I’m a Professional Soccer Player. Here’s What My Recovery Routine Looks Like.

This article originally appeared on Outside

Sam Mewis is a FIFA World Cup winner and professional player for the Kansas City Current. However, when it comes to her recovery, the 30-year-old star is just like you and me: She sticks to the basics. That includes a consistent eight-hour sleep schedule, proper nutrition, and a little help from a few beloved products.

Sticking to the Basics of Sleep

You won't catch Mewis sacrificing her shut-eye. "The older I've gotten, sleep has become such a big part of my routine," Mewis says. "I need eight hours of sleep, or I honestly don't feel good at all."

For Mewis, the secret to restful sleep lies in the preparation. Mewis tries to go to bed by 9 PM and wake up at 7 AM every day. She also stays away from screens before hitting the pillow as much as possible. Whether it's through sipping tart cherry juice (as she often does) or taking some melatonin and reading, for her, the regular wind-down routine is critical.

It's an ethos Jason Wersland, MD, the founder and chief wellness officer of Therabody, echoes as well: Adults need sleep routines. When you're a kid, you're taught to get ready for bed at a certain time and have an established pattern, he says. Those principles shouldn't disappear when you become independent. For example, if you're plugging away on emails at 11:30 PM and expect to fall asleep at 11:32 PM, your brain doesn't work like that, Wersland says. You have to help nudge your body into the restful state sleep requires. Regular routines--coupled with a lack of screens--help solidify that.

Eating Well

Recovery is about much more than sleep and stretching--it's also about food. "As women, we're trained so much by society to watch what we eat," Mewis says. "But as an athlete and as someone who is trying to heal, recover, and be strong, I need to eat a lot." To this end, Mewis focuses her attention on what foods can fuel her--and directly benefit her athletic performance on the field.

That doesn't mean she's snacking on bland protein bars. It's actually the opposite case: Her husband is a chef. And while Mewis focuses on her vegetable and protein intake, she says she'll eat whatever dish he places in front of her. In the mornings, she says she loves to have a frittata. Her husband will prepare it on the weekends, and she'll eat it throughout the week with toast and vegetables. Because, yes, even professional athletes need meal prep.

Sam Mewis uses a massage gun during her recovery
(Photo: Courtesy of Sam Mewis)

Turning to the Tools

There's a reason why so many athletes turn to massage guns (results!), and Mewis is no exception. While she loves Therabody's full-size tool, Mewis often employs the Mini as an on-the-go option.

But she also loves the company's PowerDots--and she's not the only one. Like a massage gun, these small dots stimulate your muscles to relieve pain and improve performance. "You'll see a lot of people around the locker room with the PowerDots on before we go out and play," she says.

Mixing Hot and Cold

Following practice, you won't find Mewis lingering in one place for too long. "I love contrast," she says. That means mixing temperatures and braving the extreme heat and frigid cold. She often rotates between an ice tub and a hot tub in a single sitting. And when she has the time, she loves to spend 20 minutes jogging and stretching--in the pool. "I think the compression of the pool is super valuable for swelling and soreness."

Because of Mewis's current knee injury, she's intentional with her recovery. "Especially with the injury I'm dealing with, swelling is a big deterrent to me being able to perform and play," she says. As a result, she spends a lot of time with compression products, including Therabody's famous compression boots that many stars swear by, as well as the RecoveryTherm Hot and Cold Vibration Knee, a therapeutic device.

You may see professional athletes plop bags of ice on their muscles and joints after a game. And while there's nothing wrong with some icing, it may not be the most effective approach to supporting tired muscles. Wersland explains that when you throw a bag of ice on your legs, your skin may stay cold initially, but over time, the ice starts to melt, making the treatment gradually less effective. However, when you use a temperature-regulated device, like the sleeve Mewis uses, it stays at 46.4 degrees, a therapeutic temperature, for the entire session.

Professional athlete or amateur, we could all stand to take a little something from Mewis's routine: rest, fuel, and take care of our joints and muscles. Here's to winning big in the ways that matter.

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