As an aspiring world class athlete, you know the continual pressure and increased demand to play at your best. In order for a team to reach its highest potential, coaches are increasing the frequency of sessions, and also the duration. With harder and longer practices comes the gradual wear and tear on the body. It can become difficult during a season to perform to your fullest potential when your muscles are constantly sore.
Many college programs will require team weightlifting sessions which will leave you fatigued and exhausted when you make it to the pitch. Understanding the actions and techniques used to maximize the repair of your body will be crucial for the longevity of your soccer career. Every athlete should take necessary steps in order to feel their best before game day. Below you will find 4 steps you should follow after a hard practice, game, or tryout.
1. Cool Down
Cooling down is just as important as warming up. A cool down provides your body with a smooth transition from exercise back to a steady state of rest. After an intense workout your heart is beating 2-3x faster than normal, your body temperature is significantly higher and your blood vessels are dilated. This means if you neglect to perform a proper cool-down after training, you can feel sick or even pass out.
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. It is important to get a 10-minute stretch after your session while your muscles are still warm. Stretching can help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to muscles cramping and stiffness. Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible. This in turn means that exertion won't put too much stress on the muscle itself.
A lot of nutritionists will tell that you don’t need to eat for recovery. The human body is super smart about repairing and recharging itself after intense exercise. However, if you’re serious about playing soccer at the next level you will need to take advantage of every potential resource you have at your disposal. There’s no getting around the fact that a proper diet can help you bounce back faster. When it comes to recovery eating, there are three things you want to focus on: carbs for metabolic recovery, protein to rebuild muscle and water for hydration.
I have always lived by the motto, “you can sleep when you’re dead”. I have despised sleeping for more then 8 hours a day and find naps to impede my regular sleep pattern. But naps have been shown to be very beneficial for athletes, if utilized correctly. Athletes need to be diligent about how long they nap for. If an athlete naps prior to competing, and enters a deep sleep, then they risk not being fully awake by competition time, which in turn could hurt their athletic performance. However, on the other end of the spectrum, if your nap is too short then the benefits of sleep will not be fully utilized for athletic performance. The ideal nap should last for 20 minutes, which allows the body the perfect amount of time to replenish and refuel prior to playing.