The car pulls up into the car park and as you get out you groan a little, stiffened by the long journey.
Dragging your gear to the changing room, you change and catch up with the banter of the others who have arrived.
But the atmosphere is subdued. Even in warm ups there is the unspoken away game lethargy that always shows up. You find it impossible to get into the groove no matter how hard you try.
The lethargy spills over into the match and you end up putting in a bad showing without ever quite knowing why.
What’s going on?
It’s all to do with that hour in the car.
It doesn’t feel like it should influence your performance. We travel every day. But the difference here is that you need to be physically and mentally switched on to playing sport.
Sitting down just doesn’t get you in the right place to play cricket well.
Luckily, the answer to beating that feeling is to simply become aware of it.
Once you know you are not up for the fight because you have been sitting in a warm car you can do some simple things to nip the cause in the bud and start playing harder when you are not at home.
Beat away game lethargy first thing
We all know the initial feeling of stiffness when getting out of a car.
One simple way to reduce the effect is to make sure you stretch before you even set off. Stretching irons out the imbalances in muscles caused by everyday life and – if you do it regularly – improves the quality of the muscle tissue.
While you want to avoid the classic “static” stretching too much on the day of the game, you can do a solid stretching session for 15-20 minutes in the morning.
Combine foam rolling with static stretches, really focusing on getting to the stiff and tight areas and unlocking them. Foam roll slowly, use a bowling machine ball to get to hard to reach areas, and hold stretches for long periods (20-30 seconds doesn’t cut it, get at least 2-3 minutes in)
The important part is to work on areas that will tighten up in the car: legs and hips, neck and chest are classics but let your body guide you.
Avoid stretching your lower back though; there are other things we do to sort that problem out.
Fidget in the car
When you are nicely loose and mobile you go and spoil it a bit by getting back into that sitting position and locking yourself back up. Blood starts to pool and your muscles turn off.
You can overcome some things by making sure your posture is good while you sit, but also fidget as much as you can.
When you stop at lights get your neck moving and pull your shoulder blades back and down. Waggle your ankles and lift your knees a few times.
If you get a chance get out of the car and stand up. Even standing for a minute just gets the circulation going again and you take the edge off the lethargy.
Have an away game warm up
Now you have arrived and you will already feel better, but you still have a bit of work to do to get your head and body in the right place.
The warm up is the place to do this, but it’s not just a matter of a game of football and some fielding drills.
To do that is missing a key element because the warm up should be like a ramp from “everyday” up to “game ready” at the top.
When you play after a long drive, you are even further down the scale at “lethargic” so you need to do more work even before you start to warm up. There are 3 stages lasting about 15 minutes in total:
- Foam roll: do 30 seconds on 4-5 muscle groups that are tight areas: these are commonly the hip flexors, adductors, t-spine and pec minor but do your own areas.
- Re-activate sleeping muscles: When you sit, key muscles realise they are not needed and ‘switch off’. Then they get lazy and don’t switch back on, forcing other muscles to do the work and causing pain and stiffness. You can counter this with simple activation exercises for the glutes and shoulders. 5 minutes is plenty.
- Mobilise joints: Lastly, you need to get your mobile joints going back through their full range of motion after they are locked in when travelling. Do 5 minutes of active mobility drills like these. They also serve to raise your heart rate.
Once you have done these three steps you can move to your normal drills and specific warm ups. You will find yourself feeling physically loose and more ready mentally for the task ahead.
And with that lethargy gone you will be more focused and win more matches.