I have always loved running at nightfall. Tonight I slipped out of the house at 9:30 pm, and ran for 40 minutes, thinking mainly about two things. The first was the fantastic montage from the movie Ali, where a young Cassius Clay is running through darkened city streets preparing for his match with Sonny Liston. The second issue bouncing around in my head was the controversy between aerobic Long Slow Distance training (LSD) and anaerobic High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for jiu-jitsu and grappling conditioning.

As discussed in Cardio for Martial Arts, conditioning sessions can be long or slow, easy or hard. Most MMA and jiu-jitsu conditioning experts currently advocate HIIT, consisting of short bursts of high energy exercise and/or some form of circuit training. According to this school of thought, grappling matches and MMA rounds are essentially sprint events; the old school boxer’s long hours of roadwork are counterproductive and only condition fighters to run long distances, not to fight.

I know I am in the minority here, but I think that doing some LSD or aerobic work is very important, at least for me.

In various phases of my competitive career I have alternated between doing a lot of anaerobic work and a lot of aerobic work. When I was trying to get on the fire department, for example, I was running longer distances 5 times a week (a typical run was 45 minutes long) and my grappling felt GREAT.

After I got onto the fire department I competed in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, an essentially anaerobic event. Accordingly I did tons of sprints and relatively little distance work. Despite a lack of fast twitch muscle I eventually ran a 1:32 in this event which is a very good time (1:40 is considered ‘elite’ level), so my anaerobic conditioning must have been pretty good. My grappling did NOT feel as good during my Combat Challenge career.

Now two anecdotes don’t prove or disprove anything, it is just food for thought. Perhaps LSD’s beneficial effects on me are reflective of my fighting style (fairly measured and even-paced), or perhaps there was something else entirely going on. Regardless it would be very hard to convince me not to do aerobic work if I were preparing for a major competition. Furthermore I sometimes hear rumors that there are some elite fighters – Pride’s Fedor Emelianenko for example – who also run long distances as part of their training, so maybe I’m not totally out to lunch

I’m not anti-HIIT at all, I just like to include a lot more LSD training than is currently fashionable. I run slow and fast, long and short, depending on my mood and my training schedule.

I’ve got to take my post-run shower now, but before I do I want to emphasize that, for the vast majority of people. any training is better than sitting on the couch. If running longer than 15 minutes bores you silly then sprint, sprint, sprint. If you don’t like to be gasping for breath, then enjoy your long jogs, and don’t worry too much about these academic debates.

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