Long slow distance, or LSD as it’s known in the running community is generally considered to be a workout with paces slower than race pace, approaching race durations, at or between 60-75% of the runner’s maximum heart rate.
The key is to perform long slow distance at a constant pace and not worry about the effects of slowing down or increases in speed on your performance. As your body shifts toward improved efficiency over a progression of hours, weeks, and even months, muscles learn to burn less energy at a constant effort, and you can move faster while expending less energy.
Time and patience
German physician and coach, Ernst van Aaken, is widely regarded as the founder of the long slow distance method (LSD) of endurance training. Van Aaken earnestly believed that people would be able to reach the age of 100 if they were not so “hopelessly unbiologically”. In the “biologic” lifestyle he promoted, sport played a crucial role, especially with the development of endurance.
The moderate training intensity of LSD is effective in improving endurance and maximum oxygen uptake in people who are undertrained or moderately trained. It was even once commonplace in swimming for anaerobic based efforts to be coached with greater volume. Programs designed by Olympic sprint coaches prioritized ‘threshold training’ over technique and power.
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
Surprisingly, significant parts of the mileage recorded by some of the best runners can best be described as “light” slow runs. Just because long-distance running might be relatively easy doesn’t mean it isn’t beneficial. LSD running may have more health benefits than you might think!
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
LSD running improves your body’s ability to oxygenate your muscles and your body’s ability to burn fat as an energy source. Moreover, LSD running teaches your body to store more energy than glycogen in your muscles.
Building a base
The easiest recommendation is to follow the “Talk Test,” an idea from Arthur Lydiard, where training speeds should be slow enough to have a conversation. Conversational speed.
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.
To better assess how these training progressions should unfold, take 20 to 25 heartbeats off your lactate threshold, and start from there. For example, running with a heart rate of 130 to 134 at a LT of 155. It is still aerobic training and allows athletes a sufficient recovery period of 24 hours.
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
Running long distance at a slow pace not only achieve these goals but also lead to better results on race day, as your body is not overtrained and can expend more energy to complete your race strategy.
Stroll, accelerate or push your race pace
Arthur Lydiard wrote that the LSD training system does not reach the performance level that is most effective for building aerobic fitness.
As with any exercise, running slower for longer distances can cause injury if done improperly. Excessive miles without adjusting the body can lead to shin splints, stress fractures, extreme muscle fatigue / sore muscles, among other risks. Overtraining can be minimized by the “10 percent rule,” which states that a runner should never increase his or her mileage by more than 10 percent compared to the previous week.
You can’t do HIIT more than about three times a week. Otherwise, you won’t have enough recovery time, and you’ll burn out.
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.