34-year-old Landon Donovan is arguably the most accomplished United States National soccer team player. He’s the all-time leader in scoring and assists, an MLS Cup Champion, a World Cup veteran in 2002, 2006, and 2010, and has the MLS MVP Award named after him. Donovan may seem to have been-there-done-that and finished his career—but it’s actually quite the contrary. While he’s not training the same these days, he’s remained entrenched in the sport, and has some very valuable veteran experience in keeping strong.
We caught up with the soccer great at the Gatorade Athlete of the Year Awards for his advice on keeping a pair of healthy wheels, what life’s like behind the sportscaster’s desk, and how it feels to be a brand-new dad.
MEN'S FITNESS: How do soccer player’s maintain their legs when putting that kind of mileage on them day-in and day-out?
LANDON DONOVAN: The easiest way to maintain it is by doing it. If I’m training an hour to an hour and a half per day, I’m prepared. But, as you get older you realize that there are little things that you can do to make you stronger. In my career, the best thing for my body was to constantly change what I was doing. My body adapts very quickly, so one year I’d do yoga all year, next year would be Pilates, the next year would be focused on lifting weights. Always changing things helped me. If I got stuck doing the same thing, my body would figure it out and I wouldn’t get any stronger. I always needed to challenge my body in that way.
MEN'S FITNESS: What is your diet and training like nowadays?
LANDON DONOVAN: Well, now that I’m retired, I eat what I want when I want, but I’ve actually fallen in love with tennis. I play a lot. It’s fun because instead of just going to the gym and running on the treadmill for an hour I can do something that’s fun and enjoyable, and by the end of it I’m exhausted and had a great workout.
MEN'S FITNESS: Did you ever see yourself calling games?
LANDON DONOVAN: No, I absolutely did not. And I’m not naturally an enthusiastic and energetic guy. So, the first few games I watched back and I said, ‘God, that’s really boring, ya know? You’re really boring on TV.’ I almost have to really get up and get excited to talk and almost live outside my skin a little so I sound like what is normal to every other announcer because it’s not my natural demeanor. But, as far as being able to talk to people about the game and the sport, it’s really enjoyable for me because I can help people learn. And I like that.
MEN'S FITNESS: What do you value most about your career right now?
LANDON DONOVAN: Right now, having my wife giving birth to my son five months ago gives you a pretty cool look at life from a different perspective. So, I’ve really enjoyed learning that because that in of itself is like learning a new sport or learning a new career or learning a new passion. You don’t know what you’re doing! There’s no rulebook. So that’s enjoyable. Commentating has been enjoyable. And at some point I think I’ll get into coaching, and do that. Life has been very fun for me. And I’m very lucky I get to pick and chose the things I do.
More from Gatorade’s Athlete of the Year Awards:
Q&A with Female Athlete Sydney McLaughlin