By Teemu Virtanen
On Friday last week, we familiarized ourselves with some forms of endurance training and learned what long slow distance (LSD) training, pace/tempo training, interval training, fartlek and long fast training really stand for. Now, we are going to take a closer “one-by-one” look at each one of these fundamental training methods.
Today, we will start with long slow distance training, which is the core, or the foundation, for any cardio training. As the name implies, the idea is to do a long workout with a slow pace. For long distance skiers, this could mean exercises that can last up to five hours or even more.
Ernst van Aaken, a German physician and coach, is generally recognized as the founder of the long slow distance method of endurance training. In 1969, Joe Henderson, an American runner and coach and former chief editor of Runner’s World, promoted long slow distance running to a training method. The world-famous running coach Arthur Lydiard had long slow distance as one of his fundamentals in his training philosophy, and he originated the idea of going so slow that one can hold a conversation while running.
During the running boom of the 1970s, many recreational runners used this method as a basis for their training. Naturally, long slow distance works really well for beginners and recreational endurance sport enthusiasts, but for more experienced athletes and pro skiers going long and slow all the time is not enough. Then, we need the other forms of endurance training mentioned above, and we will get to those later on.
There are many long slow distance exercises one can easily implement into his or her training schedule. For beginners and recreational skiers, I would recommend long and easy Nordic walking workouts. Take your poles and ask your friends to join you and go out in the forest for a 1-3 hour walk. Don’t just walk on flats but find some good hills to go up and down. Remember to keep your pace very slow – the talking rule applies here!
Another good exercise is a “run-walk” method where you run for a short period, for example 5 min, and then walk the same amount of time or your walking can be even longer than running. You can easily extend your workout when you walk some parts of your run and your intensity remains much lower than in straight running. For many beginners or recreational sport fans, running is much too demanding. Instead, they should slow down their pace and walk a lot during their “run”.
For many pro skiers, extremely long hikes with a backpack serves the purpose of long slow distance training. The springtime is perfect for those types of workouts. Of course, really long roller-ski workouts with fast skis are also fine examples of going long and slow (or easy as the speed can be quite high if roller-skis are fast). During the summer training season, long slow workouts are still a crucial part of anyone’s training program as building the aerobic base is the foundation upon which tempo and interval trainings can be added.
Since your main exercise variable in long slow distance is duration, it becomes a bit tricky after a while when you reach the point that you get so fit that you need to spend too many hours doing your workout. As you get more experienced and your aerobic base increases, you can add short sprints in your long and slow exercises to break the monotonousness of your training, but you may still face the main drawback of this so-called LSD training (assuming that is the only method you use).
At some point you will reach the point of diminishing returns and rather than see a marked improvement in your fitness, you will hit a plateau and start to accumulate “junk miles or kilometers” – a term that describes time spent training that provides little in the way of results. And you also want to ski much faster and not just longer, which means you need to do more than simply go for hours at a slow and steady pace.
That is the point when you need tempo and interval training, and we will take a look at those methods in our future articles. But for now, and especially as we are in the midst of enjoying the transitional period before the serious dryland training kicks in, you can go out and do a lot of long exercises with a slow speed and enjoy it as much as you can.