Thursday, June 11, 2009

The importance of LSD

No... that does NOT have anything to do with Timothy Leary and psychedelic drugs. I am talking about Long Slow Distance.

Yes, my new training perspective involves running more slowly. Many training programs, such as SmartCoach from Runners World ,have us running at slow paces (and I almost always ignored them until it came time for tempo runs and speed work). But until last weekend, I never understood WHY.

Without boring everyone with an overload of science, you should run at about 80% of your maximum effort for that distance (maximum effort being a race) in order to train your body to utilize all the energy systems. In long distance running*, the body uses a combination of burning glycogen (muscle and liver glycogen and blood glucose) and fat. By training at a slower pace, we can train our body to "increase the contribution of fat to the overall energy production by more than 20%; therefore sparing muscle glycogen and extending the time until its depletion."** As most of us know, you hit "the wall" when your glycogen stores are depleted. You can avoid this by training at lower intensity to use more glycogen from the liver and bloodstream so that "efficient aerobic metabolism using fat can be maintained for a longer duration."**

Did I lose you yet?

How does all this relate to my own training for this past marathon? Well, first, I did most, if not all of my training runs at about 90% effort. My long pace runs were done at a higher effort than that (I think that some of them were closer to 95%). I was training my body to use glycogen, but not to become more efficient at using fat. In addition, I was never on my feet for the duration of my marathon. I think my longest run was 3:23. I didn't train my body to run for four hours. And it is not just one run. The body needs to adapt to running this long. Glycogen runs out in approximately two hours without utilizing other energy sources. Even with the use of Gu, I was feeling the lack of energy and "lead" legs around two and a half hours. Training, along with starting out too fast, contributed to my body's inability to have energy in the later miles of the marathon.

So let's get out there and build our endurance. Don't worry... I'll be talking about the speed. But the key to speed is specificity. You want to tailor your speed workouts to the race you are training for. More to come....

*long distance running is actually defined as any distance over a mile
**Marathoning- Start to Finish by Patti and Warren Finke.

12 comments:

Oz Runner said...

great blog...very insightful, thanks for sharing....i am always tempted to run at a faster pace than my training plan tells me too...

chris said...

Fantastic post. My running coach is adamant that I run my long runs slooowly. Of course, I didn't really know why until reading this post. Thanks so much, Lisa!

EmLit said...

Hi Lisa,
I found your post through a link Chris posted. Great information! I'm really bad at training at different paces, and it's something I'm trying to work on. This post really helps me understand *why* I should incorporate a variety of paces into my running. I'm looking forward to hearing more!

Mama said...

Great explanation. I ran a really slow 10 miles last night and even though I went slow primarily to watch a movie, it was nice to know it was good for me to do that.

MCM Mama

jodes said...

What an awesome post! I had NO IDEA why we're supposed to train slower on our long runs. I'll have to keep this in mind on my run tomorrow.

Thanks for the insight!!

Irene said...

When you run your next marathon you will be amazed. I finally figured this out after 3 marathons. On my 4th I never hit the wall, cramped or crashed and burned, plus the recovery time was much faster.

Irish Cream said...

Crappers. I guess I'm a little too late to be making use of this info for Seattle . . . but I'll definitely have to incorporate MUCH slower long runs into my Chicago training. Thanks so much for sharing, Lisa!! :)

aron said...

YAY another post! exactly what I was just asking :) perfect thank you!

I was also doing my long runs probably at 95% most of the time. and the longest I was ever on my feet was 3 hours. how can I expect my body to be able to run for 3:40?? I actually thought that during the later part of Eugene when I crapped out... so I am hoping this works :)

thanks again!

Tara said...

great post! I never listen to what is listed on my training schedule and I always runs much faster than what it says, especially on long runs. I have read the reason behind the slower pace and know it makes sense scientifically, but sometimes it's juts so hard to do.

jillwillrun said...

Thanks for sharing this Lisa. This is just making me more and more excited for class tomorrow! But I know I'm going to re-evaluate that negativity I always felt toward the slower paces in my training plan. I figured I would wait to make any changes until after I went to class!

Marathonman101108 said...

COOL! This backs up what my Jeff Galloway training program has me doing. Thanks for the info. Very informative.

RunnerMom said...

So, training for a 5K is considered long-distance training? Weird! (yes, I read your footnotes!)

I'm excited to learn more about pacing those long runs. I did run my long runs pretty slowly, but maybe I needed to go even slower.

By the way, I LOVE running slowly, so this makes me REALLY HAPPY.

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