April 10, 2022

Injury Prevention: The Importance of Quality Cooldown Sessions

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Mike Semenza

soccer

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When athletes finish their performance, it is extremely important to get them out of the heightened state of performance and into recovery mode. The cooldown session is as important to an athlete’s injury prevention regime as the warmup is in preparing their bodies for training and playing.

Getting an athlete to begin the recovery process immediately after their performance is vital in ensuring they will not experience delayed onset muscle fatigue within the next 24-72 hours. In other words, the quicker the athlete can begin the recovery process, the more well prepared they will be for their next performance.

Purpose of the Cooldown

The goal of a cooldown is to relax both the body and mind as quickly as possible after a performance. Here at Blayze, we have custom-built a cooldown session for all our athletes. Our goal is to teach athletes how to perform a proper cooldown after their individual training sessions.

Once the athlete adopts the cooldown into their training, they will see the benefits of being less sore, less tired, and more prepared for their next session or game. The cooldown is the second most beneficial tool in injury prevention.

Remember, the less you are injured, the more you can perform and help the team accomplish its goals. It is important to do everything that you can to prevent injury so that you can continue to improve your game on a day-to-day basis.

Note that the main difference between the warmup (activation) and cooldown (recovery) is that in the warmup we are trying to increase blood flow to muscles and increase the temperature of the entire body. In the warmup, we need a combination of both mobility and high-intensity movements.

The cooldown focuses on lowering the body temperature to help the muscles lengthen again and begin the recovery process. To do so, our cooldown must include holding stretches and positions for no less than 20 seconds. 20 seconds is about the time it takes for the major muscle groups to achieve lengthening and help them begin the recovery process immediately.

The cooldown is also a great time to mix in some relaxation or meditation techniques. The sooner we can get our minds to relax, the sooner the recovery process can begin throughout the entire body. A lot of pro players take short naps immediately after their games to kickstart the recovery process and limit any muscle fatigue or future injuries.

See below for a detailed look at an example of our Blayze Recovery Phase:

Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch

Lightly grasp one leg behind the top of the knee and gently lay down on your back keeping the knee and leg at a 90-degree angle. Relax and take a deep breath before extending the leg you are holding at the knee. Keep the opposite leg pressed into the ground if possible and only extend to a comfortable stretch at the hamstring. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat for about 4-5 repetitions.

Side Lying Glute & Thoracic Spine Stretch

Lightly grasp one leg behind the top of the knee and gently lay down to your back keeping the knee and leg at a 90-degree angle. Rotate your whole body to lay on your side and relax the leg you grabbed into the ground at a 90-degree angle. Holding your knee to the ground. Rotate your arm and upper back around while following your fingertips with your eyes. Go only to a comfortable stretch through the hip and upper back and rotate back to neutral. Exhale as you rotate your arm open and inhale as it returns. Repeat for about 10-20 repetitions on each side.

Positional Hold Heel Sit

Slowly sit back onto your legs and heels. Tilt your hips back so that your butt stays behind you. Point your toes at each other to create a “V” shape with your feet pressed into the ground. Place your hands on your hips and breathe for 30-45 seconds as your hold the stretch in your ankles, legs, knees, and hips.

Heel Sit to Hip Flexor Stretch

Get into the heel sit position described above. Rock forward out of the heel sit position while bringing one leg forward in front of you. Place your foot flat on the ground with your toes pointing straight forward. Shift your whole-body weight forward from the hips and above, leaning into a comfortable stretch in the hip flexor area. For a deeper stretch, reach your arm opposite of your leg forward and lean deeper into the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides. Repeat for about 4-6 holds on each side of the body.

Half Body Bend Hamstring Stretch with Rotations

Stand up tall and point your feet and toes slightly inward at each other. Bend your knees slightly and then reach down to touch your toes with both hands. Only go to a comfortable stretch and hold for 20 seconds. If you want a little more of a stretch, try crawling your hands side to side around your feet, rotating at the hips as well when you do so. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and aim to repeat 4-6 times for full recovery benefits!

Meditation with Deep Nasal Breathing

Lay flat on your back on the ground and relax your whole body into the ground. Close your eyes and begin a deep, steady breathing pattern. Aim to inhale through the nose for 2 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and then exhale out the mouth for 2 seconds. Try to achieve full-body relaxation and repeat your breathing pattern for 5-10 minutes. Remember to get up slowly from this position when you are done to avoid getting dizzy.

Wrap-Up

The human body can take anywhere from 24-72 hours to fully recover from exercise, depending on the intensity and volume of work performed by the athlete. The goal is to begin and finish the recovery process in as little time as possible. Therefore, the athlete can return to play as quickly as possible and be able to reproduce the same amount of work, if not more in their next performance.

At Blayze we give you a personalized coaching session from the very best coaches in the world. For a truly unique and personalized feedback experience, submit your performance video to one of Blayze’s highly qualified coaches. The custom-developed coaching session can help you improve your on-field skills, so you are performing at your very best in every game. One easy click here will take you to more details on our coaching sessions.

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Blayze Coach Mike Semenza

Mike Semenza

6+ years of professional coaching with LA Galaxy, EXOS and COPA STC

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