Soccer is a demanding sport. It’s a popular game for amateur and professional players alike, which means you can expect to be pushed hard during each practice or match. Soccer is also known for being incredibly physically demanding compared to other sports. There are no breaks between plays, and several players are on the field at once who need to constantly run around and perform athletic feats of strength and agility.
If you’re not in top physical shape when playing soccer, it’ll be almost impossible to keep up with everyone else and play at your best.
Hydration is Key
One of the most critical aspects of recovery is staying hydrated. During an intense soccer session, you lose a significant amount of fluids through sweat.
Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, decreased performance, and an increased risk of injury. To recover effectively, drink enough water before, during, and after your soccer session.
Nutrition is vital in your recovery process. After intense soccer sessions, your body needs to replenish the energy it has expended and repair muscle tissues. Here’s what you should focus on:
Carbohydrates: Replenish your glycogen stores by consuming complex carbohydrates like whole grains, pasta, and fruits. These foods provide the energy you need for recovery.
Protein: Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. Lean sources of protein like fish, chicken, beans, and tofu should be included in your post-session meals.
Healthy Fats: Incorporate sources of healthy fats like nuts, avocados, and olive oil into your diet to aid in reducing inflammation.
Vitamins and Minerals: Make sure you get a variety of vitamins and minerals from vegetables, fruits, and leafy greens to support your overall health and recovery.
Cool Down & Foam Roll
After an intense soccer session, engaging in a proper cool-down routine is essential. Stretching can help improve flexibility, reduce muscle stiffness, and prevent injury.
Focus on dynamic stretches first, followed by static stretches targeting major muscle groups. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds, and repeat 2-3 sets.
Foam rolling: a self-myofascial release exercise that helps alleviate muscle soreness and improve flexibility.
A foam roller can target specific muscle groups, rolling slowly back and forth over tight or sore areas to help release knots and improve blood circulation.
Rest: Take the time you need to recover.
Rest is the time your body needs to recover. The intensity of your session will determine how long you rest, and how often you exercise will also affect your recovery time. It’s essential to listen to your body so you don’t overexert yourself.
Ice: Apply ice to sore muscles within 48 hours of exercising to reduce pain and inflammation.
Ice can be applied in 15-20 minute increments to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Use ice for 48 hours after a strenuous workout or for as long as you are sore.
You can use a bag of ice, a cold pack, or a frozen water bottle (wrapped in a towel). Place it on the sore area.
Compression: Wrap muscles with an elastic wrap to support and help improve muscle blood flow.
There are many benefits to using a compression wrap after intense soccer sessions.
A compression wrap helps support and stabilize muscles, reducing pain, swelling, and fatigue.
Compression wraps also help improve blood flow to the muscles, which can help relieve pain and speed up recovery time.
For best results when using a compression wrap:
Apply it immediately after an intense soccer session or bedtime (for best results). Make sure to apply it gently so that you don’t cause pain in your injured area while wrapping it around your body part (such as calf injury). If you notice any discomfort while wearing the wrap, remove it immediately!
Elevation: Prop up your leg(s) on pillows during rest time to help lessen swelling and ease muscle soreness.
- Elevate your leg(s). During rest time, prop your legs on pillows to help lessen swelling and ease muscle soreness.
- Compression bandages, stockings, and sleeves during recovery can also reduce swelling. They’re available at most pharmacies and online retailers. (Compression garments are more expensive than other types of compression wear.)
Recovery walks and runs
After a tough soccer session, walking or running at a slow pace for 15 minutes is essential. This will help your body recover and avoid injuries. We recommend you keep the intensity low and focus on getting your heart rate back down gradually.
Ice baths are a great way to reduce inflammation and swelling, especially if you have played a high-intensity game. Depending on how cold your ice bath is, these can also help with recovery by increasing blood flow.
The ideal ice bath temperature is 10-15º C (50-59º F).
You should only stay in the bath for up to 20 minutes.
After that time, remove yourself from the ice water and allow your body to warm up naturally.
Never leave anyone alone in an ice bath – especially children!
When removing yourself from the tub, wrap yourself in towels and dry off completely before putting clothes back on to prevent hypothermia.
If possible, alternate between hot baths followed by cold ones for optimal results.
Alternating hot and cold
Alternating hot and cold baths can help relieve muscle tension. The hot water loosens your muscles, while the cold helps reduce inflammation.
- Use a hot pack for 20 minutes, then a cold/ice pack for an additional 20 minutes. You can use an electric heating pad or soak warm water heated up in a kettle or pot of boiling water.
- If you have access to a hot tub, bathe in it for 30 minutes, then take a plunge into cold water—or vice versa! Ensure you don’t do this too much: limit yourself to one weekly session.
On the field, we often push ourselves beyond our limits. The key to recovery is to remember that it’s not just about how quickly you get back into action but also about how long it takes for your body to recover from having a long and healthy career.