Megan Rapinoe On Why Recovery Is Even More Important Than Training
Plus, what’s in her go-to, post-game smoothie.
You might say that Megan Rapinoe is finally in recovery mode. After a grueling season and heated (figuratively and literally—did you notice how hot it was in Lyon during the championship?) World Cup battle, the team co-captain and her squad of badasses can finally enjoy some much-deserved relaxation (and more victory laps, please).
And while her schedule isn’t likely to slow down any time soon, coming off the high-energy soccer field is exactly what her body needs, says Rapinoe. (Related: The U.S. Women's National Soccer Jersey Is So Popular, It Broke a Nike Sales Record)
"Typically, in sports, the mentality is always ‘go longer, play harder’, but the flip side of that is getting as much rest as you can," says Rapinoe. "I feel like recovery is more important than all of the training that you do."
So, how does the pastel-haired pro recover after a 90+ minute game?
Sleep, and lots of it. "It’s the number one, by far, most important thing you can do [to recover]," she says. Also, just taking a mental break. "Turning off your mind allows the rest of the body to do its best work in that recovery."
Eating as much good, healthy food as you can, and staying hydrated is at the top of her recovery-musts, as well. If you caught the last Women’s World Cup Finals (and if you didn’t, we'll only judge you a little), you saw just how unexpectedly hot it was Lyon, France—upper 80s with barely a cloud in the sky—but Rapinoe says the team was ready. (Related: Is It Safe to Work Out In a Heat Wave?)
"Hydration is one of those sneaky things that people don’t really think about, but it can have a massive impact," she says. "The more you’re dehydrated, the more your performance is going to suffer. You’ll start to lose a little percentage here and there, and you’ll feel it when your hamstrings start to cramp up."
For the most part, Rapinoe keeps it pretty natural, drinking a ton of water throughout the day and tournament, but when she needs an extra boost, she says she reaches for BODYARMOR LYTE. The sports drinks’ all-natural flavors and ingredients are what appeals to her, plus it offers potassium and a little bit of sugar, which is great while you’re playing, she adds. "It just helps sustain you throughout the tournament, so you’re not constantly trying to play catch up."
Oh, and the one thing Rapinoe does directly following every game without fail: gulp down a protein smoothie. Her ingredients of choice are actually really simple, too! It’s usually a mix of strawberries, a little orange juice, almond milk, and vanilla protein powder, she says. "I do that right away, and that gets you a tiny little meal to get the protein in your body to help your body begin to recover." (Related: Natalie Coughlin's Almond Cherry Recovery Smoothie)
A diet filled with whole foods is how Rapinoe stays in such amazing shape year-round, and you won’t really find this soccer star celebrating a win with pizza and brownies. "We’re spending so much time making sure everything else is right—whether that’s with running, or our fitness, or the way we play on the field, but everything that goes into your body is most important," she says.
Still, no amount of avocado and quinoa can take the credit for the composure and mental toughness Rapinoe is able to hold down, especially considering the challenges she's faced as an athlete and as a gay woman, fighting for equality in her sport. (Related: Megan Rapinoe Just Became the First Openly Gay Woman to Pose In SI Swim)
So how the heck does she not crack under the pressure? On the field, she attributes it to repetitive routines that prepare her for any situation that might come up—a la the penalty kick that started the wave of goals in the World Cup final. Outside of competition, she says it’s her solid support system that keeps her grounded. "I’m really lucky to have really amazing people around me to help guide me and check me when I need to be checked and encourage me when I need to be encouraged." (Related: Why the Controversy Over the U.S. Women's Soccer Team's Winning Celebration Is Total BS)
She also has some pretty stellar role models of empowering women in sports to look to for guidance. Among her line-up: Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, and basically the whole USWNT alumni, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Sue Bird (her girlfriend and WNBA star—talk about a power couple), and, of course, Serena Williams. "She’s a complete badass," she says. "She’s doing it all with such style, doing it in the face of so much adversity and controversy. She hasn’t really been allowed to be just Serena Williams, there's always something that comes with it. She handles and shoulders that so well and then just goes out there and is an absolute beast on the court. It’s pretty cool to watch."
In truth, though, it’s safe to say a lot of people, probably Williams included, are saying the exact same thing about Rapinoe.