Hear Beth talk about fitness, resilience and teamwork – and why we all need to take the pressure off.
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"Embrace the good times" says England and Arsenal footballer Beth Mead
Beth Mead needs no introduction after her historic win with the Lionesses this year. We’re thrilled for her to join us with Dr Gemma Newman and shed light on her sporting career.
Playing in boys’ teams until she was 16, Beth has used her spotlight to speak about the inequality she’s faced in football and the changes we still need for girls today.
In this episode, Beth explains how she rose from her Olympic setback and has learned to turn disappointment into motivation.
Sit back as she talks sporting opportunities in schools, periods on the pitch, and shares what wellness means to her.
What we talk about in the episode...
Beth has waited a lifetime for this moment. Growing up, she was laughed at for playing football with the boys, before moving onto girls’ teams (she joined Sunderland, at 16, later transferring to Arsenal).
Luckily, along the way, she had solid support from her parents. ‘My dad always said, you don't need to react, just let your football do the talking.’ He was her coach for a while, while her mum took a second job to pay for petrol to get her to games.
She knows not everyone is so lucky. So she’s paying it forwards with the Beth Mead Scholarship, at Teeside University where she studied, giving support to female footballers, including one-to-one mentorship from her. ‘If I can help them just a little bit, it’s better than nothing.’
The Lionesses are also campaigning to ensure girls have the same access to football at school as boys do – currently only 44% of secondary schools provide equal football lessons in PE for girls and boys. ‘How can girls come to our level of playing, if they haven’t had an opportunity from a young age? We’re in a strong position to demand that.’
Beth is clearly on a high right now – but it hasn’t all been easy, and she’s known real lows, most notably missing out on being picked for the Olympic squad in 2021.
So what’s helped build her resilience? ‘This season, my big change is, I’ve not thought about anybody else. Individually, to get the best out of myself – which is then best for the team – I played freely, like the six-year-old me who loved playing football.
I was happy on the pitch. I didn’t think about any outside noise, or put any pressure on myself. If I made a mistake that was OK, I didn’t dwell on it. It sounds so simple but it’s so difficult to do. Sometimes you just need to strip it all back and enjoy doing what you love.
‘I think we dwell so much on bad moments in our careers and lives in general, that when you have the happy moments you really need to embrace them. This summer, me and the girls have really embraced winning. We deserved to.’
A healthy, balanced diet is vital, and a nutritionist works closely with them. So, what’s on the menu? ‘We do turmeric and ginger shots every morning at Arsenal.
That’s a habit of the club now,’ says Beth. ‘We’re lucky enough to get a nutritional breakfast supplied, whether it’s porridge, yoghurt, eggs, beans, bread or fruit.’
Supplements are also on the list. ‘After every gym or training session, we do protein powders, cod liver oil, magnesium, multivitamins. We have isotonic gels and caffeine gels to give us energy. I’ve been known for cramping so I have CrampFix which helps my muscles in games,’ says Beth.
There are a couple more supp must-haves, says Beth. ‘Cherry Active [cherry juice] is a big one that we use for inflammation and recovery. We have it in water after a game. And we often have a beetroot one [BeetActive] with nitrates before games to help us.’ (Beetroot juice is thought to improve endurance and recovery.)
When it comes to her top life advice, we’re all different, says Beth. ‘You’ve got to tweak and find your winning formula. For me, I would say enjoy what you do. And find a good support system.’
A year ago, Beth’s mum was diagnosed with cancer, and it’s something that’s resonated with her massively. ‘That really put life in perspective,’ she says. ‘That I could have her taken away from me in any instance.
‘I went into a World Cup and didn’t embrace it as much as I should have at that time. That’s why I enjoyed every experience I had in these Euros. You don’t know how long your lifetime is, so just embrace it while we’re here. We put so much pressure on ourselves in our lives, but we need to enjoy life to the fullest.’
Every morning, says Beth, the Arsenal team fill in a wellness questionnaire so they check in with themselves, physically and mentally.
‘We cover how well we’ve slept. Mentally where we’re at – am I happy, sad, in between? How is my body physically feeling – any aches or pains that need monitoring or treating?’
The wellness questionnaire also looks at periods, where you are in your cycle – research shows you’re more likely to sustain an injury during your period, and it’s something women playing sport should be aware of.
Beth says: ‘To this day, I still struggle with my menstrual cycle. I can have a lot of pain when I have my period so have struggled to do training sometimes. I have things I put in place to make it feel better. I used to get a lot of back pain with it, so have a back mobility programme I do in certain instances. And we have ‘eat-what-phase-you’re-in smoothies’ while on camp with England. There’s always coping strategies.
‘We also work closely with an expert who specifically does menstrual cycle research in sport and female football.’