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Ice baths and Oreo milkshakes: England's Katie Zelem on training like a Lioness

For the first time since 1966, England have reached a World Cup Final – and it’s not by chance.

Each and every player has worked hard to get this far, from the match starters to those eagerly awaiting their time on the bench, like 27-year-old midfielder Katie Zelem.

It was Katie’s childhood dream to play for Manchester United – the team she watched growing up. In May, she captained them all the way to Wembley, making the FA cup final for the first time in the team’s history.

She made her England debut in the now-famous World Cup qualifying match against Latvia, which saw the Lionesses secure a record-breaking victory, 20 goals to nil.

On Sunday, she’ll step out on the field for the biggest day of her career.

Ahead of the tournament, Katie spoke to about what it takes to train like a Lioness, up to six days a week.


‘I play centre midfield so it’s usually a lot of running,’ Katie says. ‘Sometimes in games, we’re running 10 or 11k – and that’s without the warm-up, so it’s like 14k just on one day.

And preparing for game day is no easy feat. ‘We go into the gym before and after every two-hour training session,’ Katie says.

‘Then, we’ll do a warm up, boxes and possession on the pitch, which is all about keeping the ball.

‘We’ll always have a different end goal depending on who we are playing that weekend, so the training will be tailored to that.’

Each player’s gym regime is tailored to their specific needs for the position they play, while being mindful of any areas that need improvement, or injuries that have been sustained.

‘Some of my exercises are Spanish squats, which are hard!’ says Katie. ‘You put a band around the back of your knees, and you have to squat down as low as you can for 30 seconds.

‘After training twice a week we’ll do a weight session, with heavier weights and squats and lunges.’

Can someone pass us a foam roller, please?


Proper recovery is just as important as the working out.

‘Recovery sessions include stretching, yoga, ice baths and going in the pool,’ says Katie.

‘I absolutely hate ice baths. Some of the girls are really good at getting in – there’s this whole submersion thing, where people go in right up to their necks.

‘That’s not taken off for me yet. I like getting in the pool and doing a few lengths.’

Taking time off is also key when you’re a Lioness.

‘Spending time with friends and family is so important. I’m a big foodie so I love going out for food and dinner, or going on holiday.

‘With my job, every week is pretty similar, so it’s nice to break it up with seeing friends and family, and people outside of football.

‘It’s nice that I’ve got friends that care so much, and they come to as many matches as possible.’


With how much exercise we do it’s important to fuel properly,’ says Katie. ‘Usually when I’m training we eat breakfast and lunch at the club. So, they’ll put on the meals and the right nutrition for us.

‘It changes each day, maybe poached eggs, chicken sausages, beans, spinach – just whatever I have the time for, and whatever I’m feeling.

‘Then for dinner I have the Green Chef meal delivery service, so I’ll go through the website each week and pick which recipes I like the look of, then pick each night which one I fancy cooking.

‘I used to just cook the same two meals alternatively each night because I ran out of ideas, so now I can have a variety of things, while still knowing I’m getting the right nutrition, because it has all the information on the accompanying meal cards.

‘My favourite is the honey glazed sesame halloumi flat breads, I’ve had them before and they’re unreal. I’ve got them on next week’s order so I can’t wait for that one.’

But even a pro-footballer has some guilty pleasures. ‘If we have a Sunday afternoon kick off, when I get home, I’ll order myself an Oreo milkshake.’


With the World Cup starting this summer, team selection is just around the corner. With pressure mounting, it’s not just her physical wellbeing that Katie has to keep an eye on.

‘I’m hoping to be selected,’ she says. ‘I feel like I’ve done everything I can, so it’s down to the manager to pick the team.

‘A couple of the girls are injured, but there’s a lot of strength and depth in the squad from the Euros, so hopefully, we will continue that success onto the world stage.’

So how does Katie keep her mind focused?

‘For me, it’s about what you bring to the table and your values. You can’t win everything, but it’s important to always be in optimal condition and optimal performance.

‘Control as much as you can, and hopefully the majority of the time, there’s more good than bad.’

When it comes to social media, Katie calls it a ‘scary place’.

‘There’s a lot of people who don’t have to put their name or face to what they’re saying, and they often say things on social media they would never say to you in real life.

‘I think it’s important to take it with a pinch of salt. I have my notifications turned off. I think if you get too bogged down in other people’s opinions and what they think of you, then you can never focus on yourself.’

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