Many team sports require lots of running. However, soccer demands that the players learn how to balance running with other movements such as walking, dribbling, jumping, and jogging when covering both short and long distances on the pitch.
There is no denying the fact that running is a priceless skill in soccer. Therefore, it is not surprising that soccer players are constantly working on drills to improve their pace.
Players can often be seen on the field, running toward their opponents to retrieve balls or block their opponent from scoring. However, we have never seen any instance where running alone won the game.
Knowing how to balance running and soccer is a big deal because you have to execute most of the activities in the game while running. Whether it is cushioning the ball or receiving a pass, sometimes you don’t have the time to pause—you just have to do it on the run.
However, it is almost impossible for a player to run from the beginning to the end of the game. Our best bet is that they will tire out before the end of the first half.
If running alone can guarantee a win for any team, the teams with the fastest players will always be at the top. Also, Usain Bolt would have had a great soccer career—but we all know how that went.
As often noticed, throughout the 90 minutes of most matches, players do not constantly run. They sometimes stand in a particular spot to either rest or position themselves to receive the ball from a teammate.
Having this in mind, soccer players must balance running and soccer whenever they play. This article will explain extensively, the easy ways soccer players can balance running and soccer for high performance and results.
How to balance running and soccer?
We all know that athletes run and cover long distances while competing. This is common in soccer too.
Soccer lasts for 90 minutes and in some cases, longer. During the duration of a match, some players run as much as 7 to 10 miles—when you total the short sprints and long-distance runs. However, goalkeepers are exempted from this range as they cover approximately 2 miles.
To balance running and soccer, the first thing you need to understand is the different type of runs that soccer player go through in a game. The first on our list is short sprints.
This type of run lasts for 10 to 15 yds with the soccer player changing direction every now and then to evade an attacking player. During a game, most soccer players complete dozens and dozens of sprints.
Sprinting involves a quick burst where the player moves from zero to top speed in 3 to 5 seconds. Wingers usually rely on sprints to drive pass their marker.
The second type of run in soccer is the long dash which can range from 15 to 70 yds. During a long dash, the player simply bursts through the center of the field in a fairly straight path starting from their half of the field.
It is hard to talk about long dash without mentioning Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland. These players seem to have perfected the long dash because their runs mostly end with the ball at the back of the net.
The last is the recovery phase where the soccer player is either walking or jogging. The recovery phase can last as long as you are not with the ball.
This phase is important because it helps the player to build up energy and stamina for the next sprint or dash. Any exercise that will help you to balance running and soccer needs to incorporate these phases.
To achieve desired results, players ought to balance running with soccer by carrying out conditioning drills. Below are ways by which players can achieve the required balance.
Dynamic suicide running drill/ shuttle run
This is one of the high-intensity soccer exercises that can be practiced by players. It involves progressive multiple sprints over distant points in fast motion.
This drill is effective as it trains players on how to play quicker. They learn to endure and sprint over a longer distance without feeling tired.
Set 5 cones on the field with 10-15 yards between each cone.
From cone 1, make a sprint to cone 2 then turn around cone 2 and sprint to cone 1.
Sprint from cone 1 to cone 3 then turn around cone 3 and sprint back to cone 1.
This drill pattern should be repeated up to the fifth cone, then sprint back to the first cone, this will make it 1 rep. You can carry out 5-10 reps during your training session.
This drill should be incorporated into every player’s fitness calendar at least once every week and should not last more than an hour.
If practicing as a team and you want to make it more competitive so that every player will put in their best, make a rule that the last player to return after each rep is eliminated.
12-minute run drill
This conditioning drill involves a continuous 12-minute run, it helps gauge where you are and how far you have improved. To practice this drill, you need a stopwatch which you will use in recording the time, and a standard 400 meters track.
For this drill, run for 12 minutes. The total distance covered after each session should be tracked. Practice what is known as progressive overload where each week you try to beat the distance you covered the previous week within the same time frame.
The rating table below will help you to determine your running performance.
Greater than 3000 m – Excellent
From 2300 m – 3000 m – Good
From 1900 m – 2300 m – Average
From 1500 m – 1900 m – Below average
Less than 1500 m – Poor
Killer kilometer repeats
This is a good aerobic conditioning drill that helps improve your conditioning for better performance. For this drill, you need to keep track of all steps and also try to meet up with the stipulated time.
Run and cover a distance of 1 km for 6 minutes, then take a 2 minutes break.
Run and cover a distance of 1 km for 5 minutes, then take a 2 minutes break.
Run and cover a distance of another 1 km for 4 minutes, take another 2 minutes break.
Run and cover a distance of 1 km for 3 minutes 50 seconds then take a 2 minutes break.
Run and cover a distance of 1 km for 3 minutes 45 seconds then take another 2 minutes break.
Run another 1 km and complete it in 5 minutes 30 seconds.
Sprint Acceleration drill
This drill helps teach players to correct their body angles while running or sprinting. It is considered a vital agility and speed training for players as it helps them in developing their backside and front running mechanics while learning acceleration from a standing position.
Stand and position your feet hip-width apart, while in this position, your body should be rigid to allow explosiveness.
Lean forward in slow motion until you get to the point of nearly falling onto your face. Remember to begin this step in an upright position.
While you are still in the leaning position, raise your heel and stand on the balls of your feet. Do not bend at your waist.
Try to push off the ground by driving one knee up then sprinting the other leg forward. Keep your elbow at an angle of 90 degrees, this will enable you to collect plenty of strength for the sprint.
Accelerate to full speed then run for 20 yards after which you are expected to walk back slowly while you recover.
Repeat for about 6-8 reps and remember to take breaks in-between reps.
How many times a week should a soccer player run?
For players to play their best, they ought to constantly keep fit both during the season and in the off-season. They must frequently check their endurance level as it is a very essential aspect of soccer.
Carrying out aerobic conditioning constantly helps achieve endurance and one of the aerobic activities is running. For soccer, high-intensive runs matter more than long-distance runs, therefore, players are advised to practice this more.
The position you are playing on the pitch can affect your average running distance. However, soccer players should run at least three times a week for 30 minutes in each instance.
If you train on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, on the Mondays of weeks 1 – 4, make a sprint of 50 m then jog 150 m for 8 reps. For weeks 5 – 8, increase the activity to 12 reps. In the next weeks 9 – 12, increase to 16 reps.
For Wednesdays, run for 1 mile in the first 2 weeks, then increase to 3 miles in weeks 3 – 5. In weeks 6 – 7, run for 3 miles and increase to four miles in weeks 8 – 9.
In weeks 10 – 12, run for 3 miles. For Fridays, do a 30 minutes jog from weeks 1 – 9. Then, increase to 45 minutes from weeks 10 – 12.
There are so many aspects of soccer that need to be put into consideration and players are advised not to focus and build one aspect alone. They are expected to put work on all aspects for optimum performance.
Balancing running and other soccer abilities enable players to cover a wide range of distances and also deliver effectively while playing. To achieve this, they have to carry out aerobic conditioning drills to help them improve more on their high-intensity runs.
Players who can adequately balance running and soccer are always very dangerous on the soccer pitch. Players like Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi are very good examples of players who have attained this feat in the world of soccer.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. 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!