Bianca Walkden is a Taekwondo world champion and Olympic bronze medalist. We spent the day with her to find out what it takes to be a professional head kicker.
Walkden's day is split into three different sessions – two hours of skills in the morning, two more in the afternoon, then a session of strength and conditioning to finish. Under the tutelage of Paul Green, Walkden trains five times a week alongside training partner and housemate, Jade Jones.
TAEKWONDO LIFE IS ABOUT TEKKERS, FITNESS AND FOOD
This includes everything from sparring, technique work, coordination and competition drills and tactics. Technique and coordination encompasses everything from repetitive kick work for speed and muscle memory, while sparring, drills and tactic work help to prepare for competitions.
Even though Walkden finds coordination drills repetitive, their benefits are clear. “You’ll throw 10,000 kicks in training just so you can land the perfect one in competition,” she says.
“When you’re fighting at something like the Olympics, you don’t want to get it wrong.”
Sparring, if you haven’t already gathered, is Walkden’s favourite part of training. She regularly spars Jones, but also rotates with the men in the squad because of her size. “We basically try and kill when we spar each other!” Walkden laughs. “It’s probably more exciting to watch than an actual competition, as we really go for it and have a proper scrap.”
STRENGTH & CONDITIONING
The final session of the day is dedicated to S&C work. As most of her metabolic conditioning is built in to her Taekwondo drills, Walkden primarily focuses on strength in the core and lower body.
Traditional resistance exercises make up a bulk of her gym work, and she cycles the weight and rep ranges week by week to maintain lean muscle mass. That means she’ll do four sets of five reps of exercises such as the back squat, leg press and weighted lunge at a relatively heavy weight one week, before easing up on the weight the next.
“It’s important I keep up with the gym work after ruining both my ACLs – I need to maintain my strength at all times,” she says. Core work is the other pillar of her routine, because it’s one of the main areas of the body that transfers energy throughout the legs when she kicks. She can expect to do side planks, twist and press ups to build strength in the abs, obliques and hip flexors.
Luckily for Walkden, a strict diet isn’t something she has to worry about. “As I fight as a heavyweight, I only have to register over a certain weight to compete, unlike some other girls who have to fight hard to keep it off.
“That means I can have a Nando’s every now and then!” Walkden’s daily diet will start off with a soft-boiled egg breakfast, followed by a shake or a glass of milk mid-morning.
For lunch she’ll usually have a chicken pasta with peppers, tomatoes, olives and feta. “My mum’s Italian, so I love all that sort of food,” she laughs.
After another shake, she’ll eat a home-cooked dinner with Jones or her boyfriend Aaron. Her speciality? A hearty steak pie. “I really like cooking,” she says. “Me and Jade take it in turns to cook for one another – although she usually finds an excuse when it’s her turn!”
Despite being largely left to her own devices nutritionally, expert advice is on hand from Mark Ellis, a performance nutritionist with the GB squad.