While 2020 has been a disaster for most of us due to a certain pandemic, there was light at the end of the tunnel in the summer. Restrictions had eased, gyms had reopened, and football was no longer a forbidden activity.
However, with cold-season in full swing, the country is experiencing tighter restrictions and new lockdowns at both local and national level. These new measures spell the end of gyms and football training for the foreseeable future. Time for a collective sigh.
But now is not the time to throw away your hard work! In this article we explore some of the ways that can help you can stay fit for football during the next few weeks.
Maintain Your Cardio Fitness
The gyms may be closed, but this isn’t an excuse to let your cardio fitness slip. With some people managing to run ultra-marathons around their living rooms during the first lockdown, a little daily movement shouldn’t be difficult, no matter where you live.
Ultimately, if you can maintain your conditioning to a respectable degree, you won’t be far off match fitness when your league starts up once again.
While you may not have access to treadmills or exercise bikes, going for a daily run in the great outdoors is the ideal way to keep your cardio fitness levels up. Whether you live in a city or in the countryside, there is always somewhere to run.
Everybody differs, but running three times a week is a sensible schedule to stick to, which will allow other time for resistance work (see below) and recovery.
Mix up your running sessions to include slower runs, faster runs, shorter runs and longer runs. Perhaps throw in a 12km run once a week, as this will simulate the approximate distance covered by the average outfield player per match.
Another way to keep your conditioning in check and your bodyfat low is to incorporate high-intensity training into your weekly schedule. This could be on an exercise bike, with a skipping rope or even sprinting in the park.
There are multiple methods to try, although all follow a similar pattern: a short burst of high intensity (say, sprinting for 30 seconds), with a longer period of recovery (a lighter jog for one minute). This is repeated for around 10 to 20 minutes.
If you find you are lacking motivation to inject some cardio into your day, just start doing something. Motivation usually comes after action, so committing to a five-minute jog around the block may turn into a 5km run!
Don’t Forget Resistance
Try to tie in some resistance work to complement your cardio efforts. This may seem a tad difficult if your local gym is closed or you don’t have access to any weights at home. However, there are tons of calisthenics (i.e. bodyweight) movements you can perform to keep your muscle mass and strength maintained.
For example, every footballer should be able to crank out reps of bodyweight squats, but test yourself properly by throwing in more advanced variations. Jump squats, Bulgarian split squats, jump lunges, step ups, supine leg curls… the possibilities are endless.
If these are too easy, there are many ways to scale these exercises. This could be slowing down the movement to increase time under tension; adding more reps and/or sets of an exercise; or adding external weight if you have some.
Don’t assume that you are too strong or too experienced for calisthenics – unless you can perform multiple reps of controlled pistol squats, you are not!
Taking these movements to failure or throwing them together in a circuit will work well, but if you want something more structured, there are countless bodyweight workout programs available online – both free and paid-for – while YouTube is packed with videos offering ideas.
Before any resistance training or cardio session, don’t forget to warm up sufficiently. Just because you are working out inside your home, it doesn’t mean your body is ready to jump from sofa to single-leg squats with no warning!
Watch Your Mental Health
There’s no getting around it – the first national lockdown hit everyone hard. We are social creatures, and having limited access to friends, family and colleagues was tough to take.
While new lockdown restrictions may be more lenient in some ways, any restriction to your freedom can understandably cause bouts of stress, anxiety and depression.
It’s not an easy topic to broach, but there are plenty of methods to help yourself feel better. Talking is one of the best things you can do. This may be chatting with the people you live with, having a phone call with a friend, or even catching up with your teammates via video conference.
Meanwhile, try to include some active relaxation in your weekly schedule. Lying on the couch scrolling through Instagram doesn’t cut it.
Try breathing exercises, performing yoga or meditation, listening to relaxing music, or simply walking in nature for a few hours (just ensure you are meeting the lockdown guidelines for your local area).
Staying physically active, as outlined above, is also a great stress reliever.
Stay on Top of Your Nutrition
Underpinning both physical and mental health is good nutrition. You can’t expect to feel fit and healthy if you aren’t fuelling your body with the right nutrients.
Whenever you work out, eat appropriately before and after your session to fuel and recover properly. This means taking on quality carbohydrates a few hours before your workout and quality protein just after. Try our Whey90 and Vegan Protein supplements for a convenient and tasty way to get your post-training protein.
Hydration is also important. Drinking enough water through the week is crucial, while adding a footballer-focused electrolyte supplement to your water during exercise can boost your hydration. For example, our delicious Hydrate90 tablets are effervescent tablets that enhance your water with both electrolytes and B vitamins, without adding sugar or carbohydrates.
It’s been a crazy year and lockdown measures may be with us in one way or another for quite some time.
It may be frustrating, but all you can do is try to stay fit and safe, knowing you will be closer to full match fitness when football is eventually allowed to resume. See you on the other side!