The fall and winter is a great time for soccer in Minnesota. With the weather cooling off, players can run harder and longer than they can in heat of the summer. Of course, our fall is a fast season and we have to navigate the cooler weather and the challenges it brings for our players’ wellness and fitness as well. As a high school soccer coach, I always tell my players, “A healthy player is better than a sick one.” As our athletes all head back into school in the fall, I want to share some tips for staying healthy that I have picked up over more than a decade of coaching:
- Sleeping: 8 or more hours of sleep during the school year can be challenging, but with all the academic and athletic demands, it is crucial to staying healthy. When we sleep, our body repairs itself and fights off colds and other ailments. A sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes and youth athletes should aim for at least 4 if not 5 or 6 sleep cycles per night. That means 8-10 hours or more is ideal.
- Hand-washing: Going back to school means that athletes are exposed to much more germs, viruses and bacteria than during the summer. The change of seasons always brings an increase in runny noses and viruses. Washing hands before every meal and after each bathroom trip is a minimum and a key to staying healthy in the fall.
- Breathing: 70% or more of the toxins, including germs, bacteria and viruses, are inhaled through respiration. By breathing through your nose most of the time you can filter these toxins out of the air before inhaling them into the lungs. The nose has hairs and mucus membranes that the mouth does not and therefore is a much superior method for breathing than mouth breathing for preventing illness. Nasal breathing also increases mental clarity, performance and retention, which is good for performing to your potential in the classroom and on the field.
- Eat for Wellness: It is crucial to eat a diet that has enough micronutrients to stay healthy and avoid illness. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals and are found abundantly in fruits and vegetables. An easy way to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals is to “Eat a rainbow at every meal.” Make sure you have lots of colors on your plate at 3 meals a day and that will help you stay healthy this fall.
- Hydration: Drinking enough water helps to keep your body’s immune system strong and helps fight off illness. Remember to hydrate and avoid sugary drinks during the fall and winter season to stay healthy. Sports drinks like Gatorade and PowerAde should only be consumed during training and competition and can be diluted with equal parts water.
- Oral Hygiene: There are many studies that show that oral hygiene (teeth brushing and flossing) improve cardiovascular health and immune function. Remember to brush twice a day and floss daily as well to stay healthy and perform your best.
- Contrast Showers: Alternating between hot and cold water in the shower for 2-3 rounds of 2 minutes each is a great way to facilitate faster recovery in your muscles. Exposing yourself to temperatures on a regular basis also improves your ability to tolerate hot and cold conditions as the weather changes. Make sure to always end on cold!
- Foot Care: As soccer players, the health of our feet is crucial to how we perform! Make sure to cut your nails and shave callouses regularly to avoid blisters, ingrown toenails and infections. Wear sandals if you are showering at school. Don’t forget to take care of your boots as well!
- Health foods: Fermented foods, especially pickles and pickle juice, are a great way to replace salts and keep your stomach happy during the fall when you are back to eating at school and are playing hard. I also recommend using ginger to keep your sinuses clear and stomach happy. Apple cider vinegar is great for sore throats and happy stomachs as well. If you incorporate these foods while you’re feeling good, I can guarantee you will be less likely to catch stomach and respiratory viruses.
- Supplements: If you are eating a rainbow and incorporating the most of the above strategies, you likely won’t need any additional supplementation. However, there are a couple of supplements that I do recommend for staying healthy during the fall and winter:
- Zinc is an important mineral that is involved in over 30 different processes in the body, including many that are related to immune function and performance.
- If you don’t like fermented foods or tend to pick up stomach viruses, a probiotic supplement can be a valuable resource
- Magnesium is a key electrolyte that is involved in muscle relaxation. If you struggle with muscle cramps, you may need more magnesium and supplementation can be a good strategy. Magnesium supplementation also helps to relieve muscle soreness quicker.
- Omega 3 supplementation has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and support brain function. If you don’t eat a lot of fish, grass fed meat and veggies, Omega 3 supplementation may be a good idea.
- A multi-vitamin may be a good option for picky eaters or individuals who struggle to stay healthy despite their best efforts at the above strategies.
- If you do end up with a cold, there are some all-natural products that can help you feel better faster: Wellness Formula, Emergen-C, and Airborne are a few options that I like.
This blog was written by Max Lipset, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, founder and owner of The Power House MN. Mas has coached Varsity high school soccer in Minnesota for the past 10 years at St. Paul Academy and Summit School. Max played professional soccer for the Minnesota Stars, the Kitsap Pumas, and La Paz FC, in the Bolivian First Division and has worked with dozens of professional and collegiate soccer players around the country to help them realize their potential as players of the beautiful game. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with follow up questions or to learn more about the services offered by Max and his team at The Power House MN.