What do health and wellbeing mean to Essendon VFLW star Kendra Heil?

The Bombers' runner-up in the 2019 VFLW Best and Fairest recently caught up with aflvic.com.au to share her thoughts.

What does wellness mean to you? 

Wellness to me is an overall feeling of stability and vitality that encompasses my physical, mental, and social states. More simply, I’m in tune with my body, mind and my daily responsibilities. This doesn’t necessarily mean I have to look good and feel good all the time – sometimes just understanding you are sore post-match and need a day off, or taking time for myself when I feel mentally overwhelmed can lend to my overall wellbeing. 

How do you incorporate mindfulness during a game?

Pre-games I usually practice mindfulness with an app like Calm or Smiling Mind. I take five to 10 minutes to settle my breathing while focusing my concentration. This has helped over the last year when I was experiencing anxiety regarding returning to sport after 34 months out of footy (two back-to-back ACL reconstructions).

I have used some of the sports training sessions from Smiling Mind to incorporate grounding myself as part of my in-game refocusing strategies. Thinking of how the ground feels beneath my feet or whether my weight is pushing through my toes or heels helps me to focus on the ‘now’ of the game rather than what has been or what might be. For example, rather than thinking of the kick I missed, or the possibility of missing another in the future, I focus on kicking the footy in that current moment.

Away from playing and training, how do you practice mindfulness? Are there any activities you enjoy that help you to unwind? 

Away from playing and training, I practice mindfulness in a less structured manner. I’m a big fan of a good book, a hot chocolate, and a hot bath. I also work from home, so sometimes walking to a cafe to grab a coffee helps me reset. 

What’s your favourite element of training?

I really enjoy learning new things at training. Whether it’s new lifts in the gym or a different drill on the track, it keeps me sharp and interested. Footy is a very dynamic sport – it’s always chopping and changing, and nothing is set in stone, so it’s great to embrace and embody the unpredictable.

We all know recovery is key What movement techniques do you use to recover after a big game?

Directly after a big game, we do some static stretching as a group. I know my limits well, so if I’m feeling extra stiff, I’ll go into the hot bath and do some walking stretches. The day following a game, I’m either on the bike at the gym or going for a walk to roll the legs over and get the blood flowing. 

What food would you typically consume on game day? What are the key nutrients to include?

My game-day diet isn’t too structured. I make sure I have some complex carbs with my morning coffee. It can be anything from oats and real maple syrup (that my mum sends over from Canada) to a peanut butter and jam sandwich on nice bread. When I get to the game, I usually munch on a granola bar and banana to make sure I don’t run out of energy on the field.

What’s your favourite go-to meal on your day off?

I am a food-truck fiend. On my day off you can usually find me scoffing down a Toasta ‘Mac Daddy’, which is a cheese toasty that has mac and cheese, barbeque sauce, caramelised onion and pulled pork. Either there or wherever I can find slow-cooked brisket...