How do I get in shape for soccer?

When I was 5 or 6, I joined my first soccer team.  The sport seemed made for me: it was outdoors, there was running (I have always been pretty fast), there was kicking (who doesn’t love kicking?), there were orange slices (Mmmm…), and there was a chance for team-building, success, and winning.  The perfect formula.  What more could a little guy ask for?

I continued with my love for the sport, playing almost every year all the way through my senior year of high school.

I didn’t play competitively in college, but played a few pick-up games here and there.  But I missed it.

Since then, my only exposure has been watching other friends and family members play, I have been to a couple  of professional matches, I watch the World Cup when it’s on TV, and there may have been a brief period where I became quite fond of (okay, addicted to) FIFA Soccer on Xbox (it’s so fun).

For someone who has loved the sport like I did/do, it was almost painful watching other people play.  You literally itch to be out there, show them what you’ve got.   You could run faster, be tougher, kick farther.  It can be torture.

Then, out of the blue, a friend called and told me he had joined an indoor men’s soccer league, and they were looking for players.  Perfect!  Now was my chance to get back in the mix.

I got online, signed up, and went to meet my team at the indoor sports complex.  We warmed up for five or ten minutes, and then it was on.  They let me start.  I was excited.

Then something strange happened.  I hadn’t forgotten how to play soccer, and I wasn’t out of shape.  But there is shape, and then there is soccer shape.  Mentally, it was all there, and I still had the skills.  And it’s not like I am out of shape (I do Crossfit and fight train).  But soccer athletes are a whole different animal.  Basically, you need to be able to sprint for 30 minutes straight, take a brief break (called halftime) and then sprint for 30 more minutes.  It is, especially if you have not done it for a while, brutal.

I did okay.  I was in better shape than a lot of the other guys, but not in nearly the shape of younger years.  What you take for granted as a teenager comes only with intense work and dedication as an adult, and even then, you will probably never regain the grace and tirelessness of high school days.  But here is what I am doing: how to get in shape for soccer–

(1) Cardio- this might seem overly simplistic, but if you want to be able to run more, you need to run more.  Hearkening back to my years on the high school team, this means a lot of wind-sprints, suicides, jogging and sprinting in intervals, distance running, and just basically kicking your own butt.  I have also worked in some bear crawl and skipping drills.  These SUCK!

(2) Strength-training-  I am still keeping up with this, so I will have power out there.  One of the as yet unmentioned joys of soccer is getting to knock more slender players on their butts.

(3)  Sleep- if you hope to have any energy to do either of the above, you need to get some.

(4)  No soda- my track coach told me that soda “cuts your wind,” so if you want to run faster and longer, you need to cut this out completely.  I also read in Cosmo that it makes you look bloated.  And on MTV Cribs, they always say their personal trainers tell them to stay away from it.  That’s enough for me.  I’m about a week in; I’ll let you know how it goes.

This isn’t the most competitive soccer I have ever seen, but I’m excited.  Winning soccer isn’t just about goals scored (thankfully, because score-wise, we got our butts kicked).  But it’s about being out there, in the mix, trying hard, pushing it, and loving what you are doing.  I know soccer still hasn’t fully caught on in the U.S. of A., but I hope it does.  It may never replace baseball as the American pastime, but there is something magical about it for me.

Anyone else have any soccer training tips?

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