Warm-up: Start slow, end fast
If your warm-up is too intense, too quickly, you could increase your risk of injury. At Blackburn our warm-up normally lasts about 20 minutes. Our aim is to increase players’ body temperature and expose them to the physical and mental demands they’ll face in a game. We start off with low intensity work, such as jogging, to gradually increase heart rate. The players then undergo a dynamic mobility routine of fairly fast paced dynamic stretches, followed by sprinting over short distances. Finally we finish off with a 4v4 possession routine with two floating players. This gets the players ready for reactive, explosive movements they’ll need in a game.
Cool down: Reverse your warm-up
The aim of the cool down is to reduce body temperature. We don’t want the players to go from high intensity work on the pitch to nothing. We start with some running to open their legs up a bit and get the blood flowing to start the recovery process and then gradually reduce the intensity. There is a lot of inflammation inside the body after a game and lowering body temperature helps to reduce that. At Blackburn, we use cryotherapy chambers and ice baths as a recovery tool.
Sleep, nutrition and activity are the best ways to accelerate recovery. Typically, if we’ve got a two-game week, we will get the players in on a Sunday and do an active recovery session and provide them with quality nutrition. If we have a one game week the players will have the Sunday off. We’re doing research to find out if it’s better for players to stay at home and sleep and psychologically recover or to go into training. It’s important to get away from football and to refresh their mind and body. If the players are educated well, they can do their recovery at home.
Our basic advice is to have a consistent sleep routine. That means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day of the week (where possible). Duration of sleep is also important but also specific to each person. Some people respond better to more sleep, while others need less. I’d suggest if a footballer is having less than 8-10 hours, they could increase their risk of injury. Sleep quality is also important – eight hours of quality sleep is better than 10 hours of fitful sleep. What you do around your bedtime – playing video games, staying on your phone or drinking caffeine will all affect your sleep quality.