With the HSBC World Rugby Women and Men’s Seven Series games in full swing, and with the six nations coming up, it’s got us thinking about how these rugby teams cope with the stress of competition. 

Getting to such a high level and becoming a harmonious team takes huge amounts of training, hard work, and discipline. But when the competition season is over, do they take a break or is it on to the next one?

The importance of taking a break

We’re often inclined to believe that becoming a great rugby player means training continually. The off-season is a time to prepare for game season and the game season is a time to work hard to make sure you’re at your best during each match. But being prepared means taking a break at some point. 

If you want to keep your body, muscles, and head in top condition, you need to rest them. If you’re working on building strength to improve your tackles and stability, your muscles need rest. Research suggests your muscles need at least 48 hours rest between strength sessions if you want to see fast improvements. Other experts suggest resting 72 hours between workouts if you’re new to sport. And one meta-analysis said that for optimal strength development, two days of strength training per week is optimal for experienced athletes.   

Rest is important not only for our muscles but also for our mental health. Playing match after match requires your head to be in the right place. You need extreme focus, self-control, and commitment. While this isn’t physical exertion, doing this can be draining. During the off-season, you should take time to relax, indulge in other hobbies, spend time with family and friends, and have some fun. However, there always needs to be a balance. The off-season is a time to relax, but you also want to ensure you’re training enough to keep your body in the right condition for the start of peak season.

How you can wind down as a rugby team

Doing fun activities outside of training and matches is a great way to rest your mind and body while having fun with your teammates. It’s great to do things together as it helps you work better on the pitch as you become closer. You’ll also all be in the same boat when choosing what activities to do. When you have to say no to a late night because you have training early in the morning, so will everyone else on the team. So what activities could rugby teams do to wind down?

A spa day

Everyone needs a little pampering from time to time, and it’s no secret that playing rugby can take its toll on your physical health. There are tight muscles, cuts and scrapes, and tension from the stress of the season. The Worcester Warrior rugby team have indulged in the relaxing treatments and therapies spas offer. Players can experience a range of holistic therapies from massages to swimming, saunas, and mud baths. When you’re with friends, it can be the perfect day of relaxation and a little banter. 

Other sports

Rugby might be your main game and your passion, but there are so many sports out there that it would be a shame to avoid branching out. Some can benefit you in areas that rugby can’t. 

In 2015, the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg published research which corroborated the findings from many other studies. It showed bouldering could improve anxiety, ADHD, depression, cognition, self-esteem, and social relationships. This is because it’s a firstly a sport, so it boosts the levels of feel-good hormones in the body and improves health and strength. But, specifically, climbing offers significant cognitive challenges, requiring high-levels of focus, breaking the thought rumination pattern many people experience. It ties in with mindfulness. 

Climbing isn’t the only option to try something new with your team. Adventure sports like white water rafting, scuba diving, surfing, and abseiling can be exhilarating and fun for the team. However, perhaps it’s best to engage in some sports with caution and avoid sports which carry a high risk of injury so you stay in the best shape for training in the months to come. 

Go out for food

It’s OK to treat yourself every now and again. In fact, it’s encouraged. Life is too short not to indulge in your favourite foods, no matter how unhealthy they are. As the peak season draws to a close, now is a better time than any to gather your teammates and head out for some delicious food.

There’s a reason eating is a social event in most cultures. We evolved as social animals for survival and eating as part of the group improved intimacy, helping members feed everyone and stick together against threats. Research from the University of Oxford revealed the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives. This suggests communal eating increases social bonding, feelings of wellbeing, and enhances contentments in your group, or in your case your team. 

Eating can bring a team closer together, helping you work as one force on the pitch. But the importance stems far beyond the happiness we get from the jokes and conversation or the amazing food. It also helps build a support network for each member of the team, so when you’re facing tough times, you know your team has your back and is looking out for you. 

These are just a few examples of things your rugby team can do together to wind down. But as long as you do something which you find relaxing, fun, or interesting, that brings your team closer together, you can do practically anything. This will help you get your mind in the right place for when training picks up again and help you take advantage of the free time you have. It will ultimately help your team play better together. 

OPRO are official mouthguard suppliers to the England, USA, and New Zealand rugby teams because we offer the best protection. But no matter the sport, whether it’s rugby, basketball, hockey, or Gaelic football, ensuring you’re protected is essential if you want to stay on top. Take a look at our range of mouthguards via our website.