Death to Long Slow Distance by MB

Long slow distance. Sounds like a torture method. “You been sentenced to one year of long slow distance”. Long slow distance is often abbreviated LSD. Hmm? Acid, a hallucinogenic, makes you see things and damages your DNA if my memory serves me. Great analogy?

Those who know me or who have been reading these pieces regularly know that I despise aerobic training and long slow distance. I have said it is bad for women and also truly believe that it is bad for almost all athletes except those who race for long periods of time or over long distances. The subliminal reality is that my hate mail from female runners has tailed off and it’s time to again fill the in-box with venom from the endurance crowd.

We have already established that most running injuries are of the overuse nature. Very little trauma occurs in the endurance world save the infrequent untimely meeting of runner and motorized vehicle. If overuse is the problem, then less is the answer.

Luckily, Canadian researcher and sport scientist Martin Gibala has come to the rescue. Gibala, an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Canada published a study in the September issue of the Journal of Physiology comparing interval training and steady state training or long slow distance. The study, although conducted over only a two week period, looked at a twenty minute interval program versus steady state work ranging from ninety to one hundred and twenty minutes. The interval work consisted of thirty second sprints followed by four minutes of slow pedaling. This would amount to two to two and half minutes of high intensity work during a twenty minute session as compared to 90-120 minutes in the “heartrate zone” for the distance group. Gee, which would I want if both were equal?

The conclusion was that both methods showed roughly the same improvement in the chosen marker of oxygen utilization. Yes, the same. Do the math. Each group worked out three times a week. The interval group exercised for a total elapsed time of one hour per week with six to seven and a half minutes of intense exercise contained in that hour. The steady state group exercised for between four and a half and six hours a week yet the aerobic benefits were the same?

Seems to me if time is an issue in your life interval training is your fitness answer. Obviously, the study only looked at aerobic capacity and not caloric expenditure or weight loss but, it’s another huge boost for those us who believe in the superiority of interval training. The reality is that athletes have known this for years. Unfortunately, the fitness and medical community continues to beat the long slow distance drum. The question in my mind is not whether or not you should be interval training but, why aren’t you. A brief warning. Intense intervals aren’t for beginners. You must be healthy and have a few weeks of the dreaded LSD in your system before attempting intervals.


Training and Conditioning Magazine- Bulletin Board Dec 2006 Vol XVI, #9 Journal of Physiology, “Short Term Sprint Interval Versus Traditional Endurance Training: Similar Initial Adaptations in Human Skeletal Muscle and Exercise Performance Sept 2006, Vol 575 Issue 3

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