Haven’t played football since school? Let Elle Turner, Sports Scientist for Vitality partner Manchester City FC, guide you back into the game…

How can I get back into football gradually after a long period of not playing?

It’s important to ease yourself back in nice and slowly. Remember, you’re in control of your level of intensity, and how many sessions you’ll do.

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What position should I play?

If your fitness isn’t great, avoid central midfield and the full-backs: they cover the most distances during a match. Bombing up and down the wing demands high levels of fitness so you can recover from each burst. Centre-half and the holding midfielder are the least physically demanding.

“Think about what we call dynamic stretches”

– Elle Turner, Manchester City FC’s Sports Scientist 
What pre-match fitness can I do to help?

If they’re dynamic stretches, yes: we talk about switching on a muscle, making it alert and ready to go – so just hold for three seconds maximum. But not static stretches – holding a stretch for longer, between 20-30 seconds – they switch off the muscle, they relax and allow you to go further. Go for static stretches afterwards, when you want them to relax. You’ll get the most out of your recovery period that way.

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What’s the best thing I can do in terms of food, drink and rest?

You should look to eat about three hours before a match. Make half your plate carbohydrates, for fuel, and the other quarters protein and vegetables. And it’s crucial to be well hydrated. After the game, nutrition and rest are crucial. Try to eat a meal between 30-90 minutes after you’ve finished – the same balance as pre-match – to help with repairing your muscles. Alcohol afterwards won’t give you any nutritional value: drink a few pints after and the next day, and the day after that, you’ll be struggling to walk because your muscles will still be sore. Alcohol also disrupts your sleep, which is another reason to avoid it. The body heals itself most effectively during sleep: get eight hours a night and research shows you’re less likely to pick up an injury than you are if you only get seven or less.

 

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