Soccer players run as much as 7 to 11 miles per game using both short sprints and moderate runs—and often have to change directions quickly. Imagine the amount of energy that is required to achieve that.
Also, due to the range of motions involved in soccer including jumping, running, and kicking, there is always pressure on the musculoskeletal system of soccer players. This is why some soccer players will feel sore after a game.
That is why every soccer player needs to have a recovery plan. A good recovery plan helps your body to repair any damage that may have been done to your muscles due to strenuous activity.
When it comes to recovery, there are tons of things that you can try. What we know is that what works for one player may not work for another.
Thus, it may be a good idea to try out different recovery techniques and stick to the ones that work for you. In this post, we are going to be talking about all the techniques you can use to recover after a soccer game.
How to recover after a soccer game?
After a soccer game, your mind is probably screaming that you should go home, take a shower, and have a deep nap. That is what your mind may want but your body needs something else.
Feeling sore after a soccer game happens to almost all soccer players. However, the experience can be more intense for beginners.
After pushing your muscles and lungs through 90 minutes, they are retaliating in pain. Minimizing your recovery time is a necessary skill that will get you in shape just in time for the next game or training.
The recovery techniques that we will unveil help in eliminating stress-induced fatigue as well as help your muscles recover from any micro-injuries they must have sustained during the previous game or training session.
If you don’t give your body enough time to recover, you will be increasing your risk of muscle overuse as well as sustaining more serious injuries. To recover after a soccer game or training, do the following.
Take 10 to 15 minutes to cool down
In the spirit of sportsmanship, the first thing you should do immediately after the referee blows the final whistle is to shake or hug your teammates, opponents, and coaches. Right after you have done that, it is time to cool down.
Imagine trying to bring a car that is going at a top speed to immediate rest. Well, you guessed it right. You risk somersault. You have to slowly apply the brakes so that the car decelerates gradually until it comes to rest.
The same thing happens with your body. After playing for 90 minutes, you have to do some deceleration to tell your body that the stress has finally come to an end.
Take 10 to 15 minutes to do things like dynamic activities which may include jogging or walking as well as static stretching. Also, practice deep breathing exercises for about a minute as this also helps to calm your nerves.
A simple breathing sequence that works for us is to take a deep breath to keep your lungs full and hold it in for about 5 seconds before breathing out.
Yoga can come in handy when it comes to stretching because it mobilizes the stretched muscles thereby improving the recovery speed.
Ice bath within 15 to 30 minutes after the match
While most soccer players understand the importance and healing effect of an ice bath, the timing is usually the problem. An ice bath is known to help against muscle soreness and cramps, improve healing, and enhance muscle healing.
If you have sustained micro tears during a game, the body will normally react through an inflammatory reaction that causes pain or burning sensation around the areas with the tear. Ice bath helps to slow down blood flow which will also slow down the inflammation.
The timing of the ice bath is important. When possible, make sure it falls within 30 minutes after the game.
If you allow the inflammatory reaction to set in, there will be no stopping or slowing it down anymore. It must run its full course before subsiding. However, timing your ice bath correctly can help to slow it down.
Dive into a water bath filled with ice and allow your body to feel the chill for 3 to 5 minutes. This can be a heavy commitment during the winter. Bite your lips if you have to, but it is worth it.
An alternative to an ice bath (if you can’t stand the chills) is an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt is rich in magnesium which your body absorbs during the bath.
It can help to relax your muscles as well as replenish any lost magnesium lost from sweat.
Refill within 60 minutes
All the activities that happen on the soccer pitch drain your muscles of energy. If you don’t refill immediately, your body may be forced to break down stored glycogen for energy.
Within the next one hour after the match ends, make sure to take in a sizable portion of food rich in simple carbohydrates and protein. The carbohydrate will provide immediate energy to the muscles while the protein will provide the precursor for the repair of damaged or worn-out tissues.
Do this regardless of whether you are hungry or not because it helps in recovery. Another thing you need to do is to hydrate.
In addition to losing energy, soccer players also lose a lot of fluid which can also increase the risk of developing cramps. We recommend taking sports water which will not only hydrate but also restore the electrolyte balance in the body.
Fruits such as avocado, bananas, and watermelon are also good sources of electrolytes. You will know that you are properly hydrated when your urine moves from amber to pale yellow.
Wear compression pants
You will likely experience the most soreness on the lower part of your body—except maybe you had an injury on the upper part of your body.
One of your goals during recovery is to ensure proper blood flow around the body. Wearing compression pants is a great way of improving blood circulation.
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Also, at the end of the day when you must have done other recovery activities like stretching an ice bath, we strongly recommend that you sleep with your compression pants.
Get 6 to 9 hours of sleep
Once you are done with all the dynamic and static recovery activities, it is now time to listen to your mind and get some sleep. Sleep is therapeutic.
During sleep, your mind shuts down while the body channels most of its effort into building new cells and repairing worn-out tissues. Also, sleep helps you to clear your head and get your mind off the previous game.
If peradventure you lost an important game and the thought of what you should have done differently is making it hard for you to sleep, spending time with friends, seeing a movie, or hitting the club can clear your head enough for sleep to take over.
In addition to relaxing the muscles, a deep massage has a calming effect that can also induce sleep. If you don’t have a masseur around, foam rollers can do the trick.
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You will definitely feel better the next day if you can get at least 6 hours of deep, sound sleep.
Take at least 12 hours off
Within your recovery routine, you should map out at least 12 hours when you will do absolutely nothing. During this time, binge on recreational activity. It can be playing video games or just anything that makes you happy.
You can also use this time for cross-training which is basically taking part in other games. There is a saying that monotony kills interest.
If you continually play only soccer a time will come when your interest will wane. However, if you delve into other sports like cycling, running, swimming, and so on from time to time, it gives your mind and body a break from monotony.
Interestingly, participating in other sports can help you develop new skills which you can bring to the soccer pitch.
How long does it take to recover from a soccer game?
The time it will take for a soccer player to recover after a soccer game varies from one player to another. Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness (DOMS) usually starts about 7 hours after playing soccer and peaks 24 to 48 hours afterward.
A 2017 study involving 16 semi-pro soccer players revealed that soccer players undergo a substantial decline in physical performance and neuromuscular function for up to 72 hours after an intense game.
However, the rate of recovery will depend on the fitness level of the soccer player, their level of exertion, and their recovery routine. For example, a soccer player that takes an ice bath (and follows some of the other routines that we mentioned) after the game will recover faster than a soccer player that goes home and falls on their bed.
Nevertheless, full recovery from DOMS usually takes about 5 days. Professional soccer players that are used to playing 2 matches per week will likely recover quicker because their body is used to higher stress than amateur soccer players.
Most soccer teams will use the next day for recovery exercises which also helps in shortening the recovery time.
Your recovery routine should not just end after the match but should spill over to the next day. Go for a light jog the next day (10 to 20 minutes max) to warm up your muscles and follow it up with a static stretch.
When you go out for a light jog, don’t try to set new milestones or go through an intense training session. That will only delay your recovery.
As your muscles tighten, it can restrict blood flow to the areas that need it. Going for a light loosens your muscles and gets your blood flowing smoothly again.
Improved muscle flexibility allows the arteries and veins to easily and adequately take nourishment to all parts of the body and clear out any buildup toxins. Investing in a recovery routine will help you to perform optimally on every match day.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!