Steven Poacher

Recovery takes precedence in this condensed season

CLUB seasons across the country are in full swing and championships have all commenced, or they are just about to start as is the case for Down football this weekend.
The Mourne county tournament will see clubs play round one and round two games on consecutive weekends. If you are fortunate enough to win both games, you will have a free weekend, but a lot of teams will play three weekends in-a-row and probably half of those again will play four weekends in-a-row.
It is at this stage of the year that coaches and managers will hate to hear the words “I’m not training tonight, I’m injured.” It’s the curse of many a footballer and sometimes you question your own methods and think to yourself ‘is it the training they’re doing?’
Over the next few weeks the training you should be performing during your two sessions should be very low volume, except if you have a large squad. Those who didn’t play may need a small block of extra conditioning work, which can be achieved through small-sided games.  The real answer lies not with your training though, but more likely their recovery, particularly their recovery from games at this stage of the year. A game can place huge demands on players, both mentally and physically, and can take up to three full days to fully recover from. That’s particularly the case in championship games, which always carry that extra intensity and edge compared to a normal league game.
You could be unfortunate enough in the draw in the championship, also you could find yourself playing on a Sunday evening and maybe out the following weekend on the Friday evening and that is just a five-day turnaround. That would test the best of them.
Therefore the emphasis of recovery becomes even greater. In a Zoom during lockdown, hosted by Tyrone native Marty Loughran, he spoke about the importance of recovery during this block of games, particularly the month of August. He felt that the team that recovers the greatest probably has the chance of greater success.
In such a busy hectic run of games, the word recovery just becomes so vitally important, but players must be encouraged to take individual responsibility for their recovery and this starts immediately after a game by refuelling and hydrating properly.
Alcohol should be avoided straight after a player has exerted themselves at a high level. Instead water or sports drinks should be loaded up on. Refuelling correctly within the first hour is important; a low fat, high carbohydrate snack/meal is vital in replenishing the glycogen stores. Even something as simple as a banana in your kitbag for consumption straight away is a step in the right direction.
There are a number of effective recovery methods which coaches and players can use to aid their recovery; here are some of the most common:
1. A structured cool-down:
After training or games all players should be put through a structured cool-down lasting between 10 and 12 minutes. It should involve some light game-specific activity along with some static stretching to promote blood flow and help restore a normal range of movement.
2. Active recovery session:
Taking individual responsibility or getting the squad together collectively the day after games or training and performing a recovery session is a very simple and convenient way of speeding up the recovery process. It should be a low intensity session with a key emphasis on static flexibility exercises to help return muscles to a pre-exercise state. It can be performed on the pitch, hall or even in the swimming pool.
3. Compression sportswear garments:
Compression garments come in the form of shorts, tights or even socks. The latest craze is these recovery boots that players sit in for prolonged period of time, which are tight fitting and designed to keep the muscles warm. They prevent fatigue and strain and reduce the time taken for muscles to repair themselves.
4. Ice baths/cryotherapy tanks:
Ice baths, are they magic or myth? The debate will rage on but they are becoming more commonplace at all levels with some schools and underage teams even getting in on the act. The benefits are that the cold water helps reduce swelling, promotes recovery and helps the body return to its normal body temperature. If you are lucky enough to live by the sea or a lake, a good collective recovery session can not only help recovery but also build camaraderie and craic.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW