Women’s Soccer Star Christen Press Goes for the Gold

Christen Press

Photography by: Todd Rosenberg

Christen Press is all about the Gold–going for it, that is. The Palos Verdes Estates native who currently plays in Chicago is single-minded in her focus on the Rio Olympics with the Women’s National Team this August. Here, Stanford’s all-time leading scorer (71 goals) and self-professed California girl through and through discusses her training schedule, her love of L.A., and why winning isn’t the most important part of life.

Let’s talk about the Olympics. How are you preparing this time around?
It’s very different. [During] the last Olympics, I was a very young player. I had no idea what it would be like to play in a world championship—I didn’t really know the girls, I didn’t know the coach. I took the whole experience as a learning experience, honestly. It was amazing! We won and it was a lot of fun. This year, you know, I’m one of the players that has actually been in the different cycles, so I’m one of the more veteran players. I’m very familiar with all the girls and our coach and the system, so I think that my preparation now is more about fine tuning and making sure that I’m at peak performance this August.

How does the training you’re doing now differ from your day-to-day training?
I think… there’s a different periodization that we have in terms of building strength and building speed. It’s been in waves of four to six weeks, kind of tailoring our training to the Olympics. That’s also balanced out with [the fact] that we are currently in the middle of our league season. It’s a balance between doing those things to make sure that, in August, I’m at optimum performance while still, every weekend, playing in games and making sure that I am doing well within my team.

Can you take us through what a day in your exercise routine looks like?
[On] short circuit day, I get up every morning and I do about 20 minutes of yoga and sometimes meditation, just to get my thoughts and body moving. I always meditate, especially heading down to training. We do about 30 minutes of what we call movement preparation, which is just different mobilization, a range of motion exercises that are injury-prevention and strength-building. Then, we train for about an hour and a half to two hours every day. Then, we do 30 minutes of recovery, which is slow moving. We get in ice baths and then we have team lunch. I get to go home and I’ll rest a bit and, in an hour or two, I go to the gym and do a full strength-building session.

On a normal day, what would you say your work/life balance would be?
The very light days are as much as an hour and a half total, plus my commute, and then I have so much time to see my friends, write, read and do whatever I want to do. There’s always that little bit of reminder that everything we do does affect our jobs, so we can’t just go out and eat and drink and do whatever we want. I like to stay super busy because I have a very busy mind but, physically, I have to be very cautious just to make sure I’m getting the proper rest and recovery.

Are you on a special training diet, or is healthy, clean eating something that you do every day?
I would say that [I’m] sort of becoming gradually and gradually healthier. I’m not into very strict dieting because I just believe everything in moderation and making sure that you have discipline in your diet.

You’re from Los Angeles, but right now you’re living in Chicago. How often do you get home?
As much as I possibly can. I think this year will be the least amount of time that I have gotten to spend in L.A. in my whole life. I’ll definitely be back in November for a few months in the off-season.

What do you miss most about Los Angeles when you’re not here?
I always think about the ocean. You just have a different sense when you can wake up and smell the ocean and you can hear it—just that perspective you have when you can see something so beautiful and so massive every single day. I never really imagined living without it. I always thought I’d be in California for my whole life. As soon as I moved away, even just to go to school at Stanford and I was still in California and I still had the ocean, it was a very different feeling. I never feel quite right unless I can smell the ocean.

Do you have a quintessential L.A. story?
I probably don’t and the reason [is that] I still live in South Bay, which is very outside of L.A. and, I think, the typical L.A. vibe. There’s no famous people and everyone is just very easy-going in their flip flops and tank tops. I’ve stayed away from the actual L.A. scene for most of my life.

Do you have a specific beauty routine that goes along with being an athlete?
I’m very easy when it comes to that kind of stuff and it’s funny because people, when they see me, always think I’m going to be super high-maintenance but I’m really the 15-minute maximum makeup girl—even if I’m going to a party. I keep it very simple. I don’t really own a lot of makeup. Usually though, I don’t leave the house without mascara. That is so essential for me. I love playing with lip color too. I’m just really basic. I have crazy curly big hair so, if I have time to try to make myself look presentable, I usually spend it doing my hair.

What is your personal motto?
My personal motto would have to be something [about] just enjoying the journey. Because of my experiences playing soccer in both Europe and the United States, I [have] really found that people who can, every single day, remember how awesome their journey is and how special it is, always make it further than the people who are so focused on where they’re going. I really feel gratitude every day in my life that I’m able to do what I love and I think, because I have that passion and spirit, I’ve had success.

Final question: Would you say winning is the most important thing, or is it more about the journey of going for what you believe in?
I definitely think it’s the journey. I think that what you learn is your victory. I understand how vulnerable [people] can be in certain circumstances, especially in my job. Don’t get me wrong—I place huge value on it, and you do receive a lot of awards from winning—but I think that the journey is where all the true value is. Every single person [who] has ever won knows that.