Each summer, thousands of Houstonians flock to BBVA Compass Stadium to watch some of the best professional soccer players in the country duke it out for glory on the pitch. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the high-flying, body checking, power kicking excitement, but it also made me wonder what goes into the training of these finely tuned athletes.

I sat down with some of the players from the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash to pick their brains on fitness routines that they love (and hate!) as well as their tricks for staying healthy. As it turns out, you might be sweating next to one of these pros in your next yoga or spin class.

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Ricardo Clark in a Dynamo game against Sporting KC.

Image: Trask Smith

Ricardo Clark, Houston Dynamo #13, Midfielder

Favorite off-duty workouts: Ricardo is a big fan of tai chi and yoga, which he discovered in 2006. Now he incorporates these practices into a one-hour routine that he does each morning. “It’s great for flexibility, concentration, and overall endurance,” says Clark. Helping foster his kids’ love of sports also keeps him on his toes—his son loves soccer and tae kwon do, while his daughter prefers dance and basketball.

How to stay injury-free: Early in his career Clark struggled with ankle sprains, so now he uses strength and balance workouts to keep his supportive leg muscles strong. Among these are one-legged squats, four-way ankle drills with a cable column, and balancing exercises using a bosu ball.

What would be your personal workout hell?

“Probably playing American football in the heat and humidity while being loaded down with pads and gear.”

Do you have a Golden Rule when it comes to fitness?

“You get what you put in. You won’t accomplish anything without putting in the effort.”

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Bianca Henninger in a Dash game against the Washington Spirit.

Image: ISI Photo

Bianca Henninger, Houston Dash #1 and Mexican National Team, Goalkeeper

Favorite off-duty workouts: Bianca is one of the fastest goalkeepers in the league thanks to her love of high intensity interval training, or HIIT. Some of her go-to exercises are jump rope circuits, running, and swimming. “I try to keep everything interval-based, including the swimming, because it’s most relevant to my goalkeeper position.”

How to fuel up for a big game: Henninger tries to stick to lean proteins and carbs, and always makes sure to eat breakfast. Her advice for those who are trying to keep their diet on track is to always stay hydrated. “A lot of times it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger.”

What would be your personal workout hell?

“Sprinting at 100 percent for the entire length of the soccer field. [Being a goalkeeper], my usual sprint distance is only 18 yards!”

Do you have a Golden Rule when it comes to fitness?

“80 percent of your appearance comes from your diet, so make sure to fuel your body right.”

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Andrew Wenger faces off against FC Dallas.

Image: USA Today

Andrew Wenger, Houston Dynamo #11, Midfielder

Favorite off-duty workouts? “I like the camaraderie and atmosphere of SoulCycle, even though it doesn’t help me on the soccer field...at all,” laughs Wenger. He also likes to run and play squash or tennis on his days off, or during the offseason.

How to stay injury-free: After games or hard workouts, Wenger follows a recovery routine consisting of hot and cold tubs, and using a foam roller or lacrosse ball to loosen tight muscles. As one of the newer players on the Dynamo, he is also adjusting to the Houston humidity after being traded from Philadelphia. “I’m just taking it one day at a time and drinking lots of water.”

What would be your personal workout hell?

“Swimming outdoors when it’s cold outside.”

Do you have a Golden Rule when it comes to fitness?

“Do what you can, and then do a little bit more.”

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Cari Roccaro in a game against the Washington Spirit.

Image: ISI Photo

Cari Roccaro, Houston Dash #5, Defender

What are your favorite off-duty workouts?

“I’ll probably regret saying this, but I actually like [interval] sprints and 20 meter beep tests.” A beep test is a fitness measurement consisting of two sets of cones 20 meters apart. Athletes are required to run from one set of cones to the other before the next beep, with each round getting increasingly faster.

How to stay injury-free: Roccaro recently had surgery to repair a tear in her hip labrum, and is currently far ahead of her rehabilitation schedule. She credits her strong recovery to a rigorous routine of yoga, running and lower body exercises that were intended to strengthen her surrounding hip muscles as much as possible in the month leading up to the surgery. As part of her ongoing training, she is focusing on doing more hip and glute exercises using elastic exercise bands and weights.

How to fuel up for a big game: Roccaro likes to eat an egg sandwich with turkey on it. “It gives me enough protein and some carbs for fuel so that I don’t get hungry in the middle of a game.”

What would be your personal workout hell?

“Sprinting anything longer than one mile!”

Do you have a Golden Rule when it comes to fitness?

“Don’t be afraid to treat yourself in moderation. Eat right but don’t stress yourself out.”

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David Horst fights off a player from FC Dallas.

David Horst, Houston Dynamo #18, Defender

Favorite off-duty workouts: Horst is a big fan of core strengthening and hip flexibility work, particularly because of their injury-prevention benefits. “I try to do yoga… If I have the energy for it!”

How do you stay injury-free?  

“I do lots of foam rolling and I’ll use a softball to really get into the deep tissues.”

How do you fuel up for a big game?

“I’m big into fish and quinoa dishes and lots of veggies. I try to make sure half of my plate is vegetables.” Horst notes that he got into cooking out of necessity because his wife works long hours, but now he enjoys it. “In the days leading up to a game I’ll eat sweet potatoes with honey and cinnamon, quinoa, broccoli, and lean chicken breast.”

What would be your personal workout hell?

“Long distance running—anything over two miles.”

Do you have a Golden Rule when it comes to fitness?

“Always keep moving. A body that’s in motion stays young.”

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Kealia Ohai leaps past players from Orlando Pride.

Kealia Ohai, Houston Dash #7, Forward

Favorite off-duty workouts: During the offseason Ohai likes to catch a yoga class or work with the trainers at the IX Innovations gym. “Squats and lower body workouts in general are my favorite things to work on. And abs!” In her spare time, she also helps her older sister make instructional fitness videos for her blog.

How to stay injury-free: Although the Dash do their share of weightlifting to maintain their basic conditioning, Ohai also likes to add extra body weight exercises and elastic band work in order to protect her knees from injury.

What would be your personal workout hell?

“Long distance running! Anything more than a mile.”

Do you have a Golden Rule when it comes to fitness?

“Don’t try to target just one area of your body—it won’t work. If you get lean overall, abs will come naturally.”

The Houston Dynamo’s next home game is scheduled for June 29th. The Houston Dash’s next home game is scheduled for July 16th.

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