Written by: David Bailey PT
When the leaves start to fall and the wind whistles in off the Pacific, turning summer’s swelter into autumn’s chill, it can mean one thing and one thing only: soccer season!
It’s time to take out the cleats and knock last year’s mud off the soles, to dig in the bottom drawer for your training kit and head out onto the field…
But wait! Before you rush out onto the pitch, breaking full speed through the middle, rising like a salmon to meet that delicious cross with your head, and burying the ball deep into the top corner of the flailing keeper’s onion bag, (the beautiful game brings out the poet in me!), spare a thought for your poor, unprepared limbs.
Take a page from the professionals’ playbook
For professionals, preseason training involves 6 weeks of intense, physical conditioning and a series of low-key “friendlies” to get them in shape. That’s 6 weeks to train for the moves you want to make your first week back on the field.
While we understand that most of you are not planning an English Premier League career, we think it wise to take a leaf out of their book. A little preparation can save you a lot of physio time and money, and ensure that you get to play the whole season.
The 3 key elements of ‘match fitness’ are:
- Cardiovascular fitness
Cardio Fitness: jog, stretch and sprint
A premiership midfielder will expect to cover 10 km during a 90-minute game. We don’t suggest that you start running that kind of distance, but be aware that you are going to cover a lot of ground during a game.
In order to be as fit as you can be for running, the best form of exercise is…sorry… to run.
From a physio standpoint, one of the most important things you can do is to choose a forgiving surface on which to run: a properly prepared track or, failing that, grass or a trail. We see many knee and lower leg injuries caused by running on pavement – please try really hard not to do it.
Set yourself a distance goal according to your current fitness level and start off nice and easy; jog for 5 to 10 minutes until you are warmed up a little – then stop.
Stretch for injury prevention
“Stop?” I hear you ask.
Yes, stop…and stretch. It’s a wonderful habit to get into and it may be the biggest factor in whether or not you pull a muscle, or turn an ankle, or any number of other, entirely preventable, injuries that come about through poor preparation.
Try these stretches after a 5 to 10-minute warm-up jog: http://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1010451-8-stretches-before-running/
Sprint to mimic game conditions and improve your recovery time
After you stretch, start to run again, but this time vary your speed.
Soccer is a game of slow jogging and sudden dashes – you’re not running for 90 minutes at a steady pace. Work sprints into your run to condition yourself to be able to dash down the field more than once in quick succession. Fitness is not the measure of what you can do, but rather, how soon you can do it again.
The furthest you are likely to have to sprint during a game is 40 or 50 metres. (Any more than that and you can blame the coaching staff for a poor game plan!) Design a training run with a combination of gentle jogging and sprints of varying lengths, for example:
- jog gently for 100 meters or so
- do a short sprint at 50% of maximum for no more than 20 metres,
- jog gently again to recover,
- do a slightly longer sprint of 30-40 metres,
- jog gently again to recover.
Try changing directions: go to one side, then the other, or even backwards for a little way (watch it on TV, it happens more often than you think).
Once you are good and warm, start to increase your pace a little, especially in the sprints.
How often should you train your cardio?
Our suggestion would be about twice a week for the 6 weeks preceding your first official training session with your team. That way, when you step out onto the training ground you won’t be the one falling over after the first jog around the pitch!
Next blog, I’ll talk about strength and balance training for soccer players, so that you have a complete plan to help you become “match fit” in 6 weeks.
David Bailey is a lifelong soccer fan who honed his physiotherapy skills on professional players when he worked for the Chelsea Football Club Academy and the First Team at Barnsley Football Club in Yorkshire.
Troubled by a sports injury? Please call our office at 604-228-1474 to arrange an appointment with David, or any member of our team, or use our online request form.