How to Know if Cardio is Working

We welcome everyone from all walks of life and different backgrounds to the Bent On Better gym. Some of our members who are now over 40 years old even used to be impressive athletes in their prime. We get members who were experienced runners who have complained about a sore lower body and back, and although our coaches could understand why these problems were happening, they couldn’t really relate to how years of running would feel. This is what inspired our coach, Matt April, to participate in a recent half-marathon. With the B.O.B. members in mind, his experience tells you exactly how to know if cardio is working for your routine.

Matt started running during the winter of 2021, and it was around this time that he decided to join a half-marathon called the Rocky Balboa Run under the Italian Stallion Half-Marathon category. To prepare for these marathons and as a first-time runner, he would run 2 to 3 days a week. Although he made sure not to completely neglect his strength (i.e., he was still lifting heavy weights while doing major compound movements), he started adding more miles to run each week.

What is Steady State Cardio?

“Any cardiovascular/aerobic activity that is sustained for an extended time (usually starting at about 10 to 15 minutes for beginners and 20 to 90 minutes for more fit athletes) at a fixed intensity qualifies as steady-state cardio training.” –E.C. LaMeaux on Steady State Cardio with Gaiam

Examples of Steady State Cardio

  • Running
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Rowing

Why Steady State Cardio by Itself Is Not Enough
At Bent On Better, we always want to prioritize training instead of working out. It’s because, yes, you can consider steady-state cardio as a workout because you’re sweating and it gets the blood pumping, but by itself–especially if your goal is to complete a marathon– pelotons and stair-climbers won’t be enough if your goals aren’t lined up. In short, you won’t be burning calories while trying to build muscles at the same time. 

13.1 miles of grit, determination, and finish line selfies.

Effects of Joining a Marathon for the First Time
The two half-marathons that Matt joined left his knee joints and lower back feeling sore which he rarely felt when he was only focusing on strength training. He noticed that his weight went down and that he lost the definition in his muscles because he was constantly burning calories. 

The first leg of the marathon that Matt joined was in Baltimore which was the Rocky Balboa Run, wherein he remembered to have run 13.1 miles without stopping. During the whole Italian Stallion half-marathon, Matt recalls that he started running at 7:00 in the morning and went through 5 kilometers, then ran 10 kilometers by around 7:30 a.m. In between running he would do some active calisthenics to give himself some time to recover but didn’t like the big gap in down-time. He thought that he should’ve just continued running as he believed it’d leave him feeling less painful but it still wasn’t the case.


For Runners Over 40
Experienced runners tend to come into the gym and focus on their upper body strength thinking that as a runner, they already have enough leg strength to go by. If your goal is to have upper body strength, we at Bent On Better will still prioritize your lower body and core simply because it’ll build resilience and will give you more strength to propel yourself while running. 

Some lower body exercises that we recommend are:

    • Squats
    • Lunges (including Lateral Lunges)
    • Transverse Plane Movements
    • TRX
    • Hinging Movements,
    • Deadlifts,
    • Single-Leg Movements
    • And especially, Balance Movements

“Strength training will expose your body to a different kind of strength. You should want that as a runner.” – Coach Nick April

The Squat is the ultimate lower-body exercise for runners. It strengthens your hamstrings, hips, quadriceps, and glutes, the biggest and most important muscles for runners, because they power your stride.

Although incorporating cardio into your workout will help keep your blood flowing and make you sweat, we have to remember that cardio in itself isn’t what a good workout day makes. Whether your goal is to join a marathon or to simply lose weight, it is still important to build better muscles to further support your posture and reinforce your running with strength training. All these, plus getting proper recovery, drinking more water, food, carbohydrates, and stretching, are the foundations you need to set to get one step closer to your goals.

“Knowing these were the areas in my body that weren’t as strong as the other parts, I’m gonna try and strengthen them or make myself kind of a little more adaptable to those areas and I’d bet you’d  have different results.” – Coach Nick April giving advice to Matt April on building resilience 

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