Running Track for Soccer Fitness



Soccer is a running game.  Actually, for soccer it involves walking, jogging, sprinting and endurance running. Studies have shown that field players at the highest levels can cover from 4 to 7 miles (6.4 to 11.3 kilometers) in a match.

Sprinter on a Track

Sprinter on a Track

When available, there is no better place for a coach to address all of the running aspects of soccer than on an actual running track. A track offers a springy, cushioned surface, that helps the knees, and provides marked distances in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the training.  In addition, using a track as an alternative to on-field fitness training offers the team some variety.

Make sure that workouts are age appropriate.  The totality of this treatment is intended for 18-years old and up.  For any ages, alternate sprinting workouts with endurance workouts and ensure that there are sufficient days in between to allow for the body to recover.  Always start slowly and then pick up the pace.  Do not appear at a track without having full assurance that it is available.  Make sure the team is fully aware of track etiquette.

A note about Imperial versus Metric distances:  Tracks and runs may be measured in yards or meters, miles or kilometers.  In order to try to avoid confusion for both soccer coaches and players, this presentation tries to focus on paces or laps instead of Imperial or Metric measures.  Sometimes, they just can’t be avoided.

Track Terminology

Aerobic vs. anaerobic activity – Aerobic activity involves the intake of sufficient oxygen to accommodate the usage of oxygen by the muscles.  Anaerobic activity involves the muscles trying to use more oxygen than is available or intense exercise causes a state of oxygen debt.

Base Run, Base Run Pace, Base Run Distance; Tempo, Tempo Run, Tempo Run Distance – A runner’s aerobic speed, effort, or mileage where the body produces and clears lactic acid up to an equal rate.  Breathing should stay normal and the body should not experience cramping.

Build-up – Increases in heart rate, leg turnover, speed or distance, usually attained from faster sprints, longer distance, or shorter intervals.

Cool-down – Bring the heartrate down slowly, usually by walking, and then stretch.

Curve – The semi-circular portions at both ends of a track.

Fartleks – A type of speed workout that provides for fast sprints interspersed within a normal run, with the sprints and their distances often initiated by the runner.

Intervals – Periods of increased effort followed by recovery time.

Lactic acid buildup – The byproduct of intense activity by muscles causes more lactic acid to stay in the body than can be removed during the activity itself.

Ladders – Interval training where each interval gradually gets longer (“going up the ladder’) and then gradually gets shorter (“going down the ladder”).

Lap – One full trip around a track.

Mile – Four laps around a quarter-mile track. (Metric “Mile” – 1,600 meters or four 400-meter laps.)

Quarter – A quarter-mile or one lap around a quarter-mile track.

Recovery (between exercises) – The time between physical exertion during a workout that allows for a return of normal breathing, rest for the muscles, and a mental refocus on the activities at hand.

Recovery (between workouts) – The time between fitness workouts that allows the body to rest and the muscles to recover and build added strength and endurance.

Repeats – Segments of the same distance, done in sets, with recovery time in between.

Splits – Time associated with a specific partial distance of a longer event. For example, the time of each of the four quarter-miles in a mile run.

Sprints – All-out, speed-driven effort over a short distance, usually 400-yards or fewer.

Straight – The 100-yard straightaway on both sides of a quarter-mile track

Strides – Very short sprints, usually 50-yards or less.

VO2max – The maximum volume of the uptake of oxygen by an individual during intense exercise before they enter anaerobic activity.

Warm Up – Bring the heart rate up slowly, usually by jogging, and then stretch.

75-percent Heartrate – A number of scientific studies have identified that a state of three-quarters of maximum effort during distance running, often measured by heartrate, can achieve the optimal result for endurance.

Getting Started

Wear the proper clothing for the weather.  Wear good running shoes.  Warm up. Stretch.  Use proper mechanics/form for sprints and distances.  Maintain proper hydration.


Used for warm-ups, cool-downs, and intervals; aerobic.


Used for warm-ups, cool-downs, and intervals; aerobic.

Sprints, Speed Training

(Ball of the foot; usually aerobic, but can become anaerobic; use build-up approach. 75-percent heartrate or “flat out.”)

20-paces (yards) – Marked by cones placed just inside the track on the infield along the straights.  40-yard slowdown between cones.

40 paces (yards) – Marked by cones placed just inside the track on the infield along the straights.  40-yard slowdown between cones.

60-paces (yards) – Marked by cones placed just inside the track on the infield along the straights.  40-yard slowdown between cones.

100-paces (yards) – Sprint the straights, walk the curves.  Repeat for six to eight straights.

Ladders – With 40-yards in between each, sprint 20-yards, 40-yards, 60-yards, 100-yards, 60-yards, 40-yards, 20 yards. Walk/jog half to full lap. Repeat.

Intermediate Runs

(Heal-to-toe; aerobic activity; use build-up approach.)

One full lap sprint/run. (This can be an actual sprint, on the ball of the foot, or running, heel-to-toe.)

One Lap Repeats (“quarters”) – Run four hard laps with half-lap walking or jogging intervals between each.  This can be varied with more than four laps and with one lap walking/jogging intervals.  Intervals may also be timed.

Strides – Two-to-four laps varying any types of sprints or forms.  Sprints can involve long or short distances.  Forms can include quick steps, high knees, fast acceleration, or pumping arms.

Two complete laps at 75-percent heartrate.

Two Lap Repeats – Run two hard laps with one lap walking or jogging intervals between each.  Use two or three repeats.

Ladder – Run 4 x 100 paces (yards or meters) with 100 paces walking recovery between; run 3 x 200 paces (yards or meters) with 100 paces walking recovery in between; run two laps with 200 paces walking recovery in between); and run two laps with one lap walking recovery.

VO2max Workout – ¾ lap, 1 lap or 1-¼ lap; selection based on distance that exceeds 75-seconds to complete.  6 to 10 repeats with one-minute jog between.  (“Just on the edge of “sucking wind” or anaerobic activity.)

Distance, Endurance Runs

(Heal-to-toe; can become anaerobic; use build-up approach.)

Base Run – Comfortable, natural pace for one mile.

Base Run Step-Up – Comfortable, natural pace for 8 laps, 12 laps, and then 16 laps.

Tempo Runs – Increased pace, working “comfortably hard,” or at approximately 75-percent heartrate, graduating from 4 laps to 12 laps.

Ladder – Five-minute slow jog;1 lap run; 1 lap jog; 2 lap run; 1 lap jog; 3 lap run; 1 lap jog; 4 lap run; 1 lap jog; 3 lap run; 1 lap jog; 2 lap run; 1 lap jog; 1 lap run; five-minute slow jog.

Mile Repeats – 4 laps run; 2-laps jog. 4 repeats.

Long Runs – 5, 6, or 7 miles.


Fartleks – Meaning “speed play” in Swedish, this can be a self-designed mix of sprints, running, jogs distance work and timed work.  These are usually examples of variety for distance or road racers.


Stretch.  Jog.  Walk.  Put on proper clothing.  Hydrate.


40-yard timed.

100-yard timed.

4 laps timed.   (May also record lap splits.)

16 laps timed.  (May also record 4-lap splits.)

Record and repeat times by distance for players, over time, to try to identify improvement or need for remedial training.

Tell players to inform you about cramping.  Lactic acid buildup is likely present.  Make note about recurrence.  Those players may need special endurance programs, such as more distances progressing from slower paces.

According to the American Heart Association, maximum heart rate is around 220 beats per minute (bpm) minus the person’s age. Therefore, a 20-year-old’s maximum heart rate would be around 200 bpm (220 minus 20 = 200 bpm).  75 percent of that would be 150 bpm.  To have a player calculate their heartrate, count the beats at the carotid for 15 seconds (coach saying “start” and “stop” while keeping time) and then multiply by four.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • Going to the track is not a substitute for teaching skills and tactics. It is a supplement for fitness training.
  • See on-field drills Lines and Sections.
  • See articles on Sprinting and Endurance.
  • Ensure that you calculate the total, combined distances for all workouts and keep them reasonable. Workout sessions must be interspersed with recovery days.
  • Fitness levels are addressed by “getting more fit” and then “maintaining fitness.” Running must have an objective, not just be done for the sake of running.
  • Clear debris from the track before and after usage.
  • All types of RELAY RACES are fun for all ages.


© Copyright, John C. Harves