Long Slow Distance When and Where Appropriate

Nate Boyle
long slow distance

Time and patience

Despite specializing in 100-m and 200-m events requiring ~60 to 120 s, these athletes swam 77 % of the 1150 km completed during a season at an intensity below 2 mM lactate.

Stephen Seiler, et al

Van Aaken praised a daily endurance run for everyone, including women, the elderly, and children, combined with moderate eating and drinking. He also posited that females would ultimately perform better at endurance events than their male counterparts if all the social stigmas and barriers were removed.

Long slow distance as a movement

During the running boom in the 1970s, many recreational runners used LSD as a training base—a means to build an ‘aerobic base‘ or the start of what becomes an aerobic capacity for marathons. Similarly, in the late ’90s, the explosion of cycling followed a similar progression with endless hours on rides becoming more popular.

In essence, the benefits of LSD training accrue from the uninterrupted time spent at a lower intensity. This time allows the body to adapt to a particular activity. If you were to interrupt it with an intense interval session, you might undo many of the benefits brought about by easy running. For endurance-based athletes, the frequency and duration of workouts became the path to improvement.

Common for all three champions was that over their long, successful careers, about 85 % of their training sessions were performed as continuous efforts at low to moderate intensity (blood lactate £2 mM).

Stephen Seiler, et al

Building a base

LSD training requires running at a very slow pace (10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than your race pace) for longer periods of time (90 to 120 minutes per session). LSD isn’t the best method for endurance, speed or strength but it does build an adequate aerobic base.

Controlled studies comparing the physiological and performance impact of continuous training (CT) below the lactate threshold (typically 60-75 % of VO2max for 30 min or more) and HIT began to emerge in the 1970s.

Stephen Seiler, et al

Stroll, accelerate or push your race pace

The key to being able to train frequently is what we call “repeatability.” Repeatability is the idea that no matter how hard you train today, you can repeat training tomorrow.

New ‘slow’ speeds with more efficiency

Write down your running speed, as it can affect your attitude during the run. Vary the environment and explore the scenery – whether it’s a new neighborhood or a historic city. Morning, evening, or night, conditions at different locations will look different, and the long slow distance experience will have positive memories to supplement the aerobic benefits.

With that, slow training is considered ineffective when used in isolation by well-trained athletes who require higher training intensities to improve metabolic conditioning, which is unattainable at the training loads associated with LSD. However, the social experience with teammates and friends is undoubtedly an excellent intermittent training session or set.

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