10 years ago I completed my last half marathon at a scorching time of 1:16. I also was 20 lbs lighter and made the decision to stop running and focus on "gaining muscle" and "being strong". I figured at age 20, this was the peak time for packing on lean muscle and I could always go back to running. I made a promise to myself that I would revisit distance running at 30.
In the decade that followed I have moved my weight to a steady 147-150lbs and been able to deadlift 3x my bodyweight in every version of the lift (conventional, sumo and trap bar). Yet I still felt unfulfilled and somewhat unhealthy. As a former runner, I had the cardiovascular endurance of elderly sedentary man.
Prior to turning 30, Megan approached me with helping her get ready for the NYC Marathon. The more research I did the more intrigued I became with the notion of maintaining strength while becoming an elite level long distance runner again. We recently completed a half marathon together and all things considered I'm content with my 1:52 finish. Still had a lot left in the tank and was happy to acknowledge the 10 years of strength training had made me more resilient* and able to push a lot harder when I needed.
*In particular my ability to maintain pace regardless of incline has been awesome!
Later during the week I also did this.
Fellow meatheads (male and female), don't be scared to perform cardio. A recent article here very eloquently laid it out, give it a read when you have an opportunity:
To quote said article:
"Loaded work doesn’t get the same heart response as unloaded work does. Normal cardiovascular exercise, such as running or rowing, stretches the main chamber of the heart eccentrically and allows it to hold more blood. On the flip side of this the strength trained heart gains thickness and your heart responds to training in the same way your other muscles do by becoming thicker and stronger. While a thicker, stronger heart may sound appealing this isn’t necessarily the case. A thicker heart wall can impact the internal diameter of heart. A big thick heart can actually end up with a smaller internal diameter meaning that it can actually hold less blood. That’s bad. That means that despite looking like a Mack truck on the outside you’re being powered by a Prius engine on the inside.
You can’t do intervals. HIIT isn’t your friend. By adding all that muscle you’ve already spent a massive proportion of your time on anaerobic work. You need to do some aerobic work."
Piggybacking off that excerpt from the afformentioned article are two benefits to lower intensity steady state cardio for everyone:
- Improve Recovery: What many lifters don't realize is that an efficient aerobic system can help you recovery more quickly as you won't be tapping into your sympathetic (think fight or flight) nervous system. By getting your nervous system into a parasympathetic (netflix and chill), you'll even sleep more soundly which will aide in repairing those muscles.
Improved Cardiac Efficiency: When performing steady state cardio (about 120-150 bpm) you'll improve cardiac output, which is a fancy way of saying your heart is better able to pump more blood all while decreasing resting heart rate.
If you're a runner and/or lifter looking for more guidance, I also offer distance coaching via exercise.com. Message me for more details about joining my group where I'll post monthly workouts along with a forum to interact with other members.
Let's make cardio a more acceptable part of strength sports again.