Health & Fitness | April 11, 2019 10:00 am

The Workout of the Toughest ‘Game of Thrones’ Character, According to Her Trainer

Exercises, diet tips and more from Gwendoline Christie’s coach

Gwendoline Christie and Maisie Williams in 'Game of Thrones.' (Helen Sloan/HBO)
Gwendoline Christie and Maisie Williams in 'Game of Thrones.' (Helen Sloan/HBO)

There are some Game of Thrones debates we’ll never agree on. What’s a more satisfying death: Walder Frey or the High Sparrow? What’s a sadder death: Hodor or Shireen? Who’s harder to root for: Cersei or Jamie? Will George R.R. Martin ever finish the books?

The one thing we can all agree on? The toughest character. It’s the person who defeated the Knight of Flowers and the Hound, who goes toe-to-toe with Jaime Lannister and a Faceless Woman, and who finally kills Stannis. (OK, that was a gimme, but it counts.)

Of course, we’re talking about Brienne of Tarth, played by Gwendoline Christie.

We dialed up Christie’s trainer Dalton Wong to get all the insight you’ll need to train just like Brienne.

Wong, founder of Twenty Two Training and author of The Feelgood Plan, first started working with actors from the series when he trained Kit Harrington (who plays Jon Snow) for the movie Pompeii. Since then, his gym has been the veritable King’s Landing of Game of Thrones training, with a host of other top-billed names getting in sword-swinging shape there.

When we Skyped him in London, Wong had just finished training with Christie, so he was able to talk us through an entire workout on the spot. His first order of business? “We start off with water, espresso and a green tea or a ginger tea. That’s our little trio that we have every session.”

That’s right: You want to get in Hound-bashing shape? Start with an espresso. Find other tips from Wong, as well as detailed workouts and meal plans below.

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones. (Helen Sloan/HBO)

How to Train Like Brienne of Tarth

Training like a knight is holistic. Training for a six-pack isn’t.
“Like fighting and riding on a horse, her training had to be tailored to her scenes. One thing most people write about is ‘do these heavy intense exercises because you’re going to look like Kit with a six-pack.’ For us, we had to peel it back, like when I trained Jennifer Lawrence for X-Men: First Class, or with Nicholas Hoult.”

Don’t just lift. Don’t just do yoga. Do it all.
“People either focus on lifting. Or they say don’t do lifting because it makes you really tight, do all this yoga instead. Then the wind blows and you fall over and you’re broken. Our view is that you need a little bit of everything. One part of it is strength training, which is your normal resistance-based training. The second part is postural stunts, so that’s going to help her posture but also her joint mechanics. The third is flexibility. Besides seeing me, she also sees our physical therapist. Every third session she gets some soft tissue work done. And then the fourth is recovery. That’s the part where we focus on making sure she’s eating well, sleeping well, all those things.”

The difference between training like Brienne vs. Jon Snow.
“Gwendoline is tall and she has to ride a horse and she has to be larger than life. She has to wear armor. Kit wears big leather coats with fur. So it’s making sure her body was strong and stable. Her program was more about performance so that she has enough energy to do [fight scenes] multiple times, whereas Kit had to look good lying naked on a slab.”

If you ban something from your diet, you’ll want it even more.
“I’m a firm believer that if you tell someone they can’t have it, they want it even more. After a crazy day, you might have a glass of wine or go to the pub with friends and have a beer. That’s fine. A glass of wine is never going to throw off your routine. It’s something for relaxation. I tell them I’m fine with that just as long as it’s not every night. If you like to have something sweet, have a dessert but no wine. If you like to have wine, then you’ve got to eat pretty well. It’s about giving them better choices.”

Instead of going on a diet, change your habits.
“I try not to call it a diet because when it’s a diet it’s very restrictive. They’ll only follow a diet for a certain amount of time. When I give them lifestyle tips, then it’s something that they get to incorporate into their own life. If you think about what you eat, you probably have 10 meals, is that fair? So my goal is when we’re working, I tweak her normal everyday meals to make them better.”

You don’t need to break yourself to get in the shape you want.
“What Gwendoline said she liked about us is that we try not to break them down. We break them down a bit, but then we build them back up. That’s where the mini bands, the stretching, the recovery, the massage all help them feel better. Like the tea and the little coffee and the water, the shake at the end, it’s about treating them as an individual so that when we need to push them a bit further, a little bit harder, they are willing to go that extra bit with us.”

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in ‘Game of Thrones.’ (Helen Sloan/HBO)

The Workout

Dalton Wong breaks down an entire training session:

“We came in at 8 a.m. First thing we do, we start off with water, espresso and a green tea or a ginger tea. That’s our little trio that we have every session. I like having caffeine before a workout because it gets us mentally aware, and it’s quite nice to have something warm, to have a little chat, ask how was your day. You know, a nice couple minute chit chat.

“Then we head to the gym and start off with the movement prep. I’m getting her body prepared. My big thing is, no matter what height you are or how small you are, you have to have good posture because it automatically makes you look better. We do a bit of foam rolling, we do some massage ball work, we release the tissue. Then we lie on our back and we do a movement prep, which just loosens up the body by using your joints — your knee joint, hip, back and shoulders. We do that for up to 10 minutes and then do our mini band workout. It’s great to stabilize the hips, it’s great for the bum and it’s great for the core.

“After that, we go into the crux of the workout. The workout we did today was three exercises and we did some VersaClimbing. We did rows, we did some squats, we did some Ys and Ts, and we did some cardio. One minute each followed by one minute on the VersaClimber. No stopping for three rounds. That took us about 16 minutes and then in-between the circuit we would do a couple key stretches. Her neck, her back, her chest and her hips. Then we would finish off with [gliders]. We would just do some core workout and that’s it.”

The workout specifics:

1. Movement Prep: 5 to 10 minutes

  • Foam Roller: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, hips and mid-back
  • Active stretch
  • Single knee to chest
  • Lower body rotation
  • 90/90 Hamstring Stretch
  • Lunge to instep stretch
  • Four-point spinal rotation

2. Mini Band and Glider Posture and Core: 5 to 10 minutes

Mini Band Circuit:

  • Right knee in, 30 seconds
  • Left knee in, 30 seconds
  • Both knees, 30 seconds
  • Squat, 30 seconds
  • Mini band Y, 30 seconds
  • Perform two circuits

Glider Circuit:

  • Single-leg alternate hip extension curl, one minute
  • Mountain climbers, one minute
  • V-sit knees to chest, one minute
  • Jackknife, one minute
  • Straight-arm back extension, one minute
  • Perform one circuit

3. Resistance: 18 minutes

  • Box step-ups, one minute each leg
  • Inverted pull-ups, one minute
  • Squats, one minute
  • Push-ups, one minute
  • VersaClimber, 30 seconds
  • Perform three circuits with 30 second rest in-between sets

4. Recovery: 10 minutes

  • Restorative stretches
  • Soft tissue therapy and fascial release

The Meal Plan

1. Power Breakfast: “An easy breakfast that gives you energy and fills you up with good essential fatty acids and fiber.”

  • 1 cup organic full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup of mixed berries
  • 6-8 crushed nuts
  • ¼ teaspoon of milled seeds
  • Dash of cinnamon

2. Performance Lunch: “An ideal lunch that has a rainbow of veggies and will not feel heavy in the stomach.”

  • 1 portion of protein
  • Salad, grilled veggies or stir fry
  • Small amount of fat (e.g., salad dressing, olive oil, avocado)

3. Recovery Dinner: “The perfect dinner to aid in recovery and promote a restful night’s sleep.”

  • 1 portion of protein
  • Steam, grilled or veggie stir fry
  • Small portion of complex carbs (side of your fist) like rice or potatoes
  • Very small amount of fat