Long Slow Distance

Allen finishing a 10 mile LSD

There are three types of training, long slow distance (LSD), speed training, and hill training. In this page we'll look at the wisdom of doing long slow distance.



Long slow distance is running at a moderate pace in which you can carry on a conversation and in which you aren't panting for breath and don't get side stitches (cramps) or a raw throat. Running LSD means that you're running aerobically, that is, your body is getting sufficient oxygen. Running LSD means that you're using moderation in your training and not pushing your body to extreme stress levels. Most of your training should be LSD if you want to run injury free. It's during your LSD runs that your body develops endurance.

As you run, you put your body under stress, and body cells are destroyed. During the 48 hours after your runs, your body reacts to the stress by rebuilding the body cells, and the end result is that you're stronger than you were before. At least, its supposed to work that way. The problem is that if you apply more stress than your body can handle, your body can't fully recover, and residues of stress remain. Over time, those residues can build up until the stress reaches the point where your body breaks down and injury occurs.

Many runners are anxious to develop speed and long distances, and they push themselves to reach faster and longer goals. This works for a while, because their bodies can withstand the stress and not break down. But, if the high stress levels are continued, the time comes when their bodies can't handle the stress, and the runners either become injured, or they become so tired that they often lose motivation and stop running.

Through using moderation by running slower (LSD) and allowing more time for rest between runs, runners can reduce their stress level to the point where their bodies can handle it, and they can reach their goals without injury and without being overly tired. In doing this, they can develop a good base that will allow them to do speed training in a systematic and safe way. Rest after a run doesn't imply no running. If you feel up to it, you can allow your body to rest by running shorter and/or slower distances or by doing cross-training.

Of course, if all you run is LSD, you'll never become a fast racer. If racing is your interest, you'll want to do speed work and run hills after you have a good base of LSD.



While developing endurance through running long slow distance, you can pick up a poor running-form, such as unnecessarily short steps, slow leg movement, and sloppy form such as leaning forward and looking down. The running of "strides" can help you regain proper running-form. They are explained in the page on speed.


sparky said...

Thanks for this. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what LSD was. :) I will check out some of the other pages. Cheers.

Mark Garso 3555 said...

You hit it head on with the LSD as I tend to push myself to the limit or past and I need to be reminded of this!

Mark F Garso 3555

Mark_D said...

I have run myself down twice in the last year because I've been running fast every time I went out.
I've just started to use a heart rate monitor for my running and crosstraining and try to keep below 70% of my max heart rate for all my running except speed work.

Allen said...

Hi Mark,

65-70% is a good LSD range for most people. What monitor do you have?

Albert Purnell said...

As what I can see, Long Slow Distance is somewhat has a similarities to jogging where we can do talking or chatting while doing the activity. Slow process doesn't mean it is not effective, the same as walking where we do it very slowly, somehow it is still a very effective exercise.

Allen said...

Hi Albert, yes, LSD is similar to jogging. The purpose of LSD is to get you used to longer distance. Speed is not important; what is important for mastering distance is time on your feet. If you're interested in racing, you will need to speed workouts later on, since LSD is slow running.

Unless you're on a competitive team or are qualifying for Army or police, I recommend you do LSD first and speed and hills later. Runners who are on a school team or are training to qualify don't have much choice but to do speed and hills at the beginning. They do incur greater risk of injury.

mizunogirl said...

Linking this back to my Blog as I explain LSD to people thanks. nice explanation.

Christopher said...

Once a runner progresses from beginner to intermediate and higher, LSD should really take into account where the runner's lactate threshold is, or roughly the speed where they can no longer speak in three-word sentences.

Whatever your heart rate at that speed, take it back about 20 bpm and use that as your LSD pace. For a beginner that might be 55% of your max heart rate, but for an elite athlete that might be 80% or more. Some athletes have an LT at 95% of their VO2max pace. Training at 60-65% of their max heart rate won't do much for them.

Imagine a 20 year old couch potato, max heart rate of 200 bpm. Training at 120-130 bpm would be 60-65% of their max heart rate and a great LSD workout for them.

Then take a 20 year old elite athlete whose LT is 90% of her VO2max. Her LT is at 180 bpm so her "LSD" work should really be in the 160 range and not down near 120-130. Plugging away miles and miles at 130 bpm may actually make her slower, not faster.

Mark Garso said...

The older I get the more warming up and the long slow runs are important.

Mark Garso
Lakeville, MN

gary dempster said...

I had my very best race results from a base of pure "slow" running with absolutely NO speed work. I was able to run an 18.20 5k and and a 23.51 4mile using this all volume no speed approach last year, at age 46. My runs were typically 2-3m/m slower than my 5k race pace. Maybe it depends on your physiology, but for me, more volume is what seems to work better than regular speed work. The only way I can keep my volume up (a good challenging but attainable volume for me is around 50mpw), is to run slow enough to be able to keep running day after day. It also helps me to put together a string of good months in a row with minimal injuries, which I can only do by keeping it under control and 'slow'. Plus it's fun. - Gary

Allen said...

Hi Gary, thanks for your progress report! I especially like the last part: "Plus it's fun" Above all, we should run because we enjoy it.