7 things Rachel Daly wishes she'd known about her body before starting football

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The Lionesses well and truly smashed the Women’s 2022 Euros, after they scored 2-1 against Germany in the final and were crowned champions. Representing the team alongside fellow Lioness Nikita Parris (who we also caught up with) was Rachel Daly, who featured in every single game for England of the competition.

The Harrogate native is captain of her Houston Dash team in the US, and the team’s all-time record scorer with 29 goals in the bag. She first potted a goal for England in June 2016 against Serbia, and has since gone on to rep the country in the 2019 World Cup, as well as every single match in Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games. Let’s just say she’s had a lot going on, and she says that taking stock of her health has been central to her success. Here’s everything she says she wishes she’d known about her body sooner, that she wants you to know, too.

1.Your body is capable of more than you think

‘Your body can go through much more than you think. You'll need to figure out and develop strategies to become robust and flexible and learn ways in which your body recovers the best, but once you’ve done that, you’ll realise you can manage much more than you thought – both physically and mentally.’

2. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to sleep

‘I track my sleep using apps, but my sleep isn’t the best. I play my domestic football in the US, which means flying back and forth and changing time zones a lot, and in doing that I have learned that shorter, quality sleep is much better than long, broken sleep. I feel so much better for getting a proper deep sleep, even if it's shorter than ideal, than I do if I get a longer one where I’m woken several times.’

3. Music is amazing for motivation

‘One thing I do before every match is listen to my pre-game playlist – it’s the most effective way for me to get in the mindset I need for game day. I’m focussed.’

4. Try different kinds of fitness to complement sport

‘If you play sport like football, you should use different fitness strategies to support and improve your performance. I do several types. Running and strength are the biggest components of football, so we spend a lot of time in the gym doing weightlifting and strength training, and different kinds of cardio, too. Yoga is also a great tool we use for recovery and staying flexible.’

5. Recovery doesn’t have to involve the latest trends

Photo credit: Rachel Daly
Photo credit: Rachel Daly

‘I use lots of different rest and recovery strategies and, admittedly, these include things like ice baths, massages, hot and cold water therapy and leg compression boots, but I also find that simply going for a walk with my dog is a great way for my body and mind to relax.’

5. Food can help you achieve your goals

‘My diet has changed a lot since I started playing football. When I was a kid, I would eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But now, how I fuel my body is really important for my performance. We often have nutrition meetings to learn about performance and recovery through food, and what I eat changes according to whether or not I’m training on that day, but a standard day might look like this:

  • Breakfast: poached eggs and avocado on sourdough toast

  • Lunch: poke bowl

  • Dinner: this changes almost every day, depending on what I feel like and what day it is!

‘I always make sure I get at least five varieties of fruit and vegetables a day to cover all the vitamins and minerals needed to stay fit and strong, and I drink a glass of milk and a bottle of cherry juice after every football match to aid recovery.’

6. Sport isn’t just for male bodies

‘Football and sport in general don’t belong to men. Growing up in PE, it always felt like it was the boys who were able to do football and girls had to do netball, but every sport is for all. The hardest thing about playing women’s football is the constant comparison between the men’s and women’s games, but that shouldn’t be a thing.’

7. Know that every body is unique, and celebrate that

‘Every one of us is different, but we're all beautiful in our own ways. Pandora is the official sponsor of the Women’s Euros 2022, and I was over the moon when they asked me to front their campaign. The mission is to ‘Give A Voice To People’s Loves’, encouraging people to celebrate their individualities, which is something I’m really passionate about. We want girls all over the country to feel empowered to get involved in sport, to be confident enough in themselves to set their own goals and achieve them, and to develop their own interests and passions.’

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