The speed vs. endurance question has always charmed the soccer universe.
Ever since I stepped onto a soccer field as a staunch 9-year-old with an oversized jersey, the myth of long-running has haunted me like it haunts nearly every soccer player.
And to fill in the gaps between my information, I ran as many rounds of the field as would tire me out, hoping to build endurance.
And seeing how soccer is predominantly a running sport, that should make sense, right? Well, not quite so!
Watching how pro athletes train, tons of research, and a few coach consultations later, I discovered how much potential I’ve been missing out on.
Running, without a doubt, builds your aerobic base for the sport. Still, it doesn’t exactly condition you for the diversely aggressive points in a live soccer game.
There are dozens of movements a soccer player performs in a game, which are all left out by the long-running enthusiasts.
But before we head further into the debate, we need to classify long-running and soccer by their types.
Long-running is an aerobic activity mainly focused on improving the cardiovascular system. In contrast, soccer is an anaerobic activity dominated by bursts of high-intensity exertions.
Since aerobic and anaerobic activities target different muscles, movements, and functions of your body, training for one gives you no guarantee to become better at the other.
With that said, let’s head into whether long runs are good for soccer players. And if not, why?
Are Long Runs Good for Soccer Players?
Long-running is a controversial subject to debate about soccer. It doesn’t necessarily benefit you extraordinarily or give you an evident advantage on the pitch.
But that doesn’t completely rule them out of training routines either!
Though most soccer training is centered around HIIT, running is peculiarly beneficial in certain aspects. For starters, it gives a soccer player a baseline of aerobic strength to advance in training.
And secondly, it is a great exercise to help players recover from injuries before hitting the heavy weights in training.
Other than that, the benefits of long-running for soccer are minimal. And it’s easy to understand why when you look at muscle fibers, that long-running activates.
You mostly build and strengthen slow-twitch fibers in long-running through monotonous movements. This lets you generate power for long durations.
But when you hop onto the fast-paced soccer field, you need the fast-twitch muscle fibers for sprinting, jumping, stopping, and turning. So, long-running doesn’t really target the parts of your physique that you need in soccer.
More than that, excessive long-running can even drown your fast-twitch fibers, which negatively impacts your performance in a sport like soccer.
It is important to remember that you have to train for the sport you’re playing and not just replicate movements. Long-running and soccer are two different exertion mechanisms.
It’s not that long-running doesn’t benefit your soccer skills at all. But it’s that the hours you spend by replicating monotonous movements can be spent very well in other training that is tailored for soccer.
How Long Should a Soccer Player Run?
Speaking by the book, a soccer player should run for as long as the clock ticks, which is 90 minutes!
Newcomers to soccer tend to oversimplify affairs by looking at how much a pro soccer player runs in a game on average.
You look up a few stats and conclude that running about 7-9 miles is an optimum target. But while doing that, you also overlook the different movements involved in soccer.
At least five types of movements make up for a soccer player’s total distance covered on the pitch. And they’re as follows:
- Running Back
- Medium Sprints
- Fast Sprints
Now, the distance a soccer player covers in the 90 minutes comes from combining these movements. And so, rounding this all up just to running at the same pace isn’t going to work for your soccer training!
You need a well-tailored program that allows you to cover the same distance with a combination of the five movements mentioned above. And what’s better than a HIIT workout program for that?
A circuit of explosive bursts of energy followed by a resting period is ideal for building the proper endurance for soccer.
The training routines followed by pro soccer players come from decades worth of research and application. And that makes the best place to start looking for your training program too.
But if you’re looking for a more personalized program, you can make one for yourself. Covering about 7 miles of distance in 90 minutes by utilizing all the movements in a soccer match should rapidly improve your fitness and endurance.
Also, it’ll make sure you’re able to launch into a sprint from a dead-stop in the dying minutes of the game.
Is Running 5k Good for Soccer?
Running a 5k should be suitable for soccer as long as it’s not the only thing you’re doing.
Squeezing in rounds of 5k running once or twice a week will condition your aerobic strength. And will give you a firm base to step up your routine training in.
But if you plan on hitting the pavement at 5 in the morning every day like Rocky, you need to re-evaluate your fitness goals. Is your goal to become a professional marathoner or a soccer player?
Because as you might have noticed, soccer players don’t jog around the field continuously for 90 minutes. They engage in ball encounters, sprint, jump, dive, and turn quite often.
Running a 5k every day will give you the endurance for long-running only, which is an entirely different sport. For soccer, you need to incorporate soccer-specific training drills to see the best results.
As a rule of thumb, mixing and matching long-running with high-intensity training gives out the best results. Because running a 5k helps you clear your head and improves your overall cardiovascular health.
So, running anything above a 5k more than twice a week is then just wasting time and energy that you could’ve used to improve yourself in other ways for the sport you play.
It’s easy to deviate off-track when you don’t have the right person guiding you.
One of the biggest mistakes amateur players make is picking only one aspect of soccer and strengthening that solely.
Whereas the ideal training routine has everything combined. Running a ridiculous distance and exposing yourself to unwanted injuries is not what you want as a regular soccer player.
Yes, you can run. But short-distance and high-intensity running prove to be a much more fruitful training practice for improving your soccer skills.
However, the best thing still to do is to sign up with a certified coach who knows the game’s dynamics. And then seek guidance from their experience and knowledge combined.
And as a more general opinion on endurance training for soccer, I’d like to remind you that endurance may be a major part of soccer, but it’s not all there is.
Practicing your passing, shooting, and dribbling skills along with running will give you an overall improvement in your soccer performance.
After all, you don’t just want to outrun your opponent in soccer. You have to play your team, go past players, and be able to convert shots too!
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!