On Fatigue and Rest
On Saturday evening, Petr will sit down in front of a TV screen and cheer on the Czech team. “I believe the guys will win and make a step towards the play-off. They have it in them,” he says before the Czech team’s qualifier against Norway. But if it was up to him, he would cancel June international matches. Why? Because of fatigue, the topic of our latest conversation.
„I don’t get why there still is a qualifier to be played in June, given how demanding football is these days. Many players finished the season two weeks ago and they haven’t been training since, while others play longer and finish only a couple of days before the qualifier. Each of them comes with a different load, with a different mindset. And especially, they have less time to rest before the start of the new season. It’s an unfortunate date for a qualifying match. It would make much more sense to play it in April. Leagues would be ten days longer, but everyone would finish at more or less the same time, except Champions League finalists. Champions League final ought to be the end-of-the-season treat, the icing on the cake.”
How important is it to have proper rest after the season ends?
It’s indispensable, not only physical rest, but also mental rest, because during the season you accumulate a lot of stress. A footballer who plays for a top club starts in a myriad of matches and the physical and mental load is tremendous. You need at least three or four weeks to recuperate, recharge and get 100% ready for the upcoming season.
Can you go non-stop, without a summer break?
It happened to me several times. I played more than sixty matches, and the EURO on top of that, so I only had a two-week holiday. That’s practically nothing. You can do that for two, three years max, and then your body says: Enough is enough.
I remember the year 2012, when you played the Champions League final and immediately went on to join the national team.
True, I went to Austria for the training camp for the EURO and I remember being so exhausted the first week. You’ve just had the emotional climax of the season and you can’t just switch over to a new set of duties.
Your body was opposing that?
The worst phase is when the head wants to do what is necessary, but the body doesn’t work as it should. Your coordination isn’t what you’re used to, and that’s frustrating. I tried hard to overcome it and do my job, but it hurt.
How many games a season can a footballer play?
It depends on your position and the difficulty of the league. A modern full-back runs a lot of kilometres at a great pace, so he needs a rest even during the season. He has to skip a couple of matches to regain his strength and then he can go on.
How about a goalkeeper?
If a goalkeeper is in a good shape and regenerating properly, he can easily play sixty matches a season. A goalkeeper’s post is not as demanding physically, but the mental pressure is enormous.
Where is a footballer’s limit?
When your head is tired, it shows in your body. When your body is tired, it shows in your head. It shows in training: you’re slower, you have to push yourself to do all the exercises properly. It’s no longer automatic. It’s a signal that you’re nearing your limit and you need to slow down and take a break. It’s hard work, the same hustle every day. If your club plays the league and two or three other competitions, you almost never have time to rest. And when the exhaustion accumulates it’s even harder to find motivation to keep the training routine. However, when the head is rested, the body reacts and regenerates quicker. So I recommend to take a three or four-week break in the summer and you can start anew.
Imagine Petr taking a lacrosse stick and making a twenty-centimetre pass. Or donning a lacrosse helmet and making one save after another in the lacrosse …
Petr Čech won his first Golden Ball for the best Czech player of the season (awarded by a poll of Czech sport journalists) in 2005. Since then, he won ten more …