With the FIFA Women’s World Cup in full swing, you’ve probably seen a highlight or two of the latest game these amazing women have won! It’s got us thinking, “How do they do it?!” We went digging for some advice, and we found a few articles that their High Performance Coach, Dawn Scott, weighed in on.
One thing to keep in mind is that these women are traveling and on the road for so long, so sticking to a diet isn’t exactly easy. Scott has said that with 23 players they optimize the buffet style of serving. Scott likes to offer the team a variety of options so the cravings for junk food are kept at bay.
Their menu does include what Scott calls “Standard Athlete Staples” like lean proteins, salads and greens, fruits and veggies, and lastly high quality carbs (quinoa and rice). She does like to give the team more indulgent items as what she calls “a give and take.” Those foods are usually bacon or sausage in the morning or turkey burgers with sweet potato fries for lunch.
The important foods on their menu are things like eggs, superfood smoothies, yogurt parfaits, salmon, kale, beetroot juice, and surprisingly, gummy bears. Eggs are a good source of protein, which help repair and rebuild muscle tissue, and they’re served however a player wants! Smoothies are a delicious way to have nutrient dense foods. The ones the team have typically has goji berries (improves immune system), chia seeds (fiber), and coconut oil (healthy fats). They also add greens and berries for added flavor and nutrients! As a dessert option, they have yogurt parfaits, which most people are familiar with. They are full of protein, vitamins, and antioxidants! Salmon is their alternative to red meat, since red meat can leave you sluggish, which isn’t ideal before games/practices. The team tends to stick to chicken or fish instead. Kale can sometimes be hard to enjoy, but grill it with other veggies and you’ll have your daily need of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Beetroot juice sounds like the oddball in this group, but when you consider its high nitrate concentration, it’s essential. Nitrates are what allows blood to pump more efficiently, which in turn improves endurance. Soccer is a long endurance sport (these women are running about seven miles per game) so it just makes sense to drink it. Now, the surprise of all of these, to me, was the gummy bears! We’re always taught that sugar is bad and to not have too many sweets. But hearing that candy is a staple for the women’s soccer team has changed the game for me! Scott said that since they run a large amount of miles each game, refueling is key. An easy way to do that is to have easy to digest carbs for quick energy. Some players snack on these while on the sidelines and others opt for bananas.
The players need to have long lasting endurance to play these games, as often as they do and for as long as they do. April Heinrichs, 1991 World Cup Champion, suggested “interval training.” The program was described as a “six-to 10-week program featuring a series of 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4-mile intervals is ideal for that type of training.” Basically, with each 2 to 3 weeks of the program, you increase the distance you run. Starting off at a ¼ mile and working towards ¾ gradually. Heinrichs suggests 3 to 6 repetitions of each run per session, with two to three sessions each week.
If you run as fast as you can at first, you can take the time of your run and divide it by both .8 and .9. This is your “Pace Time Range.” It helps you train at 80-90% of your top speed. You should rest for one to one and a half times your physical run time, meaning if you run ¼ mile in 105 seconds, rest for 105 seconds to 157 seconds (105 x 1.5).
It is cautioned that you do not do this training at the beginning of your season. You should get an aerobic base beforehand so you don’t exhaust yourself unnecessarily. You could build this base by using a stationary bike for 20-30 minutes, or any other exercise that elevates your heart rate for that same amount of time. Lastly, work to improve. Your time shouldn’t stay consistent for too long, it should decrease.
It can be very beneficial for a person to work-out with a friend/partner/teammate. It creates a relationship that makes your triumphs 100x better. It’s like having your own “personal cheering squad.” Exercises can be easier to stick to and more enjoyable with someone to share the experience with. Sports aren’t typically seen as “working out,” but rather as play. It can be taken less seriously when done leisurely. The Journal of American College Health found in a study that we are more “intrinsically motivated” to play sports than to exercise. Friends can push you to achieve your goals, big or small, every day. Another study done by Annals Behavioral Medicine found that “when paired with [a] more capable partner, female exercisers not only put in more effort than those working out alone, but also pushed themselves a staggering 208% longer.” Lastly, the social bonding triggers a greater release of endorphins, your “feel good” chemicals and you can in turn endure twice as much pain.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert and the information written is based on research done online.