Soccer star Shannon Boxx was part of the 1st place U.S. team in Athens, and, four years later, she's stronger than ever. She tells us all about her two-a-day training sessions, workout tips, her game-day rituals, and how Olympic gold runs in the family.
What's your usual day like?
The whole team lives and trains together right now. So we get up around 7:30 or so, then all go down to breakfast. Then we train at 10:30 for about an hour and a half. That training session is a mixture: half of it is weights and agility on the field, and the second half is more typical -- working on your individual skills. Then we come back and have lunch and a little bit of a break. The second training session is from 4:30 to 6. Then we have dinner. We eat in between too Ã¢â‚¬“ and I usually have a slight snack before bed.
We have a rhythm of three weeks on, one week off. On my week off I only do about an hour or an hour and a half a day. It's so important for us to take it easy those weeks, so we can recover from all the hard training.
What kind of strength-training do you do?
We do upper-body work a lot. We need to make sure our upper body is as strong as our lower body. Our legs get a lot of work when we're playing, but our arms don't, and that's what we use to hold off other players and to protect the ball.
We also do a lot of core. I've learned that my core is so important when I'm changing directions and need that balance. It also helps me move quicker. And if you have a strong core, everything comes back quicker if you've been out because of injury.
What are your fitness tips for recovering after a tough workout?
The biggest thing we do as a team is ice baths. We get in a cold whirlpool up to our waist. It helps a lot with recovery.
Also, just being smart about my body. If I'm tired, I really need to just relax. And on a day off, I can't go for a bike ride or something. I need to be cautious because that's the day I have off and my body is trying to recover. It's a day for putting my feet up.
What kind of diet do you follow when you're training?
Pretty much the biggest thing for me is to make sure I get enough food. I'm not too specific. I don't focus on a certain diet; it's more making sure I'm getting enough food. I eat four or five times a day--mostly smaller meals. For the most part, I eat what I feel like.
In general, I don't stay away from anything. I'll have a little bit instead. I just have to make sure to get enough protein and carbs after I've been lifting, to help my muscles rebuild.
I'm a huge dessert person, though, especially with ice cream. If I have a hard training day I let myself have chocolate chip ice cream.
How do you get through difficult days?
The motivation to do well keeps me going. My teammates help to motivate me because when I see them working hard, I don't want to slack. I want to do just as well, and to make the team better. We have an overall goal: to win the Olympics. It's a goal we all have, and every day we train we think about our final goal.
Also, I remember how lucky I am to be doing what I'm doing. I love what I do, and I get to play soccer for a living. So a hard day is not so hard if it's the best job you can think of.
What are your personal goals for the Olympics?
I have three goals. I want to do my role to the best of my ability. If that's to be a defender and let no one go through the center, or to score a few goals, I want to do everything possible to do that.
Second, my goal is to help this team to win the gold medal.
Third, I really want to enjoy the experience. The Olympics is such an honor to be a part of, and I don't want to forget that. Only a few people even make it to the Olympics, and I want to take it all in. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
The U.S.A has won two out of three gold medals awarded since women's Olympic soccer became a sport in 1996. What does the team need to do to win this year?
As our coach, Pia Sundhage, has said, we really need to take the offense to the next level. We've started playing with more freedom and being more creative, and we have to continue that. Our defense has always been great, and we've been known for being very controlled in the back.
What are your game-day rituals?
Usually we eat all of our meals together as a team, but on game day I'll go by myself and use the time to relax on my own. I eat banana pancakes every game day if possible, though it's not the end of the world if I don't get them. I always French braid my hair, and I have a playlist that I always listen to. I try to stay relaxed, and then when it gets close to game time I get nervous. Nervous is a good thing though. It helps me play well.
Will you continue after the Olympics?
Yes, definitely. The U.S. soccer league is coming back, and I'm excited to hopefully be a part of that. I'm having such fun and my body is doing great. I want to continue as long as I can.
What's your favorite part of being a soccer player?
I love the fact that I'm continuing in the paths of people like Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy and continuing to build interest in soccer in this country. It's something that is bigger than just me, and it's really cool to be a part of.
What's the worst part?
I think a lot of us would say that constantly traveling and being away from friends and family is the hardest part. We basically live in a hotel, and there are times that we really miss the comforts of home.
Events sometimes happen without us. I've been pretty lucky, because I was able to make it to my best friends' weddings. They planned it around my schedule, which was very nice. But I missed my best friend's mother's funeral, and I wish I had made a different decision. You miss little things too, when your family or friends are together.
If you could choose an Olympic sport other than soccer, what would it be?
I think it would be fun to be a triathlete. It's something I'm interested in doing when I'm done playing soccer. Being athletic in three different things is really cool. I can't even imagine training for that--they must train all day. They amaze me.
Your sister Gillian was an Olympic gold medalist in softball in 1996. Have you compared Olympic experiences?
We had very different Olympic experiences. She had a lot more pressure on her because it was 1996, and it was the first time softball was an Olympic sport. They were at home, and they were supposed to win.
Did she give you any advice?
She's so modest. She's always like, You're so much better than I was, you're going to do so great. She didn't need to tell me anything; just having her there was all I needed.
She kept saying, "This is so much bigger." She really thought me competing in the Olympics was a bigger deal than her doing it.
That's always made me feel really special. We grew up always battling, and to now be grown up, I realize how much she loves me and has supported me.