Jogging is running at a gentle pace for periods of time. Jogging, if done for an extended period of time, is done with the intention of improving fitness and endurance. It is also often used by athletes and professional sportspeople as a warm up or cool down to a more intense exercise. We will be looking at why, how and when footballers jog in the following paragraphs.
Benefits of Jogging
According to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine, jogging is effective in increasing human lifespan, and has benefits for the cardiovascular system, which includes performance of the heart and blood circulation. Jogging is also proven to provide health benefits such as cancer prevention and aids in weight loss. However, jogging outdoors instead of on a treadmill in the gym provides further benefits. These benefits include increased energy and concentration, as well as improving mood.
Jogging is a form of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is light activity you can sustain over long periods of time, such as walking, jogging and casual cycling. The opposite is anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic activity is bursts of activity for short periods of time, such as sprinting. Anaerobic activity is not possible to maintain over a long period.
Football includes both aerobic and anaerobic movements and activities. So, while footballers jog regularly during games, does this mean it is an effective training method?
Should Footballers Jog?
In football, players are pretty much constantly running for 90 minutes, occasionally walking when the ball is out of play, but mainly jogging. Because players are constantly on the move and jog a lot, and football only has one stoppage at half time, it would make sense that footballers need to have good aerobic fitness. To get aerobic fitness, players would have to jog often and for long-distance. However, while footballers do need some aerobic fitness, jogging and long-distance running is not an effective method of training. In fact, footballers should not go jogging at all. Long-distance running and footballers jogging can actually be harmful for performance in matches and have a diminishing effect on their match fitness.
Why Jogging Negatively Affects Footballers
Well, football is a sport that favours powerful and quick movements. You can see this when you think about the best players in the world, and what makes them so special. Lionel Messi’s lightening quick movements and turns, Cristiano Ronaldo’s powerful leap, Kylian Mbappe’s explosive bursts of speed. Football is a ‘power-sport’, which requires great strength. The truth is, jogging doesn’t get these results. They can often get the opposite. Jogging actually can make footballers weaker and slower. This is because there are fibres within muscles, some of which are ‘slow twitch fibres’ and some ‘fast twitch fibres’.
Footballers, along with other elite athletes who perform high intensity, explosive movements like sprinters, high jumpers, and tennis players are blessed with a high proportion of fast twitch muscle fibres. They allow these fast and powerful movements that are so important in the sport. So, footballers jogging or running long distances actually stimulates the slow twitch muscle fibres, so they are working those fibres and ignoring the fast twitch fibres. As a result, their bodies and muscles adapt to these slow movements and they become used to it, meaning their slow twitch fibres overpower their fast twitch fibres.
So, footballers jogging at a consistent pace are actually harming their performance on the pitch, and instead, should incorporate exercises such as sprinting to maintain optimal levels of fitness and muscular development.
Do Footballers Jog in Training?
As sports science and analytics have advanced hugely across all levels in the modern game, teams are always striving to prepare players in the best way for games. When analysing the game, it is found that footballers run for around 70 minutes of the game. But by running, what we really mean includes: jogging, walking, sprinting, jumping, backpedalling, shuffling, and turning. When you look at the distance covered, it is around 10 kilometres, but most of this is done in explosive movements and sprints rather than low intensity jogging.
For footballers, jogging is just recovery time in between these high intensity bursts. So, in training, players need to be practicing and becoming familiar with these explosive movements, and their fitness should be based on how well they can perform these movements, and how quickly they can recover and do another sprint.
What does Training Look Like for Footballers?
Well, the day after matchdays, footballers won’t be running at all, as it is usually a rest day. After that, players focus on resistance training, which involves gym sessions with the aim of strengthening muscles. Players would be lifting weights, squatting with weights, and using kettlebells and resistance bands. Footballers would also do this again later in the week t break up the running sessions. For all other sessions, footballers will be running. But this running would include sprints for conditioning, and work on agility and acceleration. These drills would include sprinting in repeated sets, sprinting with resistance and from stationary positions, and then high-intensity sprinting and jumping with twists and turns for agility. Jogging is a very small part of training, and would only be included as part of warm ups and cool downs at the beginning and end of training sessions.
Of course, training programmes are tailored to the players position. For players where speed is essential, wingers and attacking players, sprinting drills and strength conditioning may be more of a focus. For central midfielders, aerobic fitness is more useful than for others. This means interval training would be focussed on more, which is regular sprints, broken up by periods of jogging.
In summary, to get fit for football, which is the goal of training, it is essential to be doing drills that mimic movements in a football game.
Do Footballers Jog to Stay Fit in Pre-season?
When the football season is over, players leave the training ground and get to go on holiday for around 4-6 weeks, before they have to report to training again to begin the pre-season routine. So, in that time, do footballers jog to maintain their fitness? The football club will expect their players to keep fit and follow a prescribed fitness and diet plan during their holidays. In truth, every player is different. Some may make the most of their time off and not train at all, whereas some with a professional mindset will work hard to maintain their fitness levels and return to the club in top shape.
Aside from a healthy diet, players are recommended to do gym work and cardiovascular exercise in the form of interval training. This is changing between sprinting and jogging, but it can also be done on a bike. A simple example is, using the edge of a football pitch, footballers jog the length of the football pitch, then sprinting full pace along the width, jogging the length again and sprinting the final width. This exercise could go on for several sets, and is way more effective for footballers than jogging alone.
GPS Tracking Apps & 5K Runs
You may see some footballers recording their runs on the popular GPS tracking app Strava. During lockdown, Ross Barkley posted a picture of his 5k run, which spread through social media quickly. He did this in a time of 16 minutes, which is an insanely fast time, and the reason it started to go viral. However, those familiar with the app noticed that the elapsed time of the exercise was around an hour, as Barkley was doing sets of sprints, pausing Strava in between each set. You would also assume the footballers known for their ability to run for 90 minutes, such as James Milner and N’Golo Kante would be fantastic joggers. Central midfielders do jog more than most other players on the pitch, however, their fitness is dependent on their recovery time between sprints, and most of their distance covered is done in high-intensity movements rather than jogging.
It’s not unheard of for footballers to go jogging in the off season, but running more than 5k is very uncommon. It is suggested by fitness professionals that if footballers are going to run at a steady pace for the duration of the exercise, the distance should be limited to 2 miles. This means it remains a high intensity exercise, and most footballers would aim to do this in a time of around 10-12 minutes, which is no mean feat.
Overall, jogging is a big part of football during matches, but football is more focused on high intensity and powerful movements. Footballer’s do a lot of running in training, pre-season, and in in the off-season. There is no doubt footballers have to have high levels of fitness for running, but don’t expect them to be able to record a great marathon time. Most of their running in pre-season, off-season and in training is done at sprinting pace, such as shuttle runs, sets of high intensity sprinting, as well as fast movements with turns, jumps and twists.