Like most team sports, running can be an integral part of being a top soccer player. Given that soccer matches can last upwards of 90 minutes at times, being a quality runner certainly is a good asset for a player to have and is something that many coaches look at closely when signing players for their squads.
The best way for soccer players to improve their running ability is in training as this is the part of the game that requires players to focus on the weakest aspects of their game in order to improve them in the future.
Today we will be focusing on the training side of the game and find out how much soccer players run in training. Let’s get into it!
Soccer players run on average 3-8 miles per training session, players run more in the pre-season to maintain a strong base level of fitness that allows them to complete full matches. While running is essential in all soccer coaches’ schedules, certain bosses make their players run more to fit their style of play.
Running In Training – In-Season vs Off/Pre-Season
Pre-season is the toughest running period for players. This is the time when players can rest from league games, but needs to be prepared for what’s to come. Players run on average 7 miles per game, and to mimic that, they need to run just as much in training; The pre-season is the perfect time to do this.
During the season, players need to rest between the games, and since they are already running a lot during games, they can’t go as hard during the training sessions as they would during the off/pre-season. Running too much in training can lead to players getting injured or losing energy for the games that they are actually training for.
However, depending on a teams schedule, some training sessions will be tougher than others. For example, there won’t be much running during a training session the day or two before a match.
But, if the coach knows that their team has rested for a few days and there are 4-5 days to the next game, you can expect a pretty tough training session – even during the in-season.
Here’s the breakdown of how much running a player can expect during the different seasons (per session).
|3-6 miles||5-8 miles||2-5 miles|
This is based on my experience as a former NCAA div 1 college player and from what I’ve heard from many different coaches at the pro level.
When it comes to youth and amateur players, they can expect less running, especially during the pre-season.
Why Is Running Important?
There are a number of reasons why running are important to soccer players and coaches alike, the primary one being that players need to have a certain basic level of fitness for them to be able to compete at the highest level.
Now I’m not talking about the level you need to have a quick game in the park with your pals, I mean an elite level of fitness that is required for professional soccer players.
If a player does not have this level of fitness, the chances are that they will either be sent away by their coach to work on it in private or face being released from the club entirely.
There have been plenty of famous cases in which top stars have returned to their club after the off-season overweight and unfit, leading to them leaving the team. (I listed the fattest soccer players ever in this post)
Running is also more or less important depending on which position you play in, for example a goalkeeper tends to do a lot less running than a winger and as such being a great runner is not as crucial to their overall game.
As a winger or forward, being a strong and willing runner is a major asset to have in your repertoire as pace can often leave a defender totally bamboozled as he attempts to tackle you.
For midfielders, endurance-style running is more important, and as such these players will focus on the long-distance side of the activity in training.
Training this skill allows midfield generals to cover large portions of the field without feeling too tired during the match, players such as Declan Rice, Gavi, and Jude Bellingham often cover more distance than all of their teammates during matches.
Does It Depend On The Coach?
The amount that players run in training is of course a variable figure that differs between individual players and teams, this is usually down to the coach that is in charge at the time.
Over the past decade, there has been a distinct rise in the number of teams employing players that like to run around a lot during matches, this willingness to exert themselves makes these players the ideal stars for a high-press tactic.
Whilst pressing your opponents is not a new tactic, it wasn’t used as often in the past as it is now and that is in some part due to the rise of Jurgen Klopp as an elite soccer coach.
The German likes to use a high-pressing tactic known as Gegenpressing at all the teams he takes charge of. At a basic level this tactic relies on his players being able to constantly run at the opposition, never letting them have a moment of relaxed possession.
This style of play has proven very effective in both Germany and England as Klopp has enjoyed successful spells with both Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.
On the flip side of this tactic, you have coaches that like to have very static players that let the ball do the work rather than their legs. Some fans and pundits suggest that this way of playing is outdated but one cannot deny that when it is done properly it is an effective yet unappealing way of winning matches.
One coach that uses a playing style that requires less running from his players is Chelsea coach Graham Potter, taking a look at the current Premier League running statistics from the 2022/23 season we can see that both clubs that Potter has taken charge of this season (Chelsea and Brighton) feature in the bottom three for distance covered.
This tactic being used by one of the top coaches in England shows that it still has a place in the modern game.
Should I Run In Training?
Absolutely, running is not something that is reserved for professional players only. Okay, you may not be able to run as fast or as far as your favorite soccer star, however, you can still build up your own fitness levels while you train for your own big matches.
Like the professionals, you should first consider which position you are training to play in as this will slightly alter the kind of running you should focus on.
As a forward or winger you should be focussing on short bursts of speed (this will also be helpful for goalkeepers too), as a midfielder or defender you are going to want to focus on endurance running so that you can keep bossing it all over the field.
If you really don’t enjoy running, the next best thing is to partake in some other form of cardiovascular training such as cycling or rowing.
The reason for this is that running helps improve the health of your heart, meaning that more blood can be pumped around your body whilst playing soccer. It isn’t easy to train in this way and it may take a while to see any meaningful results but rest assured that it is good for you.