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What is the Total Distance metric?

What is the total distance metric and why is it useful for improving performance?

Distance Metric HeaderWhat does it Measure?

Training Session – Total Distance is the distance covered during the session with out any restrictions such as pitch or half time

Match session – Distance during matches is measured slightly differently than training, The total distance will only count what distance has been covered on the pitch and during the timings selected.

How to better understand the Metric?

The total distance metric measures a players total distance covered on the pitch throughout a match or training session. This may seem like a simple metric at first glance but it can give insight into what work was put in over the session, especially when we pair it with other metrics too! 

Total distance is a useful metric to track players training load throughout the week. For example,  in the graph below it shows a players total distance covered at each session throughout the week. The first bar shows a high total distance on match day (10,340m) . The mid week training  bars show a reduction in total distance with less than half of that covered in the match. This lowered distance covered is expected as players will be recovering in preparation for the match as the end of the week.These low total distance sessions will be low impact and may focus more on skills and technical parts of the game in training to ensure players are not fatigued. The final session of the week is a match with a high total distance which suggests players prepared effectively throughout the week. 


Figure 1-  Total distance covered for a player throughout a week of sessions.

By tracking players total distance across a season of matches coaches can use this data to monitor their performance and progression of their workload. It can also highlight if a player is at risk of burnout on injury. For example if players workload is increasing rapidly over a short period of time and  are covering a high total distance in matches and training throughout.This may put them at major risk of an injury. Previous studies have found that a 15% workload increase week to week can increase the risk of injury for a player by 50% (1). Therefore it is key to monitor players volume in sessions to identify any players at risk. 

Total Distance is a key metric for understanding the volume of a session but paired with other metrics can give you a broader understanding of the work a player has done. For example, if  your distance is quite high but your top speed is slower than usual with few sprints, this indicates  you’ve done a high-volume session but probably not high intensity. A High intensity session would have more ‘high speed distance’ and might have lower total distance.

Data, paired with knowledge of the session, can tell you a lot about your players too. If you have a player usually hitting average session distances that seems to be decreasing a lot over time, why is that? Can you ask them? Using data as a tool to understand your players can go a long way in reducing the risk of injury, as well as increasing performance in the long run! 


What should players be aiming for?

Football Elite  Mens     10938m  ± 590

Central Defender           10058m ± 395

Wide Defender                10852m ± 463

Central Midfield              11848m ±540 

Wide Midfield                   11503m ± 603

Attacker                              10819m ± 725


Football Elite  Women's   10369m ± 674

Central Defender                 9677m± 516

Wide Defenders.                 10334m ±550

Central Midfield                  10905m ± 613

Wide Midfield                       10690m ±681

Attackers                                10257m ± 715


Football Playerdata Average (women’s)


Football Playerdata Average (Men’s)



Rugby Elite (Men's)

Forwards                            5734.4 ± 693.7

Backs                                   6261.6 ± 745.2

Tight Forwards                  5352.9 ± 798.6

Loose Forwards                6155.9 ± 588.8

Half Backs                          6620.9 ± 784.4

Inside backs                       6081.6 ± 779.4  

Outside backs                   6079.5 ± 617.7

Rugby Playerdata Average (Men’s)


Rugby Playerdata Average (women’s)


GAA Elite

Defenders           7125m

Midfielders          7969m

Forwards             6740m

Totals                   7278m  

GAA Playerdata Average




1. Gabbett TJ.: The training—injury prevention paradox: should players be training smarter and harder?, Br J Sports Med, 50:273–280 2016.