Health

5 Factors Soccer Icon Carli Lloyd Attributes to Her Amazing Career Longevity

“I think doing things on a consistent basis—sleep, hydration, massaging, recovery ice bath, training—has all allowed me to continue to play,” she says. “My recovery hasn’t changed.”

That also means continuing to make these basics a priority, whether she’s in season or off-season.

“I’m not taking months and weeks off at a time or eating terribly, or not getting enough sleep. It’s been constant,” she says. “I’ve really given [the sport] everything I have up to this point and will continue until I retire.”

3. Fuel appropriately.

When Lloyd reached her late 20s, she started to take a more informed look at her nutrition plan to figure out the best way to fuel for performance. Starting in 2009, she made a conscious effort to eat whole, organic foods while limiting added sugars. She also makes sure to eat enough protein, especially post-game, in order to rebuild her muscles and improve recovery.

The extra time and effort that goes into nutrition planning is worth it, Lloyd says: At 39, she feels like the strongest version of herself. By continuing to keep her fueling routine steady, she says, “you just continue to see an evolution.”

4. Play smarter.

It’s probably not surprising that after nearly two decades of playing soccer, Lloyd understands the game on a deeper level than many other athletes.

“When you’re a younger player, you just go out and you run around, and you do things a little bit more instinctually rather than studying the game, learning the game,” she says. As she progressed, Lloyd began to approach the field more tactically: studying film of past competitions to see how and where she could improve.

In doing so, Lloyd believes her game is coming together in a more effortless way.

“I can see where I want to go with the ball, two, three steps ahead, versus when I was a younger player—you’re not processing that as quickly,” Lloyd says. “So in that regard, it’s become a little bit easier. With experience and with all the games under my belt, I’ve had a lot of practice and been in different situations where I can adapt and figure out the best position to be in.”

5. Use setbacks as motivation.

Despite all of Lloyd’s accomplishments and accolades on the field, no one is ever guaranteed on a team as competitive as the USWNT. Lloyd has always identified as an underdog—and so she trains like one.

That hard-nosed work ethic stems back to her on-the-field trials earlier in her career. In 2003, she was cut from the U.S. U-21 national team, as she wrote in The Players’ Tribune in 2019. (An “under 21 years of age” team is designed primarily for the development of soccer players who might one day play on the national team.) In 2009, a year after scoring the game-winning goal in the Olympic final, her U.S. Soccer contract wasn’t renewed. In 2011, she missed a penalty kick in the World Cup final against Japan and had to prove herself yet again.

“So we worked 10 times harder,” Lloyd wrote of setbacks in The Players’ Tribune piece.

For each hurdle she’s faced, Lloyd has returned to the pitch even stronger and more motivated than before.

“I think there’s been a lot of people who say, ‘You run too much, you do this too much,’ but it’s been incredibly helpful for me, and it’s made me incredibly fit and I’m still able to play at a high level,” she says. “It’s just about always finding ways to get better.”

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