Every soccer player has his or her own fitness routine. It might consist of little more than a few stretches to keep your joints supple and a couple of laps of the park, or it might be a complex Ronaldo-style work out that takes several hours. That’s fine, no two people are the same and we all have our own areas of fitness on which to focus.
There is one aspect to being match-fit that applies across the board, however, whether you are a soccer legend on a multi-million contract or a keen amateur turning out for your local team on a Saturday afternoon. That is the importance of getting proper rest as well as exercise and activity.
A constant cycle of damage and repair
Soccer is physically demanding and requires players to push their bodies to the limit whenever they go out on the field. The key to maintaining optimal performance and staying injury-free on the field is to take care of your body while you are off it. Yes, this includes taking proper exercise and eating the right nourishment and supplements. But it also means ensuring your body gets enough rest.
The reason rest is so important for soccer players is it allows the body to repair and rebuild muscle tissue that sustains damage during training and soccer matches. Without sufficient rest, the body simply can’t keep up with the demands of regular sport and something will give. Performance will suffer and you will be more susceptible to injuries which will enforce rest whether you want it or not!
When we exercise, we are literally damaging our muscles, pushing them beyond their limits. When we rest, that damage is repaired and the net result is that the muscle is stronger than it was before. This cycle if damage and repair is literally what we mean when we talk about “building muscle.” But we must allow that cycle to happen.
Don’t stint on sleep
We all lead busy lives these days and it can be hard to fit everything in. When there are just not enough hours in the day, it can be tempting to steal some from the night, either making an early start, staying up late or even both.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and more in the case of those who are still growing. Insufficient sleep can have a wide range of consequences, and none of them are good. As well as affecting muscle recovery, it can cause problems with concentration, stress, bad temper and even reduced testosterone. Contrary to what you might think, that can impact players of both sexes and is as important an issue for female players as it is for the guys.
Melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, can be affected by a host of factors including anxiety, exposure to light and consumption of alcohol or caffeine. If you struggle to get to sleep at night, check whether any of these could be the cause, and see what lifestyle changes you might be able to make.
Get to know your body
You might think “at least seven to nine hours’ sleep” sounds a little vague. The issue is we are all different and your body’s needs will not necessarily be the same as the next person’s. It is vitally important that you listen and are attentive to your body’s natural rhythms and patterns. Any medication you take can affect these so prepare to take advice from the experts if necessary.
The important thing is rest should not become a chore. If it starts to become so, the internet provides ample opportunities for distraction, from checking out the latest soccer news to streaming coverage of the recent World Cup qualifiers to reading up on the latest training and fitness studies – as long as you can make yourself sit still for a while, it all counts!
Rest today, hit the back of the net tomorrow
In conclusion, proper rest is just as important as proper training and healthy nutrition in order for soccer players to perform at their best on the field of play. By getting enough sleep, paying attention to your body’s natural rhythms and patterns, and adding to that a propely balanced diet that includes the right nutrients, you really can’t go wrong. Your body will have the chance to recover and perform at its best. Finally, if you have any doubts or worries about your nutrition, rest or any other aspect of your training, it’s always a good idea to consult with a fitness professional or your soccer coach.