 each side
4c. Side-Lying Reverse Clamshells
- Start in the same position as Side-Lying Clamshells, but change the motion to lift your right heel off the ground.
- Press your thighs and knees together as you lift your heel.
5. RKC Plank
- Assume a standard plank position with your elbows under your shoulders, chin tucked and back straight.
- Squeeze your fists and lock in your shoulders by trying to rotate your arms outward.
- Squeeze your legs together and contract your quads and glutes.
- Imagine pulling your elbows to your toes as if moving into a pike position.
Sets/Duration: 3×20 seconds.