Whether you’ve just done a workout, played a game, or been to a tournament with multiple games in a day, your method of recovery is key to staying fit and preventing injury. Every player at the professional level has a routine - they may have a staff to help them stick to it, but to reach that level, each of them had to have self-discipline. When you’re young, you may not always feel like you need to recover because your body is still good at doing so automatically. But as you get older, you’ll notice that your muscles become sore more quickly, so it’s important to establish good habits early in your career.
Most teams and players stretch before games, but not everyone does after. Taking 10-15 minutes to stretch after strenuous exercise is an excellent way to prevent injuries like strains, pulls and tears. Once you make stretching a part of your routine, you’ll be less sore and more agile on the pitch.
The best drink for after a match or workout is water. Energy drinks or protein shakes are also great, but they’re no substitute for water. Have one or two bottles of water after every practice and game, and you can throw in a beverage with protein or electrolytes as well - just make sure the main ingredient isn’t sugar.
Similar to hydration, what you choose to put in your body after you exercise is just as important as the exercise itself. If after a training session, you eat a double cheeseburger, you aren’t maximizing the benefits of that training session. After a workout, your muscles are primed to absorb protein - eating protein-rich foods during that time helps you get in better shape and your muscles recover faster.
Your mental recovery is every bit as important as your physical recovery. Take time to think through what you’ve learned after every practice and game. What did you do well? What could you have done better? The best players analyze their own performance and don’t wait for a coach to do it for them. After you’ve done that, take a break from thinking about soccer. It’s important to let your mind have time to relax and recuperate.