Long slow distance (LSD) training, also known as steady state, is a form of cardio workout where you exercise (jog or cycle) for 20 to 60 minutes at low to medium intensity. It is good for burning fat, and the low intensity makes it a good fit for anyone. It is clearly the best cardio option for:
- Someone looking for cardio variety in their workout
- Someone in poor (but improving!) physical condition
Interval training (much more intense than LSD) can be very shocking to a
body not properly prepared for that intensity. Make sure you work up
to this level before you dive in.
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NOTE: Always see a physician prior to starting any exercise routine, but if you are new to exercise, LSD is a great place to start.
Long slow distance generally refers to jogging and cycling. Your target cardio heart rate is 60% to 80% of your max heart rate. This is the fat-burning zone, where your body burns mainly fat for energy, as opposed to glycogen.
Long slow distance is a steady state cardio, but that does not mean it has to be a “slow” and boring pace, and it doesn’t have to be for 2 hours. Long slow distance is the order of the day in the U.S. Military and has been for decades.
HIIT vs. Long Slow Distance
There is a lot of debate on HIIT vs. long slow distance. The many benefits of HIIT are well documented, and it clearly has a role in your overall fitness plan – there are some really great physiological benefits. (1)
The science in support of HIIT has been accumulating the past 15 years, so it’s hard to argue against HIIT at this point. And HIIT has some tremendous value to add to your fitness regimen.
But…there is also a place for LSD.
Reasons to keep LSD in your fitness plan, even if not your main focus:
- It is more moderate than HIIT, so do your steady state cardio 3 to 4 times a week when you are not doing HIIT…do HIIT the other 2 to 3 times a week. You cannot do very intense HIIT more than about 3 times per week, or you will not have enough recovery time and you will burn out. LSD is a nice recovery workout while also burning calories, and it also adds some nice variation.
- If you are the ultimate hard-gaining, endomorph that has to scratch, claw, and fight for your gains, you’ll likely find your body reacts best to a combination of varying cardio routines: HIIT, Fartlek, LSD, etc. (2)
- It is a good routine to do after a good weightlifting session. If you have an intense weightlifting workout for 30 to 60 minutes with little rest between sets and reps, you might not have enough in the tank for a tough HIIT session. This is where 15 to 20 minutes of low to medium intensity cardio fits the bill. It’s always best to do your workouts first thing in the morning on an empty stomach if weight loss is your goal. And click to learn more about the best time to do cardio, and also cardio before or after weights.
- It keeps your routine varied so things do not get stale for you, which can impact your motivation. “Variety is the spice of life!”
- LSD will build your endurance, improve your cardiovascular endurance, and strengthen your heart.
Warm-up and Stretching for LSD
Jogging long distance at a slow to medium pace is simple enough to do, but you still want to prepare your body for the run. Make sure you do proper stretching and warm-up.
Avoid injuries and strains when performing the following warm-up:
Light cardio to get the blood flowing and warm the muscles [1 – 2 min]:
- Jog in place
- Jumping jacks
- Jump rope
Dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles for cardio [2 min]:
- Knee raises
- Arm rotations
- Leg swings
- Ankle rotations
Static stretching focused on your LSD muscles [2 min]:
- Calf Stretches
- Hamstring Stretches
- Lower Back Stretches
- Ankles (ankle rolls to really loosen your ankles)
- Achilles Heel
Post-Resistance Training Workout (doing LSD after weightlifting)
- Jog at 4 mph (very slow) for 2 min to warm-up
- Jog at 6.5-8.0 mph (medium) for 15 min for cardio
- Walk 3 min to recover
LSD Cardio Workout on a Treadmill
- Jog at 4.0 mph (very slow) for 2 min to warm-up
- Jog at 6.0 mph (medium) for 25 min for cardio
- Slow walk at 3.0 mph for 3 min to recover
Click to learn more about mph and treadmill speed.
One Final Word on Long Slow Distance
Given the mounting scientific evidence in support of interval training, this should be an important part of your core cardio workouts.
However, long slow distance has its place and provides many health benefits to your overall fitness and diet plan. Your running and cycling pace does not always have to be slow or fixed…mix it up to keep the edge.
The United States Armed Forces spends a great deal of energy and budget researching the best ways to stay at optimum fitness levels. And in the military, most of the cardio work is along the lines of long slow distance. Having spent five years between active duty and national guard, we did loads of long jogs to stay in shape and maintain peak fitness levels.
Lastly, make sure you understand the benefits, as well as the dangers, prior to starting any new cardio routine. LSD is generally safe and simple – HIIT is more complex. Click to learn more about HIIT and its benefits, and also doing HIIT at the gym.
- Burch, K., Thurman, J., & McDonald, Z. (2022, February 24). 10 major health benefits of HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/health/fitness/benefits-of-hiit#:~:text=The%20benefits%20of%20HIIT%20include,improving%20mental%20health%20and%20memory.
Zanin, T. (2022, July 1). Endomorph body type & diet plans. Tua Saúde. https://www.tuasaude.com/en/endomorph/#:~:text=Endomorph%20describes%20a%20body%20type,more%20difficulty%20with%20weight%20loss.