Long slow distance runs, or LSD, should be the staple of any runners training program whether you are training for a 5K or full marathon. However, many runners don’t know how to run long slow distance or look to substitute it with alternative exercises. Others may push themselves into injury by running too far or too fast. With long slow distance running the aim is to “slow down to go faster”.
Why Run Long Slow Distance (LSD)
Long slow distance provides many benefits, some physical… while others mental or emotional. From a physical perspective, LSD runs provide the aerobic base and endurance runners need to support an overall running program. This is achieved as you enter the aerobic zones during a long run, which grows the Capillaries (more blood supply for muscles) and the size and number of mitochondria. These combine to increase your VO2 Max, a critical element for your overall endurance. Some runners also feel that their long slow distance run provides a “massage” that loosens kinks out of muscles and ligaments due to this workout being slower and less jarring than intense hill repeats or track interval work.
From a mental or emotional standpoint, LSD running provides a break from intensity and pushing through tough miles. It allows runners to slow down and see the world around them without the focus normally required during other training workouts. Removing this pressure is key to avoiding burnout and getting mentally prepared for the next week’s schedule of running. Additionally, the rhythm one gets into during a long run helps to calm the senses while providing an opportunity evaluate the week or gain new perspective on running goals, or life events outside of running. Lastly, your LSD run is a great opportunity to partner up with other runners and enjoy some social interaction. In fact, many local running stores host long runs from their store offering a perfect excuse to meet new friends and get more involved in the running community.
How to Run Long Slow Distance (LSD)
Determining how long and what pace your long run should be requires knowing your desired race distance and pace for that distance. If you haven’t run the distance yet, or are struggling to determine your pace for a desired race distance like the 10K, you can use a running pace equivalence calculator. Another technique is to see how fast you can run a mile and enter the mile time into a calculator to get a range of where your desired race pace lies.
Once you identify your desired race distance and how fast you are able to run that distance, you can use the table below to determine the length of your long slow distance run in miles, along with some corresponding pace guidance. It is critical to build up to the LSD distance and not push the run/be overly concerned with your time. If you can’t hold a conversation at the pace you are running, you are running too fast. Additionally, if you feel like you are “pushing” hard to get through the miles, back off and rest or take time to build into the long slow distance mileage range.
|Desired Race Distance||Long Slow Distance (LSD) Mileage||Long Slow Distance (LSD) Pace|
|5K||5-8 Miles||25% Slower than Marathon Pace or 2 minutes or more slower per mile for your “Desired Race Distance” pace while being able to carry on a conversation (conversation pace).
Example: If you can run 6 minute miles for a 5K, your Long Slow Distance (LSD) Pace would be 8 minutes per mile for 5-8 miles.
|8K (5 Miles)||6-10 Miles|
|10 Miler||10-14 Miles|
While running long slow distance is a great opportunity for self-reflection, running with a group or listening to music to pass the time is a great way to cover the distance. Conversely, if you know your route and have a sense of pace, this could be one of your naked runs.
What to Avoid When Running Long Slow Distance (LSD)
Running long slow distance seems straightforward, but they are certain things you will want to avoid:
- Don’t try to run long slow distance fast or inject any sort of speed work. LSD runs are focused to straight endurance building
- If you don’t feel well, back off the pace or shorten your run as your body is trying to tell you something
- Don’t leave food or water at home, especially with longer runs. You will want to properly pre-hydrate (get plenty of water before your run) and bring along enough water or gel packs
- Don’t forget to refuel after your run with healthy food, liquids, and sleep
- Don’t run alone if possible, and be aware of your surroundings. This is especially true if you are engaged in trail running