The FIFA Women's World Cup kicked off its seventh edition June 6th in Canada. In order to get ready for this huge, once-every-four-years event, we spoke with former U.S. Women's National Team star Brandi Chastain, whose left foot won the tournament for the U.S. in 1999.
Like so many who witnessed it, I'll never forget the 1999 Women's World Cup final. Team USA went down to the wire against a stubborn China squad, and the tournament culminated in a shootout. After nine players had already taken their penalty shots, Brandi Chastain calmly stepped into the box and slammed home a game-winner into the upper lefthand corner of the goal, securing the title of World Champions for Team America. Overcome by elation/pure joy/relief, she whipped off her jersey and slid to the ground, creating an iconic sports image in the process.
Sixteen years after that fateful day, Chastain is ready to watch Team USA travel to our northern neighbor's home turf and recapture World Cup glory. And even though she's no longer on the squad, Chastain stays in fantastic shape by balancing healthy eating with exercise (a word she calls her "fantasy").
"For me, it's about balance," Chastain says, "finding ways to enjoy the food I'm eating while eating as healthy as I can, and not denying myself the things that I sometimes feel like I want or need. And it's kind of always been that way, even when I was playing and training."
Chastain complements her approach to healthy eating by incorporating exercise into her busy life wherever she can. When her son started kindergarten she didn't know many parents, so she killed two birds with one stone by bringing workout gear when she brought him to school. After dropping him off, she started introducing herself to parents and asking if they'd like to come to the parking lot and have a workout.
"It's been four years and I've got a regular group of moms—and one dad every now and again," Chastain says. "We go to the track right after we drop our kids and I run them through some kind of exercise, whether it's cardio, cardio with some weight training, or body weight training. And we do that Monday through Friday. It's a lot of fun."
Chastain realizes that everyone has different time constraints and demands, though, so she advocates being prepared so that you can exercise when and where you're able. Even if it's only for five or ten minutes, she credits feeling better with exercising, getting those endorphins excited. She keeps a soccer bag handy—complete with yoga mat, soccer ball, and resistance bands—for impromptu workouts when the opportunity presents itself, like at her son's baseball game.
"When I find that I'm sitting out at the baseball game, whether it's between innings or they're warming up, I'm doing some kind of exercise because at the end [of the game], I'm feeling better and he's feeling better, and we're all happier."
The World Cup winner also encourages snacking, emphasizing the importance of replacing the energy your body burns while exercising.
When she's in need of a pick-me-up or energy boost, Chastain reaches for raw nuts and raisins, half of a peanut butter and honey on wheat sandwich, a Dole Fruit Bowl, or a small piece of dark chocolate. "I think being prepared with healthy snacks in a gym bag helps you feel better because snacks are important if you spend those calories and need to replace them." she says, "But again, a well-balanced life is one that's well-lived."
And a life well lived is one in which the World Cup is watched. Although Chastain misses the honor and privilege of bearing the USA crest out on the field, she's excited about the chances for the current USWNT (US Women's National Team).
"Team USA definitely has a lot of tools to win the tournament," she says. "They have firepower up front, and [we've got] a great goalkeeper. [But]...It's not going to be an easy road."
Easy road or no, Chastain says the World Cup is definitely worth watching, even if you're not a big soccer fan.
"As Americans, we love big events," Chastain says. "There's no other event that's bigger than the World Cup. And if you want to see [soccer] played at its highest level—especially if you have daughters—sit down with your daughter and watch these games. Because it's a really beautiful sport. … Everybody is a quarterback at some point. It's a free-flowing game with agility, power, strength, tactics, and the World Cup is a stand-alone event that is truly spectacular."
Watch the USWNT take on Nigeria this evening at 8 PM ET (Fox). Let's go, 'Merica!