Haven’t played football since school? Let Colin Lewin, Head of Medical for Vitality partner Arsenal FC, guide you back into the game…
How can I get back into playing gradually after a long period of not playing?
Any return to sport should be gradual with a good level of training and conditioning before competition. Your targets will depend on your reason for playing, whether it’s general wellbeing, improving fitness levels or looking to compete on a regular basis. Set a target that is going to push you to achieve your best and motivate you, but make sure it is realistic and enjoyable so that you want to continue playing and improving. Also, don’t push yourself too hard. It’s best to keep intensity and volume at realistic levels initially before going straight back into a ninety minute match. When it comes to the type of match you should aim to get involved with, look for anything that is convenient and fits in with your schedule. The key would be to train in appropriate sessions before competition so you build up your fitness and ability gradually.
What pre-match fitness can I do to help?
Ensure that you have undertaken appropriate training before you play, and that you are hydrated and well fueled. It is also important to have completed a decent warm up before exposing yourself to a match. You can improve your aerobic fitness by training with intensity at times and with volume at other times. A level of leg strength will also be helpful when getting back to running in football training. Some low level stretches may be helpful before and after playing, and it is again important to get hydrated, refuel and get appropriate rest.
“Set a target that is going to push you to achieve your best and motivate you”
What’s the best thing I can do in terms of food, drink and rest?
Pre-training and pre-game fueling should be based around carbohydrates and a high protein diet. Post-match protein will be helpful in rebuilding muscle damage and carbohydrates will be helpful for refueling for the next bout of exercise. Try to avoid eating too close to exercise (by at least a couple of hours) and after the game eat as soon as possible along with appropriate rehydration. Finally, make sure you rest; sleep and nutrition are the two most important recovery processes. Specifics like avoiding alcohol and caffeine also help. After a particularly tough game, compression socks can be effective as well as cold immersion.