It’s kind of a no-brainer that football players – or soccer players, whatever you want to call them – are incredibly gifted, versatile, and agile athletes. It’s one thing to have the coordination and muscle control to be able to manipulate a ball through a field or through the air, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to have the technical skills and to have the muscular power and endurance to be able to constantly move for an entire match.
In other words, I’d venture to say that soccer players are some of the most adept, best athletes in the world.
I’m admittedly not a soccer player myself, but I am a runner, and a long-distance one at that. I’ve run multiple half marathons, marathons, and even ultramarathons, and way back when, I was a sprinter in my middle and high-school days. Back then, I recall some of the strongest runners on our track teams were my teammates who played soccer in the autumn.
Those runners dominated all of our running events – the sprints (100-400m), the middle distance (800m), and distance (1mi and 2mi) – and really, it shouldn’t have been any surprise to me then or now.
When you’re playing in a soccer match, in order to be competitive, you have to be fast on your feet – hence the ability to powerfully sprint – but you’ve also got to have the endurance to last for the entire duration of the match (or at least the times when you’re out on the field). Playing soccer trains you to be a strong runner, whether you realize it or not.
Some estimates guess that soccer players will cover about 10 kms on their feet during a standard 90-minute match, with that time including the short sprints and the longer, slower running or walking across the field. If you’re a soccer player and aren’t including running in your regular, day-to-day training, no doubt your game will suffer.
The other thing about the running and soccer overlap is that when you run regularly – as I can attest – you create a powerful fitness “machine” in your body. Over time, you develop and strengthen your musculature, and of course, your cardiovascular fitness sees levels that you might have earlier otherwise thought improbable or impossible. When you’re fit – provided you are training in an intelligent manner and/or are guided by a coach who is knowledgeable – your propensity for illness or injury plummets, and being in shape can also help you get in good shape psychologically, as well.
The running brand ASICS has a tagline in Latin that translates to “in a sound body exists a sound mind,” which makes a lot of sense when you think of it in terms of how exercise affects the brain and our circuitry there. If you’re healthy, chances are high that you’re in a healthier state of mind.
I leave you with a challenge: if you’re a soccer player, regardless of how competitive you are – from a pro-level player all the way down to a hobbyist who enjoys kicking around a ball with your child – consider registering for a road race from time to time. If you’re playing soccer regularly, you’re likely in fairly good cardiovascular fitness, and I’d wager that you could handle the demands and stress of a road race and would probably thrive in the competitive atmosphere.
You don’t have to sign-up for a marathon – unless you want to, of course – but I’d bet that you’d fare well in a 5k or 10k right off the bat with minimal training, above and beyond what you’re already doing for soccer. As an added bonus, if you do complete additional 5k or 10k training, I’d bet that your soccer game would improve some, since ostensibly you’d be getting more fit and would be better able to cover the ground during your matches and chase down the ball with more ease than before.
Running and soccer go hand-in-hand, with soccer players being some of the best athletes in the world, and I think that with minimal additional training, soccer players could also become some of the world’s best runners and racers.
I’ll see you on the starting line.