Six-time LPGA Tour event winner Jessica Korda has seen approaches to fitness in golf transform through her career so far, with an increasing focus on strength and recovery. Having a sister also at the top of the game, however, has shown her just how individualized approaches need to be.
The 29-year-old chats with RSNG.com about her fitness routine, her sweet tooth, and how she sees approaches to fitness evolving in golf…
RSNG Fitness is a big thing in your game, right?
JESSICA KORDA, LPGA STAR “Sure. So I will do strength work with my trainer five to six times a week in the gym, and I will add cardio into that. That sounds a lot but when I don't do that I feel my body falls apart.
“Mostly that’s a physical thing, in terms of not being as primed as I feel I want to be all the time; and, I’m sure, something of a mental thing as well. When you feel on top of your game, mentally, it really makes a difference to know you have put in all the physical preparation along the way too.
“It’s that feeling of knowing you’re not cutting any corners along the way, so there is nothing to suggest you can’t perform to your maximum potential. Both of those factors are equally important to me.”
RSNG We hear you like to run?
JESSICA KORDA “Yes! I love to run. You don’t usually get people admitting to that, but I love the endorphin rush of sweating… dripping with sweat. That really takes me to a good place where I feel alive and driven to succeed.”
RSNG Diet for you is important as well, but you’re renowned for being a bit less regimented than your sister Nelly?
JESSICA KORDA “I get my sweet tooth from my dad, and that’s definitely something that can get me through the day.
“Of course we have meal plans and lots of sports science, but I do believe adding occasional treats in along the way is an important method for connecting you with who you are as a person, rather than just who you want to be as a sportsperson. The ideal scenario is when you blend the two, as far as I am concerned.
“At the heart of my diet though is hydration – I'm always drinking water.”
It’s really important to have a trainer who builds a program to your individual needs, talents, requirements and physical structure
RSNG Do you subscribe to the same sort of diet plan that a number of the other golfers use?
JESSICA KORDA “I honestly wouldn’t really know, as it’s not something I typically talk about with my friends and rivals on tour.
“As far as Nelly and I go, what I do know is we have just such different workouts – they are built to our bodies. I've been working with Kolby [Wayne] for almost five years now and we have definitely transformed my body to a place where I am excited about keeping it the way it is.”
RSNG What do you look for in a good trainer?
JESSICA KORDA “It’s really important to have a trainer who builds a program to your specific needs, talents, requirements and physical structure, because no two bodies are the same, just like no two golf swings are the same.
“The other thing is you need to find a trainer who trains you for you, and not for their own agenda; and I think that's where you really find the greatest trainers.”
RSNG Are you still aiming to hit further, and is it appealing to add strength still to achieve that?
JESSICA KORDA “Weights for me aren’t really about hitting the ball further; they’re about not getting injured, and my stats tend to prove that quite conclusively.
“I think I am at an optimum point in terms of how far I can strike a ball and that’s never really going to change from here. I think what might change is that I will find myself getting injured more if I start dropping away from this level of strength and this intensity of fitness, and that’s pretty clear for me, to be honest.”
RSNG What have weights given you beyond injury protection?
JESSICA KORDA “My core back is very important in golf, and I would say the control in my swing has maybe gotten more consistent because I can hold that position.
“That’s really important because if you look at golf, I’ve never really felt like it’s a natural motion necessarily, swinging a club. That may sound like a strange thing to say, but it's such a one-side dominant action. Plus when you're tall your swing gets out of whack so much, and you will play on a lot of courses that don’t have a flat lie all the time, so you're always adjusting.”
People are famous as much now for their recovery programs as they are for their fitness programs
RSNG What else do you like to do in the gym?
JESSICA KORDA “I'm really big into resistance bands – I've had a couple of injuries in my career and I find that band resistance is a really gentle but very effective method.
“I also like foam rollers – they really get to the trigger points like nothing else, and I will do some activational stuff before the round especially for things like glutes, the core and the shoulders.
“The challenge in the gym is not to develop what I have too much further; rather let this version of myself provide the platform for the technical and mental elements that will help me win tournaments.”
RSNG Is most of your fitness driven to satisfy the lead-up to a tournament, or the wind-down after a day’s golf?
JESSICA KORDA “If I’m at a tournament the whole schedule can go out the window, so you need really to be able to adapt to a new set of rules every day.
“Most of what I do at tournaments is about winding down after a day’s play and making sure any aches or niggles are seen to, so that I can wake up fresh the next day.”
RSNG Are we more switched on now to the requirements of the body than in the past?
JESSICA KORDA “We definitely are, but what’s coming out now isn’t revolutionary – it just feels like it is being taken seriously because it seems all of those at the top of the game are those same competitors who are renowned for their fitness and diet routines, and the commitment they have to them.
“Yet mine and Nelly’s parents were always saying to us when we were young that we needed to invest in ‘the body’, I guess because of their own experience of competing at the top level. That seems so true and pertinent now, but they've always really stood behind that point if the outcome is to be a long career.”
RSNG How do you see diet and fitness evolving going forward?
JESSICA KORDA “Compared to a decade ago, we are definitely in the era now not just of strength and gym aggression, but also respect for the recovery elements of workout and routines.
“People are famous as much now for their recovery programs as they are their fitness programs, and that’s a very interesting thing. I think tennis and golf are probably the best two examples where everything back in the day was way more artistic. Now it’s a power game, and with power there must come recovery.
“Perhaps in some sports we are seeing the last of the skinny types of champions, and the evolution is bringing about powerful, solid, strong profiles, where the reliance on muscles feeding power and repelling impact is the platform upon which success can be built.”
WHAT NEXT? If you missed the exclusive RSNG interview with Jessica’s world-beating younger sister, Nelly Korda, then where were you?! Don’t fret though, you can catch up here…