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Is recovery during the soccer season important?

It is important to make recovery protocols as important as conditioning itself. Your daily recovery routine should include a warm-up, cool-down, and proper nutrition intake. Before each and every soccer practice or conditioning session, it is important to incorporate a comprehensive warm-up strategy. You may need to arrive 10-15 minutes early, but your body will thank you later. Begin by using a form of self-massage called foam rolling on your tight muscles, making sure to hold on tender spots for approximately 30 seonds. Common muscles that can be tight and benefit from foam rolling include your calves, inner thighs, outer thighs, and mid-back. After foam rolling, static stretch your tight muscles, making sure to hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds. The combination of foam rolling and static stretching will help tight muscles relax and elongate, improving joint range of motion and your ability to move efficiently. Once the tight muscles are stretched, some dynamic activities will help increase your heart rate and blood circulation, and will even "wake-up" your nervous system helping you to contract muscles more forcefully. Some dynamic exercises include hip swings, lunge with rotation, and push-ups with rotation.  After your practice or conditioning session, repeat the foam rolling and static stretching exercises as part of your cool-down. After your workout and cool-down are complete, ice can be applied to sore areas (15-20 minutes) to help mitigate any swelling. In addition, this is the best time to consume a well-balanced meal or meal-replacement shake to help replenish your depleted energy stores and help build and repair muscle.
Paul Winsper
Sports Medicine
Recovery and regeneration is often the most under utilized and misunderstood conditioning modality. The adaptation  process is maximized during periods of recovery. The key to a successful soccer season is to understand when to train when to recover and when to reintroduce the next bout of training. Recovery should be built in to the daily session, the weekly routines and the annual plan. Training and match play stresses the body in many ways including compromising muscle tissue and causing a disruption of metabolic homeostasis. If this post exercise state is left unattended day on day the net effect is a decrease in performance capacity. Players should start the recovery process immediately post exercise, this usually commences with a cool down, cool downs are usually only necessary if the last 10-15 mins of the session were of fairly high intensity. As part of a cool down  players traditionally statically stretch, this is not recommended, players are better served by engaging in light, controlled dynamic exercises. Static stretching should be carried out as a separate session when compromised muscle tissue has been restored via massage or foam rolling. One key component of a post match recovery session that can not be ignored is that of nutrition. Players have small windows of opportunity post training to enhance fuel replenishment. Current research now points to a meal high in carbohydrate with added protein. The sooner the meal is consumed after the energy depleting exercise the better. Some players post exercise now engage in ice immersion or contrast bathing to further enhance the recovery process, The recovery process continues the next day it is advisable to engage in light aerobic activities, for example swimming, cycling jogging, at this point players should spend 10 mins foam rolling major muscle groups followed by some light stretching to key muscle groups. During  the planning process the coach should incorporate a day off during the week where players do not engage in soccer activities at all. To enhance recovery and achieve optimum performance levels throughout the season a good coach will look for times to incorporate some time off, usually 2-3 blocks of 2-3 days off will suffice.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.