As midfielder Megan Rapinoe neared the U.S. Women’s National Team’s first World Cup game in Winnipeg, she knew the focus of her fitness regimen was all about not losing the edge that she had already gained.
"A typical week of training leading up to a major championship is like the sprinkling of parsley at the end of a dish," Rapinoe tells SI.com "It’s just the final little touches, that last little bit of strength or fitness, but mostly you are ready and are just maintaining and staying healthy.”
Rapinoe, a 29-year-old California native who has starred on the women’s team with her outspoken personality and on-field play—you may recall the corner kick she netted against Canada or the assist she had to Abby Wambach against Brazil in the 2011 World Cup—knows that even though she’s part of a team her workouts must cater to her individual needs for her to be successful.
“Over the years I have really figured out what works for me,” Rapinoe says. “It’s not about what anyone else is doing. I can’t worry about whether I am doing everything that another player is doing, which can be hard sometimes. I have to trust my training and know my body and figure out what will get the best out of me.”
Working with USWNT strength and conditioning, diet and nutrition coach Dawn Scott—USWNT players rave about Scott, who ensures the team's nutritional and fitness plans stay on track—has helped Rapinoe hone what she needs and gives her helpful insights to help monitor her progress, whether on her plate, in a weight room or on the pitch.
While Rapinoe knows that some players may need more strength or running or agility, having worked with Dawn, she says, allows her to combine her nutrition and training into a singular focus. “I’ve had to learn how to listen to my body over the years and figure out how it all works together,” she says. “I’m not invincible so focusing on training my whole body and injury prevention have been extremely important.”
Even with no secret formula for her training and no grandiose difference in routine than others on her team—she says she wants to save her defining style for the field—Rapinoe does say that her position has specific training requirements.
“Being a winger or a wide mid, I have to run continuously for 90 minutes, which not only takes endurance but also strength in my legs to be able to be explosive for 90 minutes,” Rapinoe says. “I think weight training has really allowed me to sustain for those 90 minutes.”
Having suffered an ACL tear early in her career, Rapinoe puts a focus on injury prevention. She uses SKLZ bands to help with strength exercises for her legs, even outside the weight room, and uses the brand’s massage bar and barrel roller—“staples in my daily routine”—for recovery.
“While I’m at home I don’t have access to everything I do when I am with the national team,” she says. So having her own staple of exercises she can manage while on the go helps keep her in injury-prevention mode.
But while maintaining fitness and strength proves important, Rapinoe wants to keep her skills sharp too. “I spend a lot of time in and out of soccer camps, so my training is always a little different,” she says. Using another SKLZ tool, the Quickster Soccer Trainer, Rapinoe works in reps on a device that has a net on two sides.
A small, shorter net helps her work on volleys and half-volleys with her instep and laces, while the larger net on the other side is about passing, first touches and receiving.
Rapinoe says the style of her training has changed since early in her career. With a new set of training tools, Rapinoe's able to train at home and on the road with ease, while also focusing on maintaining a healthy and injury-free body. Rapinoe’s focus proves specific and tailored for her.
And after an impressive 3–1 win over Australia, Rapinoe (who scored twice in that match) has already proved that her training leading up the tournament was right on point.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.