Agile Athlete: Should Lacrosse Players Run Long Distances?
Conditioning is undeniably crucial for lacrosse players, but the landscape of the game has evolved, becoming faster and more dynamic than ever before. While players understand the significance of speed and agility training, many still underestimate the impact that achieving truly elite conditioning levels can have on their performance.
Lacrosse players with higher conditioning levels gain several advantages:
- They can outpace defenders as they start to tire physically and mentally.
- They make more impactful plays on both offense and defense, maintaining their speed and precision while others become sluggish and sloppy.
- They commit fewer mental errors and turnovers.
- They earn more playing time and are trusted by the coach, knowing they have the stamina to perform well until the end of the game.
If you’ve come across this article, it’s likely because you’re aware that improving your conditioning levels can enhance your game, and you’re eager to learn how.
However, not all conditioning methods are equal. As lacrosse training progresses, it’s essential to question whether traditional long-distance running, jogging, or extended “cardio” workouts are still valuable for lacrosse players. In this article, we will address this very question.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll use the terms “running” or “jogging” to refer to all slow and longer-distance work, including cycling or using a stationary bike – since “going for a run” is a common inquiry.
Let’s delve into the pros and cons of long-distance running for lacrosse players:
THE PROS OF LONG-DISTANCE RUNNING FOR LACROSSE PLAYERS
Creates an Aerobic Base
While lacrosse predominantly relies on short bursts of energy from anaerobic systems, building an aerobic base is vital for maintaining overall performance during an entire game. A strong aerobic threshold delays the onset of fatigue, allowing players to sustain their performance for more extended periods and avoid burnout late in the game.
Improves Stamina and Recovery
Endurance work, such as long-distance running, enhances an athlete’s tolerance to lactic acid, reducing the “burn” sensation in their legs during play. Moreover, it improves the body’s ability to clear lactic acid from muscles, leading to faster recovery after intense sprints or plays.
THE CONS OF LONG-DISTANCE RUNNING FOR LACROSSE PLAYERS
Lower Return on Investment
Lacrosse players must consider the time and energy invested in their training. While long-distance running has some value, sprint work, strength training, speed sessions, and shooting practices offer higher returns in terms of game impact. Lacrosse players are better off prioritizing high-ROI training activities that optimize their efforts.
Exaggerates Imbalances and Risk of Overuse Injuries
Lacrosse players often have imbalances and restrictions from their asymmetrical movement patterns. Adding long runs on off days may exacerbate these issues and increase the risk of overuse injuries like shin splints, foot pain, or knee pain.
Neglects More Valuable Energy Systems
Long-distance running addresses only one aspect of lacrosse conditioning—the aerobic system. It doesn’t improve the other essential energy systems required for peak performance, such as the phosphagen system for short bursts of speed or the anaerobic glycolysis system for intense battles lasting around 30 seconds.
SHOULD LACROSSE PLAYERS RUN LONG DISTANCES?
In general, no, lacrosse players shouldn’t prioritize low steady-state work like long-distance running. While there are specific scenarios where building an aerobic base may be beneficial (e.g., during injury recovery or low-intensity practice periods), most players will be better served by focusing on higher ROI training activities such as strength workouts, sprints, or mobility exercises. These methods offer more comprehensive benefits and directly improve the specific energy systems required in lacrosse gameplay.