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It’s hard enough for a professional track star to compete on the international stage. Coming back from a long layoff is particularly challenging—especially when it’s due to a mandated drug suspension. Although sprinter Dominique Blake grew up in New York, she competed for Jamaica, bringing home the bronze medal in the 4×400-meter relay at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. But she was suspended in 2012 for four years for consuming the banned stimulant methylhexanamine. Now, Blake is determined to rise back to the top, and is drawing on her time away from competition to regain her ranking.
Blake says being away from the sport was actually a blessing in disguise. “My time away from competing saved my life. I thought about what I could do to add value as a human being in general, and focused on what I am really passionate about.” In 2013, Blake became a certified trainer; she’s also written a book (out this summer) called Diamond Laws: 10 Universal Laws to Live Your Best Life. She remains involved in her local community, especially with the Boys & Girls Club, which is home base for her personal training company, Diamond Training.
But her appetite for competition didn’t diminish during her suspension, and she’s more determined than ever to regain her status among the world’s top sprinters. “No matter how successful you are as a pro athlete, there is a dying hunger to be better,” she says. “It’s not about getting back to the competition—it’s about being better than I was at my last competition or practice.”
The 400-meter race (about a quarter mile) is a tough combination of speed and endurance. “You can’t have one without the other,” says Blake. “It keeps you honest because you can be working on speed all year long, but if you don’t put that strength work in, it’s going to show up at the 250- or 300-meter mark every time.”
Blake worked hard to maintain her fitness throughout her suspension, but she’s stepped up her efforts since returning this year. She trains in Fayetteville at the University of Arkansas with her former college coach, Chris Johnson. Her schedule has her on the track six days a week, with three of these days including multiple workouts. Surprisingly, her times have gotten better.
“I’m now running five miles in 33 minutes, something I never thought was possible. In 2012 we were doing only three miles, and I was running it in 27 to 30 minutes.” She competed in her first 400-meter race since 2012 at the Tyson Invitational and finished only a fraction of a second short of her career-best indoor time. “I’ve never opened up my season that fast, so that tells me a lot about my body. It lets me know that I’m smarter, stronger, and more diligent,” says Blake. She now has her eyes set on competing in the 2017 World Championships in London this August.
Keeping an eye on her diet also helps, says Blake. “It’s about nutrition and making sure I’m getting the proper amount of protein.” On her menu are plenty of plant-based foods like kale and sweet potatoes, as well as seafood, ground turkey, and quinoa. What you won’t find, she says, is a lot of sugar. She also makes an effort to get plenty of rest and recovery. “I use a lot of hydrotherapy like ice baths and get a lot of massages to get the knots out of my legs.”
The same values that apply in life apply on the reach. You have to show up and prepare. You have to commit to being teachable, have a positive mental attitude, seize opportunity, and see the brighter side of everything.
Blake’s time away has taught her to never give up. “You write your own success story. Things are going to happen, the most important thing is that you’re giving your best each and every time. You can fall seven times. The important thing is still getting back up that eighth time. Every massive success story comes with adversity. That’s when the magic happens and when people pay attention.”
Monday: Weight training; track practice
Tuesday: Track practice
Wednesday: Weight training; track practice
Thursday: Track practice
Friday: Weight training; track practice
Saturday: Track practice