As mentioned in previous blog posts, recovery is one of the most important aspects to your workout routine. This remains ever true to improving your performance during rugby games. With a gruelling training and match schedule, finding time to recover can be a challenge.
Studies have shown that those who engage in recovery, such as taking the essential steps to warm up, cool down, refuel and rest, will recover twice as fast as those who take part in passive recovery. By engaging in active recovery, this will help to restore mobility into exercised limbs along with restoring the balance of tension. Active recovery sessions are usually short sessions, no more than 20 minutes, but have a number of benefits for your muscles after a rugby match.
How do you recover from a rugby match?
There are a number of essential steps you need to follow to ensure that your body recovers quicker and you will be ready for your next match
The essential steps to recovery include:
- Warm up,
- Cool down,
- Refuel & Rehydrate,
While warming up may not sound like recovery, warming up can be the most crucial part of your whole game. The aim of warming up is to prepare your body for the match ahead and will help to prevent injury during the match. A light workout and stretching before a match will help to prepare your body. Try incorporating some movements that you would do during a match in your warm up as this will prepare your muscles for the movements you make during a match, this can include sudden change in direction or speed.
Once you have finished a match it can be tempting to walk off the pitch and grab an ice cold beer to relax on your sofa. However, a proper cool down will have a number of benefits and will help your body to recover quicker. Cooling down will help to remove a build-up of waste from your muscles such as lactic acid which is better removed with gentle exercise after a game than suddenly stopping.
A cool down should include a combination of light aerobic exercises, light upper body drills and static stretching. Light exercise for a cool down will help your heart rate to return to a normal resting rate, this will reduce the feeling of fatigue in your muscles.
Refuel & Rehydrate
After each match it is essential to ensure that you refuel and rehydrate your body. Increasing your intake of protein and carbohydrates can help with recovery after a match. Aim to get the proteins and carbohydrates into your body at least 30 minutes after the match so your body will get the greatest benefits from the nutrients. Proteins will work to aid muscle recovery while the carbohydrates will help to restore energy levels. Foods which are high in protein include lean meat, fish, milk, soybeans and cheese. Foods which are a good source of carbohydrates include wholegrain breads, pasta, sweet potatoes, brown rice and corn. After a match you should aim to have 15% of the calories consumed in your meal be proteins and around 60% of your calories consumed be carbohydrates.
Any recovery routine after a match should include rehydration. Along with refuelling your body with nutrients, rehydrating will be the next key step for your recovery. During a match your body will sweat and you will lose water and electrolytes from your body, so it is important that this lost water is replaced when you finish a match.
Drinking plain water after a match is a good way to hydrate, however this will encourage urination. Drinking milk or a milkshake post-match can be a great way to rehydrate the body without encouraging urination. Fitness drinks will also be a key way to rehydrate your body after a match, ensuring that you have one to drink as soon as you walk off the rugby pitch.
Taking rest days after you exercise can be one of the most important aspects to your game. Rest days allow the body to recover and repair from the match the day before. There are a number of benefits for taking rest days such as it will prevent muscle fatigue, will reduce the risk of developing an injury, improve performance and will help to promote a better sleep.
Rest days should include a mix of low impact exercise such as a walk or yoga. This will allow you to keep yourself active while also allowing your muscles to recover from the match. Rest is important as it will allow you to achieve your fitness and performance goals as well as prevent injuries throughout the rugby season.
What are cool down exercises for rugby?
When you play a rugby match it is a full body exercise. This will require you to stretch all of your muscles post-match. Along with stretching your body, you will benefit from some form of light cardio after a match such as a light jog or walking.
Below are our top static and dynamic stretches and exercises that should be done after each match.
Start in a standing position. When in the standing position, hold one of your legs in your hand on the same side. Keep your back straight and both knees together, this will ensure that you give your quads a good stretch out.
When kneeling on the ground, reach both of your arms out in front of you. Slowly lower your shoulders to the ground. Keep lowering your shoulders to the ground until you feel a stretch in your lat’s in your back.
Step your right leg out in front of you, keeping the leg slightly bent. Lean forward slightly keeping your left leg straight and aim your left heel towards the ground. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Repeat for your opposite leg.
Jumping jacks will work your entire lower body, helping to ensure that it doesn’t tighten up after a match.
- Stand straight with your arms down by your side.
- Bend your knees slightly so they are not locked.
- As you jump, bring your legs out to shoulder width apart and raise your hands above your head and clap.
- Jump back to the starting position.
- Repeat for three sets of 10.
Walking lunges will be the perfect exercise to bring your heart rate back to its resting heart rate.
- Step forward with your right leg, putting weight on your heel.
- Bend both of your knees so that they are at a 90 degrees angle. Ensure that your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Push off your back leg and bring it forward to step right into another forward lunge.
- You can come back to the standing position in between lunges, this will make it harder on your core.
- Repeat 10 times for 3 sets.
Try adding these to your cool down routine, once they are added to your routine you will begin to see the benefits of incorporating a cool down will have on your recovery time.