Inspired by the European Indoor Championships? Here’s what field events can do for your fitness

The European Indoor Championships have reached their conclusion, but not before generating a surge in sporting interest across the Europe.

As is so often the case after major tournaments, bums are ascending from couches across the land, and deciding exactly how to revive their long-dormant New Year’s resolutions.

Most people have tried running – be it round a track or for the bus – but events like shot put and pole vault are comparatively neglected by the public. They flash across our television screens once every few years, and then a week or so later, they’re gone.

So, why not try something different – and you can even bring the children. “Many local athletics clubs welcome beginners and have try out days and club nights,” says Phil Smith, Director of Sport at Sport England, “and field events like pole vault, long and high jump, shot put and heptathlon are often a big hit with kids.

“Check out the British Athletics’ website to find your local club, or visit Sport England’s activity finder to find guides on how to get into any sport from basketball to boxing.”

Here are a few less common athletic activities to help you back into action, without having to resort to the dreaded treadmill.

1. Long Jump

The perfect sport for anyone who doesn’t mind getting sand in their socks – the long jump is a deceptively complex concoction of physical skills.

Technical prowess, explosive power, and all-round athleticism make long jumpers some of the most multi-faceted sportspeople on the field. Expect sprinting drills – the run-up is key – as well as the expected jumping exercises and hours upon hours of core stability.

2. Shot put

Germany’s Christina Schwanitz in action during the Women’s Shot Put (Jane Barlow/PA)
Germany’s Christina Schwanitz in action during the Women’s Shot Put (Jane Barlow/PA)

A test of strength and raw explosive power, this venerable sport was probably pioneered by the ancient Greeks, and also has roots in the Scottish stone throw and the medieval practice of tossing cannonballs.

Another deceptively technical discipline, the shot put actually requires superb poise and co-ordination to avoid injury under the shot’s abnormal weight, and to marshal maximum momentum without leaving the starting circle. Shot putters may look large and cumbersome – certainly they spend a lot of time in the weights room – but they’re also impressively lithe and flexible.

3. Pole vault

Not for the faint of heart – this wonderfully bizarre discipline sees competitors launch themselves four, five, even six metres into the air with the kinetic momentum of a bendy fibreglass pole. It’s acrobatic, elegant, and toes that tantalising line between thrilling and terrifying.

The main two things you need are courage – for obvious reasons – and speed. So much of the pole vault lies in the run-up, so you’ll be doing plenty of sprint drills to help build as much momentum as you can.

4. High jump

Almost balletic in its elegance, this Olympic classic sees competitors soar into the skies, backs arched, before landing with a satisfying ‘thump’ on the cushioned mat below. If you need more persuading, you can learn techniques like the “Eastern cut-off”, “straddle”, and “Fosbury flop”.

As with the long jump, nailing the approach is a must – and the devil is in the detail, so expect a good deal of technical approach work mixed in with the usual power exercises.

Incidentally, you don’t have to be tall to work here – but it helps.

5. Heptathlon

If you can’t choose – don’t! Heptathlon combines the power of the shot putter, the grace of the high jumper, and the stamina of the runner, to create some of the very finest all-round athletes.

Heptathletes have to train every muscle in their bodies so expect a lot of bodyweight training – push ups, pull ups, core work – and regular trips to the weights room. For the running events, you can throw in hardcore cardio and interval training, as well as seven sports’ worth of technique.

It’s just being greedy really – heptathletes are good at everything.

- Press Association

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