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“Bad coaches send their players out for a run in the forest” – this was the headline of an article I once read on the subject of pre-season preparation. This sentence has since burned itself into my brain. It is about the problem of one-sided endurance training and the associated ineffective cross-country runs or pointless laps around the field. Somehow, there is something to this statement, but running off the beaten track can offer more than just improving stamina.

Why even go for cross country runs?

Of course, the criticism refers strongly to those in the top leagues and to high-performance players, where monotonous runs don’t offer much increase in performance. But we should not forget that the other 99% of active soccer players do not act in such a performance range and that endurance training through running is an essential part of season preparation. Nevertheless, it also includes the ritual of training, the weekly get together and general fitness. These athletes should definitely go off the beaten track! In the so-called “cross country runs”, it’s not just about endurance.

“Cross country”, referring to any terrain off the field, offers good opportunities to get the team in shape. Because as a coach you should, from time to time, look outside the box. Soccer exercises with tempo and rhythm variations, direction changes or stops for strength exercise can be easily incorporated on any terrain.

Although the various terrains, usually not far from the field, may pose a latent risk of injury, the players’ focus on their environment will be sharpened at the same time. Let’s call it the secret of conscious running. Players will be forced, in a most natural way, to pay attention when moving. If the route is challenging and exhausting, then the coach would also have the added benefit of not having to listen to the annoying chatter from the players.

"Soccer preparation should not only take place on the field. After all, who enjoys running monotonous laps?"

Variation: A natural exercise course

The term “cross country running” always sounds like a light running session and a quiet hour for the coach. However, this is not necessarily the case. Through a healthy dose of creative sport understanding, cross-country can become a high quality adventure, enhancing each player’s fitness and bringing the team closer together.There are many examples for the use of surrounding elements. Trees can be used like a slalom course, park benches for step training, a lawn or field can also be crawled across. Ultimately, as it is in any other sport, it is all about creating new stimuli to strengthen muscles in a new way. Don’t worry – The efficiency of soccer-specific movements will not be lost and my guess is that you won’t go out running every day.

In general going for a run outside can only enhance the performance of the team, by giving free rein to their instincts from time to time. Cross-country runs add to the variety of daily training routine and ultimately the coaching routine as well.

Exercise example

Who really doesn’t want to go out for a run can browse through our Exercise Database and find new fitness exercises. Conditioning Phase 2 created by Joe Jerome is just one of many cool ideas.

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