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Say No To LSD

Say No To LSD
Written by Michele Vieux

I have been asked many times, especially now that the Look Good, Feel Good Challenge is in full effect, if people should do “cardio” on their own in addition to their strength and conditioning workouts at Invictus.  My initial reaction is usually, “how was traditional ‘cardio’ working for you before Invictus?”  Think back on the low-fat/fat-free craze of the 90’s – long, slow distance (“LSD”) endeavors are kind of like that “conventional wisdom” that we now know to have been poor guidance.

Paradigm shift here people.  What so many of you know as the quintessential pillars of health and fitness are wrong!  I know this blows some of your minds but fat-free and LSD are old news, and could even be causing you harm!

Besides being extremely boring (IMHO), there can also be health costs of repetitive mid- and high-level aerobic work that should make you take another look at your routine.

What is LSD?  LSD can come in many forms, including running, biking, rowing, and even CrossFit (you know, those chipper WODs or 7 to 10 rounders that take 45 minutes to complete).

Most of the Invictus workouts are a bit different.  Invictus workouts provide a strength foundation with conditioning that typically calls for quick bursts of speed.  Work periods are typically shorter, and often some rest periods are provided to ensure that athletes can recover and regain their ability to perform at a higher intensity.  Most (not all) of the workouts at Invictus will take under 15 minutes (of work at least, if not the total time of the workout).

LSD workouts typically require large glucose reserves created by the body from large amounts of dietary carbohydrates.  Invictus workouts, on the other hand, train the body to derive more energy from fats, not glucose, requiring fewer calories from carbohydrates.

LSD also increases cortisol and insulin levels, which can tell your body to store fat, cannibalize lean mass, and make you more susceptible to infection and injury.  Invictus workouts work in different metabolic pathways and tend to increase aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity, and natural growth hormone production.

Finally, LSD tends to emphasize quantity of movement (distance, high volume, etc…) over quality of movement – which can reinforce poor movement patterns.  Invictus workouts tend to include less volume and higher intensity (heavier weight and/or shorter work durations).  Focusing on heavier weight shifts focus onto quality of movement and helps to emphasize proper mechanics and technique.  Think of it this way, you don’t need to be very precise to snatch 65 lbs, but if you’re snatching 135 lbs. or more (ladies), you’re probably going to need to perform the movement a bit more precisely.

To me, the choice is obvious.  Spend your valuable time on short, intense workouts to increase aerobic capacity, train your body to burn fat for fuel and build lean mass, and move in a safe and efficient manner.  If you have spare time, spend it preparing your meals (remember folks, nutrition is going to be your best friend for changed body composition).  If all of your meals are planned and prepared, you’ve completed a hard Invictus workout, you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep at night, and you still want to do some extra “cardio,” come talk to one of your coaches about a good plan.  It can be beneficial, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your nutrition, rest or recovery.

  • Pops

    Wise words Michele. Especially the part about spending your extra time on meal prep. Krazy K hasn’t done much to change her workout frequency, but attention to nutrition has shown huge changes in her body composition. With that change comes more confidence and commitment to living a long and healthy life.

    Thanks to all the coaches at Invictus and… OK CJ, you were right! (Sometimes that’s hard for a parent to admit!)

  • Lindsey J (East Coast CFI member)

    I love it…music to my ears!!! I used to run for long distances at first I thought, ok this is good for me, fresh air, time to be alone with my thoughts… as it turns out… I don’t have that many thoughts…
    Thanks M!!!

  • Nichole D

    Thanks for the awesome post M!

  • courtland

    So are you saying that Paleo man should have been doing interval and strength workouts rather than long, slow persistent hunting and tracking of the weakest prey? Isn’t it ironic that we seek to eat like Paleo man, but not train like him? Is there really any doubt that man is the best endurance hunter in the heat?

  • M


    Nothing I’ve read says that Paleo man was running for long distances to track prey. Yes, he may have been putting in substanital amounts of time and distance, but it was walking and waiting (stalking). The running (short, intense bursts) came in with the kill (or to avoid being killed). So, yes, we ARE training along the lines of Paleo man and yes, short, intense burts to transfer over to endurance events (see CrossFit Endurance or talk to our resident endurance coaches, Homey and Nuno).

  • M

    P.S. Paleo man didn’t need to do workouts since his life WAS a workout. Modern man needs to do workouts that mimic that lifestyle b/c our lifestyles are more sedentary.

  • Cynthia

    So did Paleo man do box jumps and kettlebell swings? I don’t think so. So why do we do them?

    Also, are agave nectar and flax seeds paleo?

    p.s. :)

  • SamM

    Great post DJ M. I feel that I’m always so worried about doing more training when I should be putting that extra time into my nutrition and meal preparation. This post puts things into perspective and I its a current work in progress to gets things turned around for me within the nutrition environment of my body.

  • M

    I am not even going to answer the agave nectar question. What I suggest is that you look up the two posts Calvin wrote about it on the blog. I couldn’t possibly state it any better than he already did.

    As for box jumps, no, cavemen probably didn’t jump on boxes but they did most likely jump on the backs of wild game before wrestling them to the ground, or over tree stumps, or onto rocks. That is just how we get our hearts a pumpin these days. If kettlebells would have been around, I’m most certain cavemen would have swung them along with their wooden clubs.

    Captain Caveman (and Son)

  • courtland

    M, Here is a study of the Ache male population that concluded about 7 hours per day of walk/search/pursue activity related to food acquisition, which I think is a lot of LSD for anyone … except me: I can handle my micro dots.

  • jc

    Interesting post M. Just some thoughts to ponder: in crossfit aren’t we supposed to be training in the three metabolic pathways (phosegene, glycotic, and aerobic)? I do agree that shorter intense wods are very effective and are more applicable to modern day life. For many people operating in only the first two is not an option and need to train some in the aerobic zone. Look at the wod “Kelley” 5 rds 400m, 30 wallball, 30 box jumps. Besides being a met-con bomb it trains balance and accuracy While being exhausted. Most long distance endeavors are more mentally challanging than physical. It sure does feel good to know you are prepared for it when the time comes to perform a long physical task. Just my .02

  • Mark Riebel

    I’m not an anthropologist, but Courtland and M are correct in their assesments of ancient humans. When we first climbed out of the trees and started eating other animals, it likely started with scavenging and progressed to persistence hunting. You can find some great youtube videos of tribesmen in Africa running down antelope through long, slow distance runs.

    In hot regions like humanity’s beginnings in Africa, man’s adavantage over many animals is his evaporative cooling system. Antelope and other creatures lack the ability to sweat so men would separate an animal from the herd and keep it on the move until it overheated.

    As humans spread to other areas with colder climates, it makes sense that other hunting methods would need to be employed since animals overheating was likely of little concern. This is where your short bursts of high-intensity exercise came in handy.

    Either method is accurate if you want to approximate ancient human “training” methodologies, you just get a lot more bang for your buck with shorter, higher-intensity training methods, which is why we stick to them. Check out my post on the fat-burning zone myth, which also addresses how we use fat for fuel in long aerobic efforts and more glycogen in our short anaerobic events.

  • M

    I think that I should win the award for causing the most debate w/ my blog posts. Thank you all for participating (especially Sinthia who also sent me an email about cavemen using jump ropes). That is all.

    • D-BO


  • CJ Martin


    We do train all three metabolic pathways at Invictus (I think you meant Phosphagen, Glycolitic and Oxidative). The issue is how OFTEN you train each of the three pathways. Spending excessive time in the oxidative pathways is, in my opinion, less beneficial than focusing the majority (somewhere around 70-80%) in the phosphagen and glycolitic pathways. No doubt, training in ONLY the phosphagen and glycolitic pathways must be reserved for specialists who make a living or hobby out of competing in those two pathways.

    I am not sure we would agree on what constitutes a “Met-Con Bomb.” Give yesterday’s workout a shot – 60 seconds of work followed by a 3 minute rest. Push as hard as you can on that workout and compare that with how you felt on Kelly. Typically, the “met-con bombs” permit higher intensity, while Kelly tends to slow most folks down enough to make it somewhat less nauseating.

    And for those with experience in pushing the limits of their work capacity, ask which is more mentally challenging, 800 meter repeats with at least 3 minutes of rest between runs, or a 5k or 10k – I’ll take the 5k or 10k any day.

    • D-BO

      Best, most fact based post on this thread. Good job.

  • Lacie

    Here’s a few thoughts aspiring cavemen…Trust your Coaching Crew at Invictus, they get paid the big bucks to know their stuff and they won’t steer you wrong…

    Work Hard/Don’t complain about WOD’s/Take care of your hands/Roll out your body/Show up ready to breath fire and build muscle/Stuff your face with quality food/Wash it down with H20/ICE down your sore spots/Read Blog posts and take notes/Implement what you learn/Rest/Repeat

    …And then someday soon you will earn your spear and your knife so that you can run with the big dogs…

  • courtland

    Yeah, but Lacie you have to understand that the caveman I aspire to be has a big brain with many questions and I know that I have to ask them just as surely as I have to do/all/the/things/you/listed. All very good points, by the way.

  • Nuno

    If you want help integrating CFE to your current CF training I am available – I have gotten faster in all my running events, seen tremendous strength gains and overall more fit than I have ever been before.

    Thank you for the great post on LSD Michelle – really summed it up well…

  • pat

    It’s been said already, but bears repeating… Great post, great discussion, thanks!

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  • MD

    One of the members of our box is a competitive triathlete. He has the best endurence out of all of our members by a long shot and pound for pound is one of the strongest. Most of the training he does could be considered LSD. It’s hard to argue with his results.

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  • Ben Alderman

    This Article is right on the money. All CFGers should read.

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  • Brian Watts

    Great for endurance athletes stuck in quantity over quality mindset.

  • Mark

    This article is both interesting and fundamentally flawed. LSD has its place in increasing mitochondrial density, creatine kinase, capillary density, increase in volume of the left ventricle thus increasing stroke volume, and finally increase the efficiency of fat as an energy substrate. WODS rarely do this but im not saying ta well designed WOD cant. Now I’m not saying go run a marathon as I believe that is more of a Long Slow Death, but steady state cardio for extended periods of time is greatly beneficial to the overall physiology of a well-rounded athlete. Oh and cortisol and insulin can be some of the most anabolic hormones in our body (cortisol is technically catabolic but with an anabolic purpose), so to simply say they are bad is a huge sign of misinformation. If you’re worried about cortisol levels have some sugar water during your workout. If you’re worried about insulin making you fat then you should also worry about it shuttling nutrients into your muscle for protein synthesis which seems silly. This article was interesting in that it took complex ideas and did the worst thing you could do, which is dumb them down into misinformation. If you want that read Mens Health or Shape magazine. At least they are bound by the pages and have an excuse to keep it short. This is your website. Write it all down. It’s this type of article that makes my job as a Health and Fitness specialist really tough sometimes when I hove “Internet Specialists” regurgitating simplified science.

  • DFW

    I’ve NEVER met a finisher at a 100mile mountain race whose long training run was a 10miler… doesn’t happen, sorry. What most of the articles I’ve ever read praising short efforts over long never touch on the topic of the mental aspect behind training long for a long race. So much more is going on here other than “physical adaptation”. What one learns about their own body’s needs during long efforts is different for every individual, and you need that long experience to figure out what works best for you. There’s a big difference between going into the gym fresh and killing a 15min WOD and running 20 hours at altitude. The mind is primary and in those types of endeavors, the confidence that comes from past experiences of “been here, done that” are invaluable whenever things get out of balance (and they will) as far as hydration, nutrition, and electrolyte concentration. And while I LOVE CF and agree with HIIT giving most folks the most bang for the buck, when it comes to endurance efforts, you have to train long (occasionally) to go long. My $0.02

  • Jessica Lynn Bost
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  • Thomas Lechte

    Im not sure about your criticism of “LSD”. “LSD” can mean so many things. I’m not convinced on your science regarding LSD using more glucose, compared to short workouts burning fat. If an LSD workout goes long enough your body will have to start burning some fat. I’m not sure about the evidence for short “Invictus” workouts burning more fat. I certainly kow that anaerobic metabolsim does not utilise fat, (however, that doesn’t mean that the aerobic component during intense workouts does not use fat).

    The “father” of the high milage training strategy was Arthur Lydiard. While the propensity for recreational runners is to stick to relatively slow long distance running, possibly came from the trend he set. This trend may have unfortunately caused some runners to focus more on “quantity” than “quality”. As you point out “quality” is very important. However there was a bit more to Lydiards methods. The “cornerstone” of his method was running as close to anerobic threshold as could be maintained comfortably for long periods of time. He however is very clear that this should not be too slow i.e. NOT LSD. This type of training will be at slower than race pace, but, by no means super slow. (I have a runner friend who trained at with this kind of tempo, but with his speed he was doing 15K in about 1hour 10 if I remember correctly, i.e. not actually slow). This type of training constituted a high proportion of Lydiard’s athletes’ volume, but he is very clear in his books, that to get good performance, the other aspects (Fast relaxed repeats for form, Hills, Hill repeats, time trials, Interval (anaerobic training), and sharpening/speed, etc. critical. He did also advocate some actual slower running, but in competitive athletes, really just for active recovery.

    An elite runner needs to combine all the elements of training, (and oplympic middle distance runner do) but for someone who only has limited time to train, and/or is training a whole lot of other movements(i.e CF), the most efficient use of time is to focus on technique and the more short intense work outs. However the occasional long run, and/or use of running as active recovery wouldn’t do any harm.

    Lydiard’s theory is that aerobic capacity, can almost continually be trained and improved, whereas there is a limit to the anaerobic capacity that one can reach, and that it takes a relatively short time to reach, and can be hindered, rather than improved by continuing to train it too hard for too long. He thought that excessive (not an appropriate amount at the right time) anerobic repeats just wore athletes out excessively. To him slow areobic distance (L-not so slow-D) was much easier to recover from and repeat day after day. You could say that one really intense interval work out will improve VO2 max and/or anerobic threshold more than a long aebrobic session, but you can fit a lot more long aerobic sessions into a schedule week after week, than you can really intense interval sessions.

    Arthur Lydiard Trained a number of athetes to very high level so success including Olympic Gold Medals. His most famous athelete was Peter Snell, who won 3 olympic middle distance gold’s and has an 800m best of 1:44.3. Modern Middle distance runners also run heaps of distance miles (all of them pretty fast), but include lots of (even faster) speed work too.

    To be the best you need to include all elements. but I think that recreational runners probably urge sometimes too much towards the distance without working on basic speed and technique as well, and would get real benefit from putting more time into these aspects. I dont like the traditional “fitness” Model where one does “strength” and “Cardio” without working on things like pure speed and agility, which is what I like about crossfits’ ideas. But Long-not quite so slow-Distance certainly has a place for competitive athletes.

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  • Melissa

    How would you modify for someone who had undergone rotator cuff surgery? Has been cleared to workout, but certain movements aren’t “cleared yet,” and the strength is “coming along.”

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  • Corey Christensen

    I get the reasons why not to do LSD but I have a horrible aerobic base. I am very strong but can’t compete with the good Crossfit athletes because my aerobic capacity sucks. Example is a simple 5 rd test I did at a OPT athlete camp my splits were all over 4 mins, and my 3k run was 20 min. So isn’t LSD going to help that base. Also how does it take to get a aerobic base that is very good?