After Sports: Four Relaxation Methods

10th June 2019
Five or ten minutes will be more than enough to relax after physical activity. The important thing is to know which exercises and methods you can implement during this stage.

The habit of normalizing the state of your muscles and relaxing them after sports is the key to avoiding injuries. In any muscular system, muscles require stabilization for their post-practice rest. Relaxation methods such as stretching and deep breathing have a fundamental role in recovery.

A progressive decrease in physical activity

When we stop playing sports and we’re tired, we usually just want to stop immediately. This is a very common error, which can cause an increase in subsequent muscle pain. Moreover, if we suffer from a minor injury during practice, this could make things worse.

Most professional athletes know this, and that’s why they try to slow their movements progressively. Sometimes, physical exhaustion allows a transition between demanding movements and other less intense ones. For example, sprinters never stop just after crossing the finish line, instead, they decrease the intensity of the sprint. 

In the case of soccer players, the distance between the field and the bench allows them to make an appropriate transition. From running at full speed, they switch to jogging, and finally, walking before sitting down. Then, there’s a slight period of stretching.

Stretching: one of the methods of integral relaxation

Just as we stretch before exercising, it’s important to do it after a demanding task. The physical post-activity stretch fulfills the function of facilitating the blood supply to the muscles.

Additionally, stretching is the best way to preserve the flexibility of the various muscle groups. As we become older, this issue becomes very important because the muscle consistency depletes to a certain degree. Some exercises that shouldn’t be missing are the following:

  • Basic arm and leg extensions. An excellent way to start without demanding too much is to stand and extend your legs and arms. The arms should rise up, just as when we get out of bed in the morning.
  • Leg extensions on the floor. For this exercise, we sit and stretch our legs as much as possible. Then, we try to bend the trunk forward, with the arms facing forward and touching the ground. This routine is particularly recommended for soccer players.
Stretching is the best way to preserve muscle flexibility.

  • Arm contraction and extension. After sports practice, we can also sit on a chair and work on each muscle. Basically, the idea is to slowly contract and extend our arms, legs, and trunk progressively.

Breathing exercise after doing sports

Something that works non-stop while we exercise is the respiratory system. In fact, we should concentrate not only on breathing but on the total oxygenation of the body. This process implies that we pay attention to our way of breathing as we lower the intensity.

Our own body will demand that we give it the priority it deserves. After the sports practice, it’s essential to continue with deep and diaphragmatic breathing. This should be done while lowering the level of physical activity, progressively.

We must also pay attention to our exhalations. It’s totally normal and necessary to verbalize during these efforts. A big exhalation helps a lot, as well as taking slow sips of water.

It's important to control our breathing after a sports practice.

Other important methods of mental relaxation

Sports practice requires, above all, the use of mental abilities. After all, we must direct our efforts towards a task and a technique. 

That’s why we usually finish a sports practice with mental exhaustion, stress, and tension in the head. To handle this, we present these two exercises:

  • Do some counting. The idea is to slowly count from 50 to zero. It can also be good to start thinking about things that have nothing to do with sports. This allows us to return to a state of stillness or normality.
  • Empty your mind. Here, the important thing is to clear your mind. To do this, pause after stretching and make a real effort to feel your body relaxing. This can be very difficult, of course, especially if you’re very involved in the game.

In practice, minutes after the sport we must prepare our body for rest. It’s important to carry out progressive tasks at muscular, psychological, and respiratory levels.

It’s worth mentioning that, in some sports, athletes use a fifth method: physiotherapy. Massages can also help to improve your muscular condition after competing.

  • Asociación Contra el Cáncer. Aprende a relajarte. 2008. Extraído de: https://www.aecc.es/sites/default/files/migration/actualidad/publicaciones/documentos/folleto-relajacion.pdf
  • Pedro Moreno. Guía de relajación muscular profunda. Extraído de: http://www.infogerontologia.com/documents/patologias/ansiedad/relajacion.pdf