Football is a gruelling sport that demands peak performance from athletes. To play at your best, training and preparation are essential, but so is recovery. An effective recovery programme is just as important as the 90 minutes of play itself. It improves fitness, reduces the risk of injuries and can even extend careers. Here are some of the best football recovery practices you can incorporate into your routine:
- Warm down immediately after the game The warm-down is arguably the most important part of your after-football recovery routine. It helps work all the lactic acid out of your muscles, reducing stiffness and leaving you less susceptible to injury the next time you hit the pitch. A light jog followed by stretching all the key footballing muscles for 30 seconds each can help to return your muscles to their natural size safely.
- Refuel with the right food and drink After a 90-minute game, your body will need to replenish the nutrients and energy that you've lost. You should begin the refuelling process within 30 minutes of your warm-down finishing and start by focusing on muscle repair. Your body needs protein and carbohydrates, so something like chocolate milk is perfect for supplying both of those in one hit. Within two hours of the match, you should aim to replace the energy you've burned through with foods high in protein and carbohydrates such as chicken. Green veg and spices like ginger can also help boost recovery time.
- Use ice A 10-minute soak in water of around 10 degrees can help your body relax. Start with 1 minute and then build your way up over the weeks to the full 10-minute period. This may seem daunting, but it is an effective way to help your body recover.
- Get the right amount of sleep When we sleep, our body repairs our muscles, which is why after-football rest is so important. You need to give yourself at least eight hours of quality, deep sleep. To ensure this can happen, weighted blankets are a great option as they do not only optimise recovery but they ensure a good nights rest which is why recovery is better when athletes use weighted blankets. You need to allow your body the chance to knit back together and iron out the wear and tear you've put it through during the game. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and any unnatural blue light in the hour before you go to bed to ensure you get enough rest.
- Take part in some recovery exercise the following day. The long-term solution to avoiding stiffness is by taking part in some light recovery exercise and building a recovery schedule. Jump on an exercise bike for 30 minutes or go for a relaxing swim to soothe your muscles. Attending a yoga or pilates class can also improve your mobility and agility during your recovery day. Ensure you thoroughly stretch each of your core muscle groups and massage any tight areas with a foam roller.
- Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. For all that you can do in the aftermath of a game, your match preparation can be just as important. Essentially, the fitter you are, the less you'll struggle afterwards. Improving your cardiovascular fitness will mean you feel less tired. Incorporating changes of speed and direction into your training programme will help your muscles and joints adapt to what they'll be asked to do in a game situation. The more prepared you are, the less time your body will need to recover.
The best players in the world aren't just players – they're athletes too. They have schedules, practices and a methodical approach to being the best they can be. By incorporating these football recovery practices into your routine, you'll be well on your way to performing at your best and extending your career.
To learn more about Sports recovery, head over to Recothlete.