3 Benefits of Base Training Aerobic Workouts

cycling endurance exercise exercise running endurance the pain free athlete Nov 11, 2013
Aerobic Training

If you are a competitive summer athlete, your cardiovascular training focus shifts during the fall and winter to over-distance and endurance aerobic workouts. Most people refer to these workouts as Long, Slow Distance (LSD). Through my interactions with people, I have noticed that athletes (myself included) resist these workouts. Why? Because they're boring. Also, it doesn't feel like you are working hard enough. However, here's the truth. There are actually many physiological benefits gained during LSD workouts that cannot happen at higher intensities. Read on to learn about three of them!

LSD Workout Benefits

First, since we have ample oxygen at lower effort levels, slow twitch muscle fibers benefit the most from this training. It causes these slow twitch fibers to grow stronger and more efficient. Because we need fewer muscle fibers and less oxygen, we can work out longer with less fatigue. Clearly, this can be very important in a long race.

Second, during this training, we have an increased number of mitochondria in the muscle cells. The mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells that produce our energy for exercise. In other words, more mitochondria equals more power!

Third, the circulatory system is strengthened. Increases in blood volume, red blood cells and capillary density translate to better delivery of oxygen and removal of waste products in the working muscles. 

Obviously, there is a reason this is called base training. These workouts are the foundation on which you will build more intense efforts. Don’t skip your LSD workouts! I have heard it said that many athletes go too hard on their easy days and too easy on their hard days. In order to gain the most from your workouts, ensure you are going at the right intensity. This will be lower than you're used to during your LSD workouts.

Keep in mind, however, that LSD workouts will not increase your V02 Max. To maintain your fitness, add in some higher intensity work occasionally. Just don’t sacrifice the LSD workouts and don’t over do it. Building VO2 Max comes later in the season. 

Personal experience shows that LSD workout are beneficial. Following two weeks of mostly long, moderately paced hikes, my husband remarked on how good he felt while trail running. The long, slow efforts had increased his muscle endurance, strength and stability for shorter, more intense trail runs.

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