Friday, December 02, 2016

Attempting to perfect LSD training

I'm reading a book by Rich Englehart: 'SLOW JOE: Joe Henderson and his LSD (long, slow distance) writings that changed running' — it's about author Joe Henderson and features his seminal book of 1969, 'Long Slow Distance: The humane way to train.' For those who don't know, Henderson was Editor-in-Chief at Runner's World in 1969, ran his first race in 1958 and ran in university with coaches that believed interval training and hard sessions produced fast runners — the philosophy being 'the only way to race fast is to train fast' and 'running long and slow will make you a long slow runner.'

In high school Joe Henderson didn't finish his first mile race (after a 69 second first lap) and ran 5:25 in his second. He read in Track and Field News and Long Distance Log about how his Olympic heroes trained. The New Zealanders under Arthur Lydiard ran 100-mile weeks so Joe decided to run half that, averaging seven-plus miles a day. In his final high school race he ran the mile in 4:22.2. In university Joe struggled under a regime of intense interval workouts and rather than improving, his time for the mile slowed. He took a month off and during that time, missed running and decided that he never wanted to stop again. He realised that gentle running and LSD training was the only way to make running last beyond university. In his final year he ran 4:18.2 for the mile off LSD training and was in shape to run 4:10 but suffered a calf injury that ended his season.

Joe Henderson discovered that his sweet spot percentage of fast running was between 5 and 10 percent of total weekly mileage. He raced regularly and these races were his fast running. The rest of his 'training' was done at a gentle at 7:30 to 8-minute mile pace (4:40 to 5:00 per km), this for a runner who raced the mile at 2:40 per kilometre. Joe's training in those days is not unlike that of Ed Whitlock now — long easy running with short races as the only speedwork.

I've realised that my training since coming back from the calf injury has been very similar to Henderson's LSD. Long Slow Distance, with regular short races as the only speedwork. I've averaged 92 km per week over the past 4 weeks, with 5 km per week being fast running (usually a Parkrun 5k). I think I'm close to that sweet spot of 5 to 10 % of mileage being fast with the rest being slow or easy. I suspect that for LSD training to work well, one needs to do a small percentage of weekly running fast. You can't leave it too long between fast efforts. If all running is slow for months at a time I imagine it would be difficult to switch on to a fast pace in a race.

My most recent race was an enjoyable 5k on the grass XC track at Stromlo (using the mountain course). I started easily, keeping my eye on the gradually reducing distance to Jim up ahead. I caught him on the U-turn just past the lake after 2k. It was just like the 'miracle mile' of 1954 when Bannister beat Landy — Jim looked over his left shoulder as Landy had done and I passed him on the right like the sneaky Bannister! On the second lap I closed on Natasha but couldn't quite catch up before the finish — 25:37 for her, 25:48 for myself and 26:52 for Jim. It had been a successful and enjoyable race once again.

Enjoying a hilly LSD run with the Speedygeese last Sunday


Blogger Thomas said...

Sounds familiar. (Mostly) LSD training with regular 5k races got me into 2:55 marathon shape a few years ago.

11:52 pm  
Blogger TokyoRacer said...

That's what I'm doing too. 92km a week is good!

12:28 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

That's interesting Thomas. I think LSD helps with both consistency and recovery.

Good stuff Bob. You're doing well.

11:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Specificity for training for racing is often seriously over-rated. While training for a running race must involve a lot of running, training to race near lactate threshold does not require a lot of training near lactate threshold. There are less stressful ways to develop the body’s capacity to deal with acid in the bloodstream. That is the point of polarised training. Ed Whitlock’s training represents an extreme of polarised training.

I hope your training and racing continues to go well, but also hope Jim is doing a bit of Machiavellian planning for future encounters.

6:53 am  
Blogger Janene said...

Interesting post ET. I hope you see continued improvement. I think I'm a LSD runner. All my problems started whenI tried to do structured speed work.

2:31 pm  
Blogger Two Fruits said...

Years ago, may be decades ago, I read that speed ( faster ) training should be only 10% max of your training week. Obviously, unless you are a sprinter. I'm not a big racer, so I guess that's why I have been consistent & basically injury free.

4:47 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Canute. I'd be shocked if Jim tried alternate tactics, like starting slow!

Maybe you are Janene. Hopefully your hamstring allows you to resume running in 2017.

Steve, the HIIT fad has a lot to answer for. Many runners these days want to get more from less. I'd say the off-road and hill running helps you in the injury-avoiding stakes.

9:54 pm  
Blogger Mark Watson said...

Ewen, great post and certainly lots to think about. If anything I run every workout too hard. I often wonder what benefits could be gained from the LSD approach. Judging by the comments, there certainly seems to be a fair bit of support.
Super consistency of late. You'd have to be bloody fit right now. Well done mate.

5:27 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Mark, I can't see any negatives to LSD training (provided you do a small amount of fast running during the week). And the positives are many: consistency, reducing the chance of injury/illness, enjoying both the slower running and the fast running when it happens, lower stress etc.

12:19 pm  

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