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In Shape

Q & A with Skylar Little—A Soccer Dynamo in a Small Package

The life of a professional athlete is one of hard work and sacrifice, with a bit of fun thrown in. To learn more about the ins and outs of being a pro, FoodFit met with Skylar Little, a former Washington Freedom defender, who hails from Pacific Palisades, CA. Despite being the shortest member of the defensive team, this 5-foot, 3-inch powerhouse was known for her speed and tenacity.

Now in retirement, at age 25, we caught up with Skylar to get tips on training and to find out how she’s staying in shape these days. Skylar’s realistic approach to fitness should inspire all athletes—from the weekend warrior to the marathoner in training.

FoodFit   Skylar, how old were you when you decided to become a professional soccer player?

SKYLAR
LITTLE:

 
  
Skylar Little and Mia Hamm

Going professional wasn't really an option until my senior year of college. I had finished my last season at UCLA and received a letter inviting me to try out for the WUSA (Women's United Soccer Association). In December of 2000 I went to Florida and was drafted by the Washington Freedom. I guess it was then that I decided I wanted to be a part of history and challenge myself at the highest level.
 

FoodFit   How many hours per week did you commit to practice during the season?

SKYLAR
LITTLE:

 

Well, off-season and season are two different training schedules. During season we would practice for two hours a day, six days a week, along with weight lifting and agility work three days a week for an hour.

Off-season was a little more strenuous and required self-motivation. I would train every day; long distance running, sprint workouts, agility and ball work at least five days a week. I would also lift weights those days, alternating between different muscle groups. Off-season workouts are done in preparation for the season, so the more work you do in the off-season, the smoother pre-season and season go.
 

FoodFit   The game of soccer is incredibly demanding on the body. What did you eat during training to replenish your muscles and keep your energy levels at their peak? Can you give an example of a typical meal?

SKYLAR
LITTLE:

 

During season I would eat a lot of carbs. After workouts, it was important for us to get protein as well as electrolytes to replenish what we lost during the intense heat in Washington, D.C. A typical meal would consist of pasta with meat sauce, salad and veggies. Soccer burns a lot of calories so I would never deny myself something sweet after dinner. When I was trying to perform my best, cutting calories was the worst thing I could have done.
 

FoodFit   Given your intense training schedule, what did you do in your downtime to relax and take time for yourself?

SKYLAR
LITTLE:

 

Downtime would usually include watching sports of any kind. I like to scrapbook, so I would get pages done, as well as enjoy time with friends and family (My twin sister is also on the Washington Freedom.).
 

FoodFit   Now that you've retired from professional soccer, what is your workout schedule like?

SKYLAR
LITTLE:

 

I try to run at least four times a week and go for long walks the other days. I am about to undergo my 5th knee surgery, so I am limiting my running days. I also like to do a pushup/jumping jack ladder workout, which includes one jumping jack and then one pushup. Then two jumping jacks and two pushups, etc. until you work up to about 10 or 11. Then you work your way back down. I also enjoy working on core strength—the plank is my favorite.
 

FoodFit   What's your number one piece of advice for women who are trying to achieve a fitness goal?

SKYLAR
LITTLE:

 

My biggest tip with fitness is to take small steps. If you have never been a real runner, why set a goal to run 5 days a week? Start with two days a week and walk the other days. Slowly build up to achieve your goal. Another point is to not limit yourself to a strict diet. It's natural to crave things and when you have cravings, satisfy them on a small scale. One thing I do to satisfy my chocolate craving is to keep a bag of chocolate chips in the freezer and when I need that little bit of sweetness after dinner, I grab a small handful. Otherwise, I would head down to the local market and buy myself a King-size Snicker! Moderation is the key.
 

 

 

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