To me, the smell of fall is the smell of soccer season. It’s my favorite season of the year and I’m not sure if it’s because of the crisp weather and pretty leaves, or if it’s because it’s time to lace ‘em up! Either way, fall is here and I’m naturally excited. Some of you are playing soccer, some are enjoying a different fall sport, and some are just getting out there to exercise and be healthy. It’s all good! Regardless of the ball you’re kicking or surface you’re running, I’d like to share some things that helped me maintain a high level of in-season physical and mental health.
During a given season your main focus is to give the best performance every time you step out on the field or go to the gym. All your pre-season grunt work is in the past and now it is time to execute and make a difference. Two areas I like to focus on during the season are nutrition and rest. I’m not a nutritional guru by any stretch of the imagination; however, over the years I learned a lot from professional nutritionists, applied what I learned, and saw great results.
My #1 tip for in-season success: Eat a balanced diet. I make sure I get carbohydrates, protein, and fat in my diet. I also make sure I eat enough. Female athletes in particular have a tendency to cut calories from their diet – not a good idea. Calories are like energy, if you don’t have enough calories you won’t have enough energy to perform to the best of your abilities. I learned this lesson the hard way. Early in my career I didn’t eat enough and it negatively affected my performance. So, I started eating small meals throughout the day and saw that negative change into to a positive.
My #2 tip: Eat a good pre-game and post game meal. For me, it was important to get a good meal in before games. Peanut butter and jelly was a staple, along with some chicken and plain noodles and fruits and vegetables. When I was with the U.S. National Team I usually ate about four hours before a game. I found that my post game meal was just as important as my pre-game meal. You need to refuel your engine! Within two hours of the final whistle, I always ate a good meal and had my fill of sports drink or chocolate milk.
My final tip: Get your rest. Everyone is different in how much they sleep. Some people nap; some people snooze for twelve hours straight. During my playing days I needed about nine hours of sleep per day. So remember to allot time for your body to rest, recover and rejuvenate!