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What is Long Slow Distance?

By Micki Elizabeth
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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Long slow distance, often abbreviated as LSD, is a type of training typically attributed to runners, but it may also refer to cyclists. The goal is to build endurance, muscle, and lung capacity, among other fitness level factors, by practicing long distances three to five times per week. The pace is typically one to three minutes slower per mile or kilometerthan a runner or cyclist moves during a race. The creation of long slow distance is credited to American runner and running coach Joe Henderson and is used to train for a variety of distances.

In 1969, Joe Henderson popularized the method of long slow distance running. He supported his ideas by following the success of the method as used by six competitive runners, all of whom did in fact see positive results. Long slow distance running is meant not only to improve one’s fitness level; Henderson also believed it made running fun again. The jogging boom that occurred in many places around the world in the 1970s may be partially credited to this training method.

By pushing the body to grow accustomed to gradually longer distances, an athlete using long slow distance training may see numerous benefits. Increasing one’s endurance level, even at a slow rate, can build muscle. Furthermore, the body may learn to use fat storage as energy and work with less oxygen over time. This oxygen threshold is sometimes called the VO2 max, and long distance training is one common way to increase this threshold.

The long slow distance method is believed to be useful for athletes of almost any distance, whether competing in a 3.1-mile (5 kilometer) race or running a marathon. It is important, however, to increase mileage gradually to avoid injury. One should begin this method of training with no more than three runs per week, working up to five. Exact mileage will differ between individuals; a certified trainer or doctor could help an athlete determine a safe distance to begin with.

Some people claim that long slow distance training is too easy. While many athletes may benefit from including interval and speed training, long slow distance can be effective if performed correctly. “Slow” refers only to a slightly slower pace than one runs during a race. A runner who typically runs a six-minute mile (.6 kilomoter) during a race may train at seven- or eight-minute runs, considerably faster than a recreational jog. The key to LSD training is to find a pace one can keep up with daily for several miles each day, without injury.

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