Cool down & recovery

During exercise, the body goes through a number of stressful processes. Muscle fibres, tendons and ligaments become damaged and waste products build up in the body. An effective cool down is necessary to enable the player to recover fully from the activity. Players should take responsibility for their cool-down as well as their warm-up. It should be noted that it is just as important for match officials as well as players to follow a safe and effective cool-down routine.

The cool down has three distinct phases:

  • Gentle exercise
  • Stretching
  • Re-fuel

Cool down routine

Some players might be new to the sport. Coaches should ensure there is a cool-down routine available for players, and that they follow a safe and effective cool-down routine.

Five minutes of gentle exercise like light aerobic exercise in the form of jogging and walking with a combination of upper body drills such as low impact arm swings, shoulder circles, rolls and back slaps will assist the player in cooling down.

This process will gradually help the heart rate to return to a normal, resting pulse rate. This will in turn prevent the pooling of blood in the limbs and reduce feelings of fatigue.

Deep breathing should be included in the cool down to help the body recover by oxygenating the system.

Follow with 5-10 minutes of static stretches. This will help the joints and muscles return to their normal length and function, thereby accelerating the recovery process. Using static stretching in the cool down will increase flexibility and may reduce the risk of injury in future exercise or game situations.

Part of a good recovery includes ensuring you re-hydrate well. Plain water not ideal as it tends to encourage urination; milk shake or milk is ideal. Re-fuel by eating within 60 minutes of activity (ideally a meal high in carbohydrate and a moderate amount of protein). A post-match recovery should also involve light activity (light cycling/jogging for 20 minutes and stretching the day after activity).

Following a training session or match, try to get a good quality, uninterrupted eight hours of sleep.

Below are some examples of static stretching where the player holds each stretch for 10-30 seconds, for 2 or 3 times on each limb. Some of the important stretches are for the hamstring, calf, hip flexor, quad and shoulder.

Hamstring stretch

Bend your rear leg, and keep your front leg straight. Keep your back straight and lean towards the straight leg.

Quad stretch

In a standing position, hold one of your legs with your hand on the same side. Keep your back straight and both knees in line.

Hip flexor stretch

In a kneeling position, raise the arm on the same side as the kneeling leg. Slowly push your hip forward until you feel a stretch.

Lat stretch

In a kneeling position, reach forward with both arms. Slowly lower your shoulders to the ground until you feel a stretch.

Calf stretch

Go into a sprinter’s start position with both knees bent. Slowly straighten the rear leg and lower the heel to the ground until you feel a stretch.