The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team. This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.
Today’s Tip of the Day has to do with recovery and regeneration. Because the university soccer season is so short, there are several weeks where players will play 2 full 90-minute games over a weekend (1 on Saturday, 1 on Sunday). For fitness coaches, this type of schedule presents problems. Several studies have shown that, even when players do all the right things (get lots of rest, use ice baths, eat a high carbohydrate diet, etc..) it can take between 3-6 days to fully recover from the physical and physiological stress of a 90-minute game. Playing 2 full 90-minute games back to back. then, means that players have participated in the entire 2nd game while in “recovery mode”, and that their true recovery may then be pushed back to over 1 week (up to 10 days).
While the stress and muscle damage from playing back to back games may not be avoidable, there are measures players can take to limit and reduce these symptoms, and their negative consequences. One useful strategy is to do a recovery run on the day after back-to-back games. Many players will want to take this day off, however, studies have shown that by performing 30-60 minutes of low intensity aerobic activity (running, or biking, for example) in the 24 hours post-competition, athletes can significantly reduce the build-up of lactic acid and other painful by-products of exercise in their muscles. For soccer players, I prefer using running to biking or other aerobic activity, because the game is played while running. Below is my preferred recovery run protocol:
- Start by walking at a brisk pace for 5 minutes
- Next, jog very slowly for 10 minutes (consider this pace 40% of maximum speed, and in 10 minutes it should amount to about 1-1.25 kilometres)
- Next, jog at a slow pace for 20 minutes (consider this pace 50-55% of maximum speed, and in 20 minutes it should amount to about 3 kilometres)
- Finally, perform a set of mobility and stretching exercises for the lower body muscles (start from the calves, and work upwards to the lower back muscles)
Recovery runs like the one described above are a critical component of our training regimen, and they help to ensure that our players are as healthy as possible following back-to-back games. Coaches and fitness coaches of soccer players with schedules that include back-to-back games should look to include a recovery run into their protocols to maximize their players’ long term performance.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.