Oregon Youth Soccer • December 2015
Stay Warm In Cold Weather
For those of us who live and breathe the game of soccer, the season doesn't end just because the rain and cold move in. While the game goes on, though, it's important to remember that we do need to make some modifications to our routine in order to succeed in cold and wet conditions.
Preparing to play in cold weather starts at home. Layer your clothes, starting with compression gear on both your upper and lower halves. Compression clothing leaves no space between your skin and your clothes, trapping the heat inside while also helping wick away moisture. Your uniform goes on top of that, followed by sweats, gloves, a tight-fitting hat (knit cap, etc.) and, if necessary, rain gear. If it's raining, it's also a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks to change into at halftime. Keeping your extremities (hands, feet, head) warm and dry will have the single greatest impact on your overall body heat.
During your warm-up, keep your sweats on as long as you can, removing your pants before your sweatshirt. That will help keep your core warm as long as possible. For the same reason, when you sub out, be sure to put your sweatshirt (and, if you removed it to play, your hat) back on while you're on the bench.
Be sure you're wearing the right kind of cleats for the conditions (hard, icy turf vs. wet, muddy turf), and, if the latter, kick the mud out as often as you can. Cleats that are clogged with mud quickly become useless.
Warming up before a match is always important, but never more so than when you're playing in the cold. Cold muscles are stiff muscles, and in addition to not performing as well, stiff muscles are significantly more prone to injury.
For these reasons, you'll likely need to dedicate extra time to your warm-up. Start with a light jog before stretching — you never want to stretch a cold muscle, for the same reason mentioned above. Once you feel your leg muscles starting to loosen up, engage in a series of dynamic stretches (high knees, karaoke, jumps, jogging backwards, side-skips, etc.), which are more effective at loosening muscles than simple static stretches.
Don't forget to continue stretching even when you're not on the field. In the cold, muscles can tighten quickly, even if you're only on the bench for a few minutes. Stay on your feet and keep your muscles loose, or, if you must, engage in static stretches on the bench.
It's easy to think, "Oh, it's cold and I'm not sweating that much; I don't need to drink as much water." False! Your muscles need to remain hydrated throughout the practice or match for you to perform at your best, and while you might not be sweating as much, you're still burning plenty of fluids. Warm water is OK, to help restore lost heat, but avoid overly hot or sugary drinks, like hot chocolate.
Follow these tips, and you'll be dominating the pitch this winter!