Long Slow Distance for Endurance and Weight Loss

joggingLong 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:

  • Beginners
  • 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.

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.

I can speak from experience as an ex-Army Ranger and Infantry soldier…we had some smoker LSD runs on a near-daily basis, and the runs were rarely more than 30 minutes.

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.

The science in support of HIIT has been accumulating the past 10 years, so it’s hard to argue against HIIT at this point (not that I would ever want to – it fits perfectly into my 40on3 fitness program for very busy people).

But…there is also a place for LSD.

Reasons to keep LSD in your fitness plan, even if not your main focus:

  1. It is more moderate than HIIT, so do your steady state cardio 1 or 2 times a week when you are not doing HIIT…do HIIT the other 2 to 3 times a week.  You cannot do 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.
  2. I do not subscribe to the theory that long slow distance will sabotage your lean muscle building.  Again, we did LSD almost daily in the Army and nearly all of our guys were lean, muscular, and built.  The key is to also do resistance training as part of your overall workout routines, and also eat a healthy and nutritious diet.
  3. I am the ultimate hard-gaining, endomorph, so I have to scratch, claw, and fight for all of my gains…and I find my body reacts best to a combination of varying cardio routines: HIIT, Fartlek, LSD, etc.
  4. It is a good routine to do after a hardcore 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 medium intensity cardio fits the bill.
  5. It keeps your routine varied so things do not get stale for you, which can impact your motivation.  “Variety is the spice of life!”
  6. LSD will build your endurance, improve your cardiovascular endurance, and strengthen your heart.  Before I ever did my 1st HIIT workout, I found that my cardio heart rate would improve and strengthen dramatically as I did more LSD, got in better shape, and watched my body get more efficient – this was LSD at work.

Warm-up – Stretching – 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.

I have strained my calf muscles a number of times as a result of not doing a proper warm-up and stretching.  Some “experts” claim “no static stretching” prior to physical training.  I can speak from experience that I have always avoided injuries and strains when I perform the following warm-up:

#1  –  Light cardio to get the blood flowing and warm the muscles [3 – 5 min]:

  • Jog in place
  • Jumping jacks
  • Jump rope

#2  –  Dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles for cardio [2 min]:

  • Lunges
  • Knee raises
  • Arm rotations
  • Leg swings
  • Ankle rotations

#3  –  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

#4  –  Long Slow Distance

Post-Resistance Training Workout (after weightlifting)

  • Jog at 4 mph (very slow) for 2 min to warm-up
  • Jog at 6.5 mpg (medium) for 13 min for cardio
  • Walk 3 min to recover

LSD Cardio Workout

  • Jog at 4 mph (very slow) for 2 min to warm-up
  • Jog at 6.5 mph (medium) for 28 min for cardio
  • Walk 3 min to recover

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.

Long Slow Distance
Long Slow Distance

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.

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.

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