By: Shannon Boxx, Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA World Cup Champion
My journey to the 2015 World Cup started on a wet icy track just a few miles from my home in Portland. Dark clouds spit hail into my face as my cold legs pushed through the first few laps. It was the end of 2014, and I was just coming back from a major knee surgery and giving birth to my baby girl. Despite three Olympic gold medals and eleven years of experience on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, I had a lot to prove if I wanted to make the World Cup team. I knew the odds were against me, but I learned early on in my career that my success was determined by how hard I trained when no one was watching.
What became most important during my journey was not what I did in a team setting, but what I did on my own. I was the only person who could hold myself accountable. There were days when I wanted to quit before my workouts were over, and days when I told myself that no one was making me do this. But in the back of my head, I resolved to never give up on my dream.
When I was diagnosed with Lupus, it became my most difficult challenge. There were times when I was unable to train because I was too fatigued or my body ached so much I couldn’t get out of bed. Lupus is a disease of unpredictable flares. I had to learn to understand my body and change my lifestyle accordingly in a way that would still allow me to accomplish my goals.
I came up with a new training program that would give me the same level of fitness without abusing my joints. I changed my lifting program to make sure I didn’t break down my muscles. I went from taking one day off a week to two days off for extra recovery time. I changed my diet and became diligent about taking my meds to help limit the intensity of my flares. By taking these steps, I was able to put myself in the position to compete and start on the most successful national team in the world.
After winning the World Cup last year, I decided it was time to retire and transition into the next phase of my life. One year later, with no World Cup or Olympic tournament to motivate me, I have to find new ways to get excited about staying fit. My ultimate goal now is to be healthy. There is no medal handed out at the end of this new journey, but I know being able to run after my children is motivation to continue working out.
For me, it’s important to commit to a weekly routine and continue to try new activities until I find something that I really enjoy. It will likely take time to find something that makes me feel as fully alive as soccer, but modeling a healthy lifestyle for my children makes me feel part of something bigger than myself.
As I look back on my journey, I am proud of all the moments spent by myself, on a grass field or high school track, grinding it out day in and day out. It was those moments when no one was watching that helped me define my goals, determine my success and fulfil my dreams.