Taking the time to go through a comprehensive cool down after playing soccer will help reduce the risk of muscle soreness, aid in the conversion of lactic acid, safely return the heart rate back to its resting levels and help prevent dizziness and fainting because of blood pooling. A cool down consists of light jogging, followed by low-intensity soccer drills and static stretching. It should finish with proper rehydration and refueling to help your body recover.
Begin the cool down with five to 10 minutes of light jogging. This helps to gradually lower your body temperature and remove waste products from your working muscle tissues. If you were to suddenly stop and not complete a cool down following an intense bout of soccer, your heart rate slows down too quickly and blood can pool in your legs and feet, causing a lack of flow to the brain. In addition to light jogging, consider incorporating light skips and backward jogging, which help to stretch out the hamstrings.
By cooling down with low intensity soccer drills, you can receive all the benefits of a cool down while simultaneously improving your skills and coordination. Juggle a soccer ball with a partner, taking turns collecting and then passing a ball back and forth. Once you get going, one partner can call out a number between two and five and the other partner, with the ball, must continue to juggle that number of times before passing it on. The Brazilian walk drill is performed with a partner, who trails behind you with a ball. As you perform five to 10 walking lunges, your partner kicks the ball between your legs. After you’re done with the set, switch positions with your partner.
Static stretches improve range of motion and prevent tightness. It’s best to do static stretches during your cool down because you can stretch a bit further when your muscles are warm. To stretch your hamstrings and glutes, stand and bend over at the waist, reaching for your toes. Target your groin by widening your stance and bending forward at the waist. Stretch your quads by standing on one foot so that you can bend the knee of your free leg back behind you and pull your heel into your glute with your hand. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and complete each stretch two or three times.
Rehydration and Refueling
Finish your cool down by rehydrating with water or a sports drink and refueling with a post-workout meal consisting of carbohydrates and protein. It’s important to drink and eat immediately to adequately replace fluid and glucose loss. Otherwise, your recovery will be compromised because you won’t fully replenish your muscles’ energy stores or repair tissue damage. Drink at least 12 ounces of water or sports drink within 30 minutes of finishing. Eat a small meal that consists of primarily carbohydrates and a little bit of protein, such as a piece of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas.
- Brian Mac Sports Coach: Warm Up and Cool Down
- USYouthSoccer.org: New Trends for Warming Up and Cooling Down
- WIYouthSoccer.com: Warm Up and Cool Down for Training and Match Situations
- Brooklyn Park Athletic Association: Warm Up and Cool Down Exercises
- New York Times: Is the Exercise Cool-Down Really Necessary?
- Eastern Soccer: Soccer Recovery: Bounce Back Faster After Games
- Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images