Long and slow distance training for runners and cyclists

A beginner's guide to starting long distance, low-intensity training.

If you’re looking for a way to develop high levels of aerobic fitness and muscular endurance, try long and slow distance training. Used by runners and cyclists, it’s been a popular training method since the 1970s.

How to train long and slow

As the name suggests, long and slow distance training entails running or cycling slowly and at low intensity for a long distance. You should be running or cycling at a pace that allows you to hold a conversation.

When you first start, try exercising for at least 30 minutes at low intensity. As your endurance increases, add on five or 10 minutes each week.

Why train this way

Long and slow distance training is an essential part of training for endurance activities such as marathons. But you don’t have to be a marathoner to benefit from long and slow training.

If you’re just beginning to exercise, or are prone to injury, low-intensity training is less stressful on the body. It’s also great for people looking for a more social workout, as you can keep chatting throughout.

Potential drawbacks

Because you’re keeping your speed low, the major variable in this type of training is distance. As you become fitter, you’ll keep increasing the distance you cover. However, at a certain point, you’ll reach a maximum distance, whether because you don’t want to spend hours exercising, or because your body isn’t physically capable of covering more ground. Because of this, you’re going to plateau and stop seeing improvements.

Long and slow also won’t help anyone wanting to improve their speed. So if you aim to break your personal best, this isn’t the training method for you.

Long and slow distance training can be a great way to stay fit, but is most effective when combined with other forms of cardio training.

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