BY THE time she had played 90 minutes of regulation soccer, 30 minutes of overtime and then blasted the last penalty kick past Chinese goalie Gao Hong to win the 1999 Women's World Cup final, it was clear that U.S. defender Brandi Chastain was in superb physical shape. Then she ripped off her jersey, and the world got a closer look at her physique (inset below). How has she maintained her conditioning throughout a career in which she's spent 15 years on the national team? The answer lies partly in her mental and emotional makeup: She never lost her enthusiasm for her sport, even when she suffered anterior cruciate ligament tears in both knees early in her college career. (She had reconstructive surgery in 1986 and was named an All-America four years later.) "I've been playing soccer for 30 years, but I still wake up every morning and get excited about it," says the 36-year-old Chastain, who is expected to again be a team leader on the U.S. defense at the 2007 World Cup in China. "I still love going out to the field and sitting down to put my cleats on and smelling the grass. If I close my eyes, I could be 16 again." Chastain trains at Santa Clara University, from which she graduated in 1991 and where she met her husband, Jerry Smith, 44, the women's soccer coach there since '87. Here's a look at key elements of the workout that the 5'7", 130-pound Chastain does several times each week.
PUSH-UP WITH SHOULDER STABILIZATION
Ten push-ups before switching the ball to the other hand. Three sets of 20.
Brandi: "By taking my hand from a stable surface and placing it on an unstable one [the soccer ball], I'm working different muscles in my arm than I do with a regular push-up. And it really works my core. You need to keep your abdominals tight to be able to hold this position."
SIT WITH ADDUCTOR CONTRACTION
Hold for one minute. Three sets.
Brandi: "When I started doing abdominal work, I would hold this position for 15 seconds. I built up to a minute by adding five-second increments every couple of weeks. For an added challenge, I'll put the ball between my feet and squeeze to work my adductors [inner thigh muscles]. I've started doing it on The Bean (right). You can do this on a mat or the floor, but you get a better workout with this apparatus because you're on an unbalanced platform and you have to work to keep your balance. Watching TV, I use The Bean as a chair, then flip it over and do exercises during commercials."
A series of sets lasting 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, one minute, 45 seconds, 30 seconds and 15 seconds. One minute of active rest between each set.
Brandi: "Active rest is when you stand holding the handles and continuously make figure eights with the rope. That keeps the heart pumping as in a soccer match, during which there's no rest. You can do this exercise as a warmup, or you can incorporate it into your routine as a conditioning tool."