SportsAid athletes show incredible levels of commitment, dedication and sacrifice to pursue their ambitions. They train for countless hours, travel great distances, spend lots of time away from home and have to balance their education and social life. They are the country’s brightest young sports stars and they’re determined to reach the top with the charity’s help.
So what’s it like being a SportsAid athlete? #MyMiles With is a series aimed at giving YOU an insight into the lives of the next generation of British sporting heroes, and encouraging you to keep them company by taking part in the #MyMiles Challenge during SportsAid Week. This time it’s the turn of Mia Pachanksy, a member of the GB Taekwondo Academy, to take you into her world.
“I've just moved up to Manchester recently to train full-time - I spend the weekdays living with my room-mates, my team-mates, who are my age in Manchester, and then I come home to my family in London on the weekends. On Monday morning, I get the train to come up from home to Manchester and then I make some lunch, pack my bag and get ready for training in the afternoon. So usually, for lunch, I'll have chicken or tuna pasta, since it’s a quick lunch and it fills me up. I cycle to get to the Centre [GB Taekwondo base], or if it's raining, we get a taxi together, to start our taekwondo session at 2pm. Right now on Mondays, we're focusing on clinch, which means fighting at a very close distance - it's a pretty physical, first session of the week. Then when I get home, I'll chill out for a bit, shower, do some housework, laundry or buy groceries. Because this is my first time living on my own, it's still a learning process. I think me and my room-mates are doing pretty well, to be fair – we're all 16 or 17 and we're managing OK: we're still learning our way around that kind of thing!”
“We have a strength and conditioning session at 9:30am, we have a weights programme that gradually progresses and then in the afternoon, we have a taekwondo session. On Tuesdays, we focus on basics, repeating a really simple kick loads and loads of times just getting the technique perfect and then in between the sessions, we have meetings and workshops. So we'll have a meeting with a physio or we'll speak to a psychologist, speak to a nutritionist. The last workshop we did was with our psychologist. And he talked to us about the rational part of our brain, the chimp part of our brain, who reacts really quickly, and we talked about how to manage it and how to handle it. Because we're staying in the Centre the whole day, if we have two sessions, I'll take a packed lunch with me. So something like a spicy beef or chicken wrap plus a banana. Then in the evening, I also have a distance learning program with my school, so I get sent Maths, Biology and Chemistry work to do for my teacher and I work through that in the evenings. It's definitely a lot harder to motivate myself to do work when no one's checking, but at the same time, it's good to have something else to focus on – not just taekwondo, taekwondo, taekwondo.”
“For breakfast, I have baked oats with peanut butter. I'm too lazy to actually bake it, but I just put it in the microwave and we have a taekwondo session based on co-ordination and creating pressure, but soon we'll be moving on to movement and agility work. We have a traffic light system, so if we have a red day, that means like super hard empty out your entire energy bank, if we have a yellow day, then it's pretty difficult, you'll be tired, but it's not going to kill you and then green is a lighter day. Wednesday's a green day, so we'll just have the one session and there's not as much contact. As a recovery snack quite often, I like to have warm milk. It's got the balance of proteins and carbs, and it's comforting. In the evenings, we also have a chaperone that stays with us, because all my room-mates are 16/17. She just comes at 8pm and just stays overnight and she's really chilled. She's really friendly, really lovely and she just gives us a hand if anything goes wrong.”
“On Thursdays, our focus right now is different variations of counters, which is short for counter attacks, and our programme is set to get gradually tougher and tougher as we settle in for the first six weeks. One of the biggest differences training at the Centre - compared to at home - is the atmosphere is very intense. Even the most basic drills, it's done at 100% because everyone is hungry to improve. Everyone has fought hard to get here. I really like that about being here, it's very different in that way. In the evenings, my room-mates and I put on some music, cook dinner together - I usually cook teriyaki chicken and rice or some salmon stir fry - and then hang out in the kitchen while we wash up. We listen to really upbeat stuff, like rap, hip hop. We've got a bit of freedom now we live together, so we'll have a little bit of a jam in the evenings.”
“Friday is generally a red day, we have another strength and conditioning session in the gym at 9:30am and then we have a taekwondo session at 12:30pm. We’re set to be doing a lot of full contact sparring on Fridays, so just fighting each other for longer, basically. Then I travel back to London on the train in the late afternoon and I get home on the tube. By Friday night, I'm pretty tired, so I'll just go to bed after that.”
“We haven't got any scheduled training that we have to do, so last Saturday, I did do a bit of kicking with my family in the shed. Just because it was a first week I wasn't ridiculously tired, so I did do a little bit of training and I used to train with my family anyway. It was nice to be back in my old shed really because my brothers do taekwondo as well, so I'd trained them before. Then Sunday is a rest day, or I just go out with friends or FaceTime them. There is nothing scheduled on Sunday. I also do modelling and I've been doing mostly sports-based shoots. I have had a couple commercial things but my main focus is as a sports model, so fitness brands, and taekwondo-based shoots. My availability is for weekends, if it's based in London, but then if it's a job based in Manchester, then I could do it in the afternoon. It's not like a full-time job, I'm still very new to it – it's not like I've got tons of shoots every week.”
For reference….Mia completed her weekly diary in July 2021
How many hours do you train in total during an average week?
“17 to 18 hours.”
What are the first three words that come into your head when training has gone well?
“Progress, tiredness and satisfaction.”
What are the first three words which come into your head when you think about a bad day?
“Recovery, analyse, so learning from my mistakes, and constructive, so moving on, but not just forgetting about it, taking what you did wrong from it, but not dwelling on it for too long.”
What motivates you the most?
“I'm here to win Olympic gold! My sights are set on Paris 2024, that is the biggest motivation. I think I don't always just look at the bigger picture though, because sometimes it's not motivation, it's more just commitment. You don't think too much, you just get into a routine and you just do it. If you just rely on motivation, it runs out but commitment and routine is a lot easier to stick to.”
How best do your measure your progress?
“Gym is pretty easy to measure progress, if you can lift a heavier weight, you could do more reps, if you can hold a plank for longer - you've got numbers, it's easy. When it comes to progress in taekwondo, you can measure long-term progress over your success at competitions. But for each individual session, the main way to measure progress would be what have I learned from it? What have I taken away from it? We always have a bit of a reflection at the end of the session, where everyone goes around and says what they took away from that session. If I've got plenty of things in my head to say at the end, then I know I've had a good session.”
How do you balance the demands of training at busy times in your life?
“It does get stressful and I do feel pressure to perform, pressure to make sure my coaches and my parents are proud. But I think the best thing to do is just talk it out with people, a lot of the time I'll talk to my friend about something that's going wrong and by the time I've written it down, I'm thinking: what am I even stressing about? I think talking it out with people is the best way to deal with that kind of pressure. Someone that's really helped me with that is my SportsAid buddy [Emma Hicks from RBC] - she's just been so nice and lets me vent whenever I need to!”
What are the biggest sacrifices you feel you have to make?
“Just teenager things really, like going to parties or staying up late, that kind of thing. I do enjoy going out, but I'm not the biggest party person, so for me, it doesn't feel like a life-changing sacrifice. But there are still times when you think: ‘oh, am I missing out on being a teenager?’ But it's not something I stress about too often.”
What food and drink products do you always wish you could have?
“Food would definitely be ice cream, even if it's the middle of winter - I love ice cream, and for drink, just a coke, something simple like that.”
What is a work-out or session you enjoy doing?
“When we just do all out sparring, just round after round, that's a good session for me. You can just let yourself open up a bit, you don't have to keep stopping and pausing and thinking you can just get into the session, get really focused, so full on sparring is probably my favourite.”
In what ways has the COVID-19 pandemic changed how you train?
“I was still just training with my local club, and then I'd be at Development Camp on weekends and I wasn't able to do that, my club was shut and Development wasn't on. I was lucky enough to have siblings that are still doing taekwondo and my parents train as well. Luckily, I still have people to fight - obviously it's not the same because they're not my size or age or gender, but I'm really grateful for that, because I don't know what I would have done without them. We did have to adapt, we'll come up with little programmes for ourselves and do things together as a family - then I'll just try and run a lot to keep my fitness up. There wasn't a lot to do in lockdown! I'm really happy that things have opened up again and I'm really excited for competitions to be back.”
Which social media accounts can people follow you on?