Home / Insights / Running in Football: 7 BEST things YOU MUST know

By Ben Young | Fitness | January 12, 2024

Running in Football: 7 BEST things YOU MUST know

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan

As we all know running is a significant part of the game of football.

So much so, that it might be surprising to some that on average, a footballer will touch the ball for less than 2 minutes per game! 

This fact shines a light on how important running in football is.

In order to be a successful football player – you must learn to run, and run well.

In this article we break down;

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan

Types of running in football

Since the inception of GPS monitoring in football systems such as Catapult, Statsports or Player Data we know that players are typically required to cover distances between 10-12 km within a 90-minute game, known as the ‘volume of running’ – or the ‘total distance’ of running a player must do.

Gps monitoring running in football
Running in football as monitored by GPS

We also know that within football running is of course not just a straight line and at one speed.

The type of running required to be a successful footballer is running that is interspersed with bouts ​of sprinting, acceleration, deceleration, change of directions and high-speed efforts.

Therefore we must look beyond total distance or simple volume metrics to best understand the physical demands of football and how to get fit for football to improve your game

running in football with the ball drill
Running in football with the ball drill

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan

Fatigue and running in football

Why do I get tired easily when playing football?

The best way to describe why you get tired during football matches or training is by thinking of the game like this;

A footballer runs on average 10-12 kilometres in 90 minute game

This means the average speed for a player over the whole game is 6.6 kilometres per hour

The average person walks at a speed of 5.6 kilometres per hour

This means that a footballer is on average only moving just over the speed of walking when you look at the average of the whole game.

Simply put – it is not the total volume or amount of running in football that is fatiguing players.

Professional football players are easily capable of walking/jogging for 10-12km in a 90-minute period.

The part of the game that is fatiguing to players is accelerations, decelerations, sprinting & high speed running in football that is fatiguing.

When we are designing football fitness running sessions we have to take this into account to make sure we are training for the correct part of the game. Not just randomly running and thinking we will get fit for football.

This is not the case.

Another way of expressing this same point is in the stats below

How much running in football do players do?

Footballers run at varying speeds throughout a game. Recent studies show how on average, players:

  • Walk for 28% of a match
  • Jog for 26% of the match
  • Sprint for 3% of the match
  • Use over 400 different types of movement patterns during a match with speeds varying from 0-30 kilometres per hour.

On average professional players will cover 10-12 kilometres per game.

Approximately 700 – 1200 meters of high-speed running and between 180 – 240 meters of sprinting distance.

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan

Types of running in football

High-speed running in football

In a study, conducted by Gregson et al. (2009), the high-speed running distances of Premier League players has been studied in detail.

The results, displayed below, showed that the forwards and the wingers cover the most distance with high speed running, followed by the full-backs. Center-backs cover by far the fewest meters with high speed running.

running in football data

Sprinting: How many sprints are in a football game?

To classify running as sprinting it is generally accepted that running over the speed of 7 meters per second in football is classified as a sprint (7m/s). 

When looking at this threshold players usually accumulate between 180 – 240 meters of pure sprinting distance in a game depending on their position & the type of game it was.

This distance is chopped up into lots of little efforts over the course of the game.

On average football players will sprint every 90-120 seconds for an average of 2-4 seconds each. 

The significant majority (96%) of these sprints are less than 30m. 

In total football players sprint for approximately 3% of the match.

Common questions about running in football

How do I run faster for football?

In order to run faster, there are a number of things a player can do to improve their speed and acceleration.

  1. Make sure you follow a quality lower body strength program:

(Strength & power are fundamental to Speed) – check out our FREE football leg workout here

  1. Make sure you RUN FAST OFTEN.
    • Every week make sure you complete a maximum acceleration session or within a session at least x1 per week.
    • Make sure you complete at least x1 max speed run per week. This will need to be at least 30-40 meters to ensure you hit top speed. Running fast often can help coordinate your body at high speed & ensure your posterior chain and hamstrings are well accustomed to high speed running.

  2. Fitness: Make sure you are well conditioned for the game by completing running sessions in addition to your football training.

How many km does a football player run

The distance covered by a football player during a match can vary depending on several factors such as position, playing style, and match conditions.

On average, professional football players cover approximately 10-13 kilometers (6.2-8.1 miles) per game, this is the average football player running distance. However, these distances can differ significantly. Midfielders and full-backs tend to cover the most ground, often surpassing 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) in a single match, as they are involved in both offensive and defensive actions.

Strikers and central defenders typically cover slightly less distance, while goalkeepers have the smallest overall distance covered. It’s important to note that these figures are general estimates, and actual distances can vary based on individual player attributes and match circumstances.

How do I run further in football?

Running further in football sounds like a good idea but the first question you should answer is why do you want to run further. 

To be the most effective player does not necessarily mean it is the player that has run the furthest. Does Lionel Messi run the furthest in every game? no. 

Therefore you should in fact be focusing on ensuring you are fit enough to be effective in all the actions that come your way and capable of keeping up with match play, have the ability to create and find space when you are required to & be effective & accurate when you do get on the ball.

This means following a specific football fitness plan. To give you a taste of a professional fitness plan download our free guide here

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan

Are 5k runs good for football fitness?

At times 5k runs might be effective for football conditioning and fitness. However, if you are looking to get fitter for football you want to be working specifically to your position and working specifically on the fitness attributes you individually need to improve.

To find out more about specific football fitness and conditioning check out our ultimate guide to football fitness here

Take your running in football to the next level!


We are soon to launch a professional football fitness app which will tailor your football fitness and conditioning specific to you, your position and your fitness level.

To register your interest & be the first to find out when we are releasing the app please sign up for the mailing list by signing up for our free fitness ebook below.

Links related to running in football to help

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Check out this Article – The ultimate guide to football fitness 

Football player workout plan
Football player workout plan


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