Lysergic acid diethlamide has nothing to do with long slow distance (LSD) running, or does it? Many runners have reported hallucinatory experiences while engaging in long runs. Vivid images and out of body experiences during long slow distance runs have rivaled the best of Timothy Leary’s LSD. This is more than the runner’s high. These powerful images and hallucinations are brought on by chemical changes in the brain, increased body temperature, rapid sustained heart rate, loss of glycogen and dehydration. A lack of sleep may also bring on these events. It should be noted that only under extreme conditions would a runner experience these psychoactive effects. Long slow distance running, which is primarily aerobic in nature, became popular in the 70’s and many still do it today. It is doubtful that it’s popularity has anything to do with the desire to ‘trip’. Until recently it has been touted as a superior way to improve cardiovascular fitness. Research has shown that short bouts of interval training is comparable or better in increasing cardiovascular fitness and burning calories. Nevertheless LSD is still a viable training option.
Interval training is a pattern of high and low speed training combined in one workout. Correctly executed intervals benefits both health and fitness. Some types of interval training (too hard, too long and/or not enough recovery time) temporarily increases your fitness level at the cost of decreasing your health. Obviously, most would like to train for both health and fitness. I see too many people unknowingly increasing their stress (chemically and physically) by working out too hard with not enough adequate rest. This stress wreaks havoc on the body:
- Decreases you white blood cell count
- Protects you fat stores
- Increases your inflammation
- Lowers body defenses
- Interrupts REM sleep
Regularly training with a constant elevated heart rate taxes your anaerobic system (energy system that uses very little fat and no O2) and induces a high stress response. At a certain point during intense exercise your body switches energy systems from aerobic to anaerobic. This training is fueled principally by sugars (glycogen) where aerobic work is mostly fueled by fat stores. It can be argued that anaerobic system evolved for short quick bursts of energy. Think, running away from mad momma hippopotamus. Many gym-goers tax the hell out of this high heart rate energy system at the cost of their health. Modern life has given us some bad habits that carry over into our workouts, we need to learn to relax and slow down.
The average body may have upwards of 120 hours of fat stored and approximately 20 minutes of glycogen (for prolonged high intensity exercise). The human body preferentially uses what it has most of, fat. However, in an ‘alarm’ state (anaerobic training/high heart rate) it cannot convert fat to sugar quickly so it utilizes its’ glycogen stores (which has nothing to do with the fat around your midsection). Chronically training anaerobically decreases the number of aerobic muscles fibers and fat burning potential. It is is important to build a aerobic base and (re)teach the body to use fat for energy during workouts. In order to do this, you will have to slow down and do some LSD.
I recommend that you get a heart rate monitor and follow the “Maffetone Method”:
Step 1: 180 – your age
Step 2: Change this number by selecting one of these categories:
- If you are recovering from a major illness and/or on regular medication subtract 10
- If you are a novice or tend to get sick often subtract 5
- If you have been exercising successfully up to 2 yrs without injury subtract 0
- If you have been in exercising and progressing for more than 2 years add 5
Step 3: The final number is your max aerobic heart rate. Example: A 40 year old who’s been working out for 4 years would have a 145 max HR. She would try to stay between 140 and 145 without going over for the duration of her run.
Challenge: Find your max aerobic heart rate and run a mile while keeping your heart rate as close to that number (but not above) as possible. Write down your mile time – it will be slow. Do your normal amount of runs for the next 4 weeks but don’t train above your max aerobic heart rate. These runs will be very slow, I urge you to leave your ego at home and take your time, the results are worth it. At the end of this period re-test your mile and see how much faster you are. It is not uncommon to observe a 10% enhancement in your time. I’ve had some clients improve by 30% in 1 month! In other words, the heart gets stronger and generates more speed with the same effort.
After you build your aerobic base, training LSD for at least 4 weeks under your max aerobic heart rate, it may be time to add intervals (if you would like to burn more calories). Without sacrificing your aerobic base and fat burning metabolism slowly add 1 minute of anaerobic work in every 6 or 7 minutes. This means, go hard (on a intensity scale of 1-10: train 1 minute at a 7 or 8) depending on your goals. Here is a sample workout (for the same 40 yr. above):
Slow 5 minute warm up at a heart rate of 110-120
Aerobic training 6 minutes at 145 HR
Anaerobic training for 1 minute at 165-175 HR
Then repeat two step cycle until the end of the workout
Interval training is hard and some just don’t like it. If LSD motivates you to run, than so be it. You can still be fit and healthy by training the LSD Maffetone Method. A well rounded and planned routine with lots of rest and a healthy diet will produce the best results.
1. www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/: LSD Hallucinations: From Ergot to Electric Kool-Aid
2. Gaitanos, G.C., Williams, C., Boobis, L.H., and Brooks, S. Human muscle metabolism during intermittent maximal exercise. J Appl Physiol 1993;75:712-719.
3. Hargreaves, M., Finn, J.P., Withers, R.T., Halbert, J.A., Scroop, G.C., Mackay, M., Snow, R.J., Carey, M.F. Effect on muscle glycogen availability on maximal exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 1997;75:188-192.
4. Maffetone, P; Training for Endurance; David Barmore Productions; 1996.
Doug Joachim – NYC