How to Get Match Fit for the World Cup
The Fifa World Cup is finally on and I for one am excited.
After Holland’s thrashing of Spain the other night and other upsets like Costa Rica defeating Uruguay, who knows what could happen?
I really get into the spirit of the World Cup, and I know a lot of others do. I cheer on countries I have no affiliation with. I myself was born in England and have lived in America for a large part of my life, so of course I root for both those countries. That’s also why you will see me refer to the sport as ‘football’ as opposed to soccer. When you get sucked into a thrilling match though, it doesn’t matter who is playing. You can feel the support, and the friendly rivalries all across the world.
I also play a bit of football myself – although I’ll have less time to do so now with all the matches that are on each day. Now this is a fitness/health site, not a football site. That’s why I want to talk a bit about getting in good shape if playing football or other similar sports is something you do for exercise regularly.
Getting Match Fit
You should have different goals for your body if you play a sport like football fairly frequently, than you would do say for just building muscle or losing fat.
Playing football requires many attributes: stamina, power, pace, mental sharpness, upper body strength, balance, and well developed leg muscles for running and leaping.
Stamina is probably the primary thing you should be working on. The best way to build stamina is to be consistent – do a light 20-minute jog 3 or 4 times a week. Keep adding some time to your jogs, until you reach 30 minutes, 40, 50 and then 60 minutes. Do not try to run faster – keep a good jogging pace and just add more time.
The next most important detail to work on is your power. The best footballers are often described as having ‘pace and power’. Power is involved in holding off an opponent while protecting the ball, leaping to meet a dangerous cross, leaping to make a save (if you’re a goalie) or even just jumping in the air like a loon to celebrate scoring the winner.
You can build your power by doing plyometric sprints. “Plyos” are exercises designed to make your muscles exert as much force as possible in the shortest amount of time. These exercises train your fast-muscle fibres for sudden bursts of activity. Football doesn’t involve sprinting great distances – it’s usually just a matter of 10 meters at a time (depending on the size of the pitch you’re playing on). So to train, simply do some sprints about once a week.
Set up a marker 6 meters away from you, and another one 6 meters even further on. Start flat on your stomach, get up quickly and race to the first 6 meter mark, and back. Then turn around, sprint to the 12 meter mark, and back. Do this for about 5 reps and increase it each week.
Finally, a word on balance. Amateur players may not pay as much attention to this as they should. Balance will not only help your running, it helps your kicking technique, thus improving your shooting and passing, and even tackling. Balance helps your turning speed and helps you keep up with your opponent when they change direction.
One simple exercise can improve your balance. Simply stand on a flat surface, and lift one leg only and hold it up for 30 seconds. Then do the same with your other leg, and that’s it. It can be done any time, but I recommend doing it during your rest periods when you’re performing other exercises.
So there you have some simple exercises that will improve several aspects of your footy game. Remember to eat right, do your warm-up stretches and cool-downs too. Have fun during the World Cup!