Football is a game full of running. Endurance training is the first step to becoming great on the pitch. You might think "endurance" means running miles on top of miles until you're nearing marathon distances. However, being able to run for long periods of time isn't all you need to elevate your game. The ability to keep a high endurance level throughout the season breaks down into three different components that can change your performance on the pitch.
The first element to put into your training is leg strength, and that starts with sprints. Yes, football is a game of running many miles for an extended period, however, it's not played at only one speed. You must be ready to stop and go at a moment's notice. This is where incorporating sprints into your training program becomes crucial.
Prepare your legs to be ready for the all the changes of pace that will occur in a game by inserting sprints into your usual regime. Eight sprints of 50 yards each will help you build endurance and allow you to cover the entire pitch on game day.
Additionally, incorporate a few medium-distance runs a week to build up your legs for the season ahead of you. Aim to include two 20–30 minute runs (stay below 60 minutes) into your off-season training.
The next big component to build elite endurance on the pitch is your ability to recover. Many players like to skip stretching but it's an important portion of your training to avoid injury or cramping. Stretching also helps you recover faster for your next training session or game, which is vital for any athlete. Try the following great recovery stretches:
- Couch Stretch. Plant your knee into the back corner of a couch or chair, or against a wall. Step the other leg out in front and then raise up nice and tall. Keep your abs tight and squeeze your glutes to open up the front of your back hip.
- Lying Quadriceps Stretch. While lying on your side, grab just above your calf and pull your heel in toward your glutes. Lengthen and straighten your spine, while you bend your other leg and keep your thigh in line with your body. To increase the stretch push your hips forward (just a little). Repeat on the opposite side.
Finally, the last factor to improve your training is a sound nutritional program. A football season can last up to nine months, and that's before factoring in any tournament play during or after the season.
Keeping your nutrition on point increases your ability to recover. Getting the right balance of carbohydrates into your system is extremely important because carbs are your body's most efficient source of energy. Without carbs, your body may lack energy and your muscle contractions may be weakened.
If you need a quick-acting carbohydrate that will hit your system fast and help fuel your recovery, eat a banana. You can also fuel your system by starting your morning with a quality carbohydrate source such as oatmeal. Remember, though, that not all carbohydrates are good for your system. Avoid white rice, for example, which contains less fiber, vitamins and minerals than other carbs.
Locking in on these three components of endurance training will help you elevate your game and work toward becoming a better athlete on the pitch.