With four European and World Championship gold medals to her name, Perri Shakes-Drayton is best known for her achievements on the athletics track. However, she has been running her own fitness classes - Train with PSD (her initials) - in London over the last year and says that growing the PSD brand to span media, health and fitness could be her next stop when she retires from athletics.
“I’ve done TV and radio in the past and really like doing things like that. I’ve also done the fitness side of things, so I think I’m going to be involved in a wide variety of projects in the future.”
Her latest role as the official UK ambassador for Zumba’s new workout, STRONG by Zumba, further suggests that a move into the fitness industry may be on the cards for the 28-year-old.
ZUMBA WITH HIIT
“STRONG by Zumba is challenging. That’s what I like about it, and it really does make you feel strong” says Perri Shakes-Drayton.
“I think I’m an individual who could be described as strong.”
There’s no denying that strong is an accurate description of the Olympic 400m runner, which makes her partnership with the dance fitness brand’s rework of high intensity interval training (HIIT) extremely fitting.
STRONG by Zumba is an hour-long full body workout that fuses the principles of HIIT with the science of Synced Music Motivation - a concept in which motivating music is specifically engineered to push participants to their limits.
Having noticed that music is often an afterthought in fitness classes, the team at Zumba took a different approach with their latest offering. Firstly, they created a workout with the help of their master trainer Ai-Lee Syarief. Once completed, a video of the routine was sent to top producers, such as Timbaland, who produced a tailor-made track for each workout, with an emphasis on carefully coordinated, rhythmic and motivating beats.
A STRONG by Zumba class is divided into four quadrants that increase in intensity to ensure that participants are challenged to the very end. Unlike traditional HIIT classes, STRONG by Zumba is free of back-to-back intervals, and instead utilises active recovery between each quadrant.
Shakes-Drayton says the end result is a workout that is tough enough to challenge an Olympic athlete; but with hard and easy variations provided for all the moves, it’s a workout that is also suitable for non-athletes.
Despite enjoying runaway success on a global scale with their signature Latin-inspired dance workout, Zumba created STRONG by Zumba as a niche dance-free offering for those who aspire to a high level of fitness.
“Unlike other HIIT classes, STRONG by Zumba reminds me more of what I would do in my own training sessions,” says Shakes-Drayton. She pinpoints the high knees, burpees and lunges that make a frequent appearance in a STRONG by Zumba class as exercises she uses when getting race ready - a top priority for the runner at the moment.
“I have trials for the World Championships coming up in a few weeks’ time,” she says. “Even though I’ve overcome injuries, I am still training. I am still competing.”
Shakes-Drayton has been plagued by injury over the last four years. After winning gold in the 400m at the 2013 European indoor Championships, a serious knee injury left her needing surgery and kept her out of action for three years. After missing out on qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics, she now has her eye on this year’s Athletics World Championships in August.
Despite her intense training schedule, Shakes-Drayton does not view projects like her partnership with STRONG by Zumba as a distraction. “I’m always happy to learn new things,” she says. “Getting involved with things like this gives me insight into what I may want to do when I hang up my spikes.”