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5 Ways This Soccer Legend Keeps His Head in the Game

by
author image Michelle Vartan
Michelle is a mission-first journalist and content producer, telling stories that will help better other’s lives. She covers environment, health, human-interest, community and travel. Michelle lives in Santa Monica, Ca.
5 Ways This Soccer Legend Keeps His Head in the Game
Soccer superstar Landon Donovan has been forthcoming about his struggles with mental health issues. Photo Credit Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Image

Landon Donovan has been scoring his whole life, including momentous goals at the 2002 and 2012 World Cups and approximately 100 goals throughout his career.

Recently retired from Major League Soccer as star forward for the LA Galaxy, Donovan is a superstar athlete, widely known as the best and “most decorated” U.S. soccer player in history.

But with a lot of attention, comes tremendous pressure. Donovan has spoken openly about his battle with depression and is one of the first famous athletes to do so -- bravo to that!

Donovan has been known for his pace and stamina, but also for his presence of mind. So when we talked with him at the 2016 CrossFit Games about his overall health (while getting a behind-the-scenes tour from the CrossFit Games sponsor and all natural diet soda brand, Zevia) his responses all circled back to his mental state.

And as he looked back at his career, he shared that his success on the field wasn’t necessarily determined by the wild roaring crowds, but rather his focus on what was important.

Read More: The Best Stretches to Avoid Injury in Your Favorite Sports

Landon Donovan's 5 Key Healthy Habits

In no particular order, here are five of this superstar’s healthy habits he used to stay well — especially on game day.

1. Believe it’s the mental, not the physical.

In comparison to other sports, Donovan believes that soccer is mainly a head game. He says that in football, an athlete follows plays, but soccer has constant fluidity and movement from your team and the opponent. So if you’re mind isn’t sharp for the pros, good riddance.

“I think people get caught up in the physical,” Donovan told LIVESTRONG.COM. “But the reason why some of these men and women are at the top is because mentally they tell themselves and are able to do it better and stronger than other people.”

When we asked Donovan if he considered soccer more mental than physical, his response? “Oh yeah, well life is, right?”

2. Stick to the basics.

Donovan doesn’t follow a specific diet regimen or subscribe to a fitness plan; for him, staying healthy is fairly simple. “I eat well. I hydrate well. I meditate. I work out,” he said. “And I do things that are fun. Within that there is some variance, but that is kind of it.”

His favorite pre-game meal? A blend of grains (rice, quinoa, teff, amaranth) over-easy eggs and a banana. “Disgusting, I know. But it’s really easy on your stomach, it gives you good carbs, protein… potassium and it was really easy to digest,” he said.

3. Breathe.

To get his head in the game, Donovan practices breathing exercises he learned in therapy. “I was taught a very simple, ‘eyes closed, in through the nose’.” Donovan started seeing a therapist seven years ago as part of his depression treatment.

Read More: How Your Breathing Is Ruining Your Workout

4. Focus on what matters.

There was a time in Donovan’s personal life that was especially challenging, as he struggled with personal matters in addition to mental health issues.

To shake it off when he ran out on the field, Donovan focused on simple things.

“I would find a little boy somewhere in the stands and, they never knew it," he says, "but I would connect with them and it would allow me to… play for that little boy… so it helped me focus.”

5. Make good choices.

From diet to happiness, Donovan believes success all comes down to making smart decisions. “Making good choices in life in general," he advised, "saves you a lot of trouble.”

What Do YOU Think?

What are some of your mental tricks to keep you focused in high-pressure situations? How does decision-making play a role in your life? Would you try Donovan's pre-game meal?

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