Home » Cardio

Category: Cardio

Steady State or interval cardio

Steady State or Interval Cardio?

There are two types of cardio people: those who choose aerobic exercise (i.e. running, jogging) and those who choose anaerobic exercise (i.e. HIIT, intervals). Although both are technically cardio, doing just one type is not enough and a well-rounded program will include both types.

Generally, exercise done in short bursts up to two minutes in duration will utilize the anaerobic system primarily. This includes any short burst of activity that can only be maintained for about two minutes, usually referred to as intervals. Exercise for an extended period of time at a slow or moderate pace, will utilize the aerobic system primarily, and is often referred to as “steady-state cardio”.

Those who prefer aerobic exercise (aka runners and cyclists) tend to neglect interval training, while those who prefer interval training (aka metconners) tend to neglect doing steady-state cardio. If cardio is cardio, why should it matter if I prefer hard and fast or long and slow?

Whether you should focus on anaerobic or aerobic exercises is entirely dependent on what your goals are. Ideally, you’re doing a mix of both in a balanced program. Aerobic exercise will help build endurance and increase cardiovascular health overall, while interval training will enhance muscle strength, power, size and speed.   Aerobic exercise helps build a bigger window in which you can perform intervals, or a aerobic base.  Without an aerobic base, you won’t be able to do a lot of intervals.

While each type of exercise will build and produce different results and develop different skills, the two types of training can function together to make you faster, stronger, and healthier overall. Training exclusively by one type of exercise will limit the progress you can make, and actually increases your chance of injury. Incorporating anaerobic training into an exercise plan that is mostly aerobic will lead to increased speed, power output, economy, increase VO2 max and decrease the chance of injury.

The way to improve cardio performance is to train at and above your threshold. This means to improve aerobic capacity (read: become a better runner) you need to incorporate training intervals that mean you’re working near your current aerobic threshold. On the flip side, those who only train using intervals will not increase their steady state endurance. What this means is that the metconner who also does steady-state cardio training will be able to work harder for longer (read: get more done in each interval).

Both interval and aerobic exercise should be incorporated into a balanced exercise plan. This balance will allow the two systems to complement one another and will maximize results and increase overall health, while minimizing the chance of injury.


Running from COVID-19: Beginners Guide to Running

The closure of public and private gyms and recreation facilities has created a “running boom” since it’s one of the easiest ways to get in some exercise under the new social and physical distancing protocols. You might think there’s really nothing to it; just lace up your kicks, switch on the iPod and go, right? WRONG.

If your goal is to actually take up running as a hobby, then do yourself a favour and don’t simply hit the pavement and run until you want to puke, or your legs give out. Sure, you totally could go do this, but your risk for injury would be high and would not likely lead you to a sustainable or enjoyable running routine. Seeing as we’ll be in this self-isolation situation for the unforeseeable future, you might as well do this the right way and actually make productive use of your newfound free time.

The real first step you need to take is to actually get fit before you run. Yes, you read that right. Before you run, you need to make sure your body is able to handle the impact of running. If you have been exercising regularly, doing your strength and mobility work and are injury free, then awesome, you should be good to go.

If you haven’t been consistent with strength work or exercise, or haven’t exercised ever, we wouldn’t recommend hitting the pavement before your body is actually in any physical shape to handle running. Running takes strength to push off and absorb the impact as you land, and if you don’t know how to control your body you are dramatically increasing your risk of injury.

Check out our blog on Strength Training for Runners to help you get strong before starting a running routine.

Once the body is ready for the impact of running the next step would be to invest in a decent pair of running shoes. Seriously. For the love of all that is Holy, DO NOT dust off those sneakers you’ve had sitting in your closet for the past decade. You don’t need top of the line, but a new pair of running shoes (not trainers or casual shoes) will make all the difference in how your body takes to your new pavement pounding hobby.

Okay, now that you’ve got your fresh and supportive kicks, and a strong and healthy body, it’s time to get outside. We have included a 6 Week Beginner Run Program at the end of this blog, but first please review these important tips.

Warm Up. Seriously.
“Serious runners” might scoff at you warming up by doing anything other than just running at a slower pace than normal, but that doesn’t mean you should skip your warm up too. Especially now, where most of the day is undoubtedly spent between the couch and an uncomfortable office chair, warming your body up is important.

Start Slow
If you want to enjoy more that the first 30 seconds of your run, take it out slow. Slower than you think you need to. If you’re new to exercise, you’ll learn quickly that you’ve got the most energy at the beginning and that fresh feeling fades through your workout. Those who are familiar with strength training can draw an analogy to energy levels during a lifting session. If you don’t want to burn out too quickly, take it easy in the beginning.

Start with Walk/Run Intervals
Sure, you could go out and run 30 minutes straight, but tomorrow walking might be an issue and long term that’s not sustainable. Start with 3-5 minutes run, 1 minute walk and increase your running time every other time you run. If your form breaks down, take a break and let your body recover by walking. If you lose your form doing squats usually you’d stop right? Running is no different; quality is always better than quantity.

Remember: It Will Get Easier
Whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or new to exercise altogether, a new activity is always tough in the beginning. Hang in there. Before you know it, your runs will feel easier, your form will make it feel smoother, and you might even find you’re enjoying yourself on your run.

Practice Post-Run Self-Care
Be sure to give your muscles some TLC after exercising. Foam roll, stretch, and if you’re feeling fancy, treat yourself to a relaxing Epsom salt bath – you earned it!

PLEASE REMEMBER – when you are out there running, PLEASE adhere to the physical distancing protocols from health officials during this pandemic. We are in this together, so if you each give 3 feet, you will be 6 feet apart. Stay Healthy!

6 Week Beginner Run Program

Week 1:
2-3 runs 20 -30 minutes total – run 3-5 mins, walk 1 min

Week 2:
2-3 runs 25 – 35 minutes total – run 4-6 mins, walk 1 min

Week 3:
2-4 runs 30 – 40 minutes total – run 5-7 mins, walk 1 min

Week 4:
2-4 runs 30 – 40 minutes total – run 6-8 mins, walk 1 min

Week 5:
2-5 runs 35 – 4 5minutes total – run 7-9 mins, walk 1 min

Week 6:
2-5 runs 35 – 45 minutes total – run 8-10 mins, walk 1 min

*Keep in mind that the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines suggest AT LEAST 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week. This translates to 30 minutes 5 days per week to meet the minimum 150 minutes.

Social Graces of Stair Season

The weather is finally nice, and stair season is upon us.  This is where all Edmontonians take advantage of the beautiful river valley and get their fitness on the stairs.  Did you know Edmonton has over 40 sets of stairs of all sizes for you to utilize for free for your workout?

Top 3 Sets of Stairs (most well-known):

  1. Glenora (202) – Ezio Faraone Park
  2. Fox Drive (242) – Whitemud Park
  3. Wolf Willow (200) – Access from Westridge Park (*steepest in the city)

Whether you are a newbie or a veteran, there are some common sense rules that we feel need to be followed to ensure everyone has a great experience, especially when the stairs are jam packed on a hot sunny day!

  1. Head Up.Watch where you are going.
  2. Stay Right. Rules of the road. This is the most simple rule to prevent chaos.
  3. Be aware of the people around you.  I get that you are in the zone with your headphones while crushing your personal best, but pay attention to people in front and behind you.  Turn down the volume of your motivation mix so you can hear people coming up behind you.
  4. Mid-Stair Stop. If you have to stop mid-stair to catch some wind, do it off to the right side, and make sure you aren’t disrupting someone else’s goal crushing (refer to #3).
  5. It’s awesome you have brought your best fur friend to workout with you. Keep them on a close leash next to you, not a long retractable leash that allows them cut people off.  (I have actually seen people TRIP up and down the stairs from dogs cutting them off and tripping over leashes.)
  6. Single File. You and your bestie are hitting the stairs, chatting up a storm while you suffer the burn together – love it.  However, when you are going up and down side by side, you are disrupting the space of others (especially when the stairs are packed).  It’s hard to pass team bestie on the stairs when you are shoulder to shoulder.
  7. Respect.  Some are walking, some are jogging, some are sprinting, some are jumping, some are sightseeing, some are dancing.  You don’t know everyone’s goals and history.  Respect everyone’s workout goals. Someone might be just starting, someone might be back from an injury, someone might be training a different energy system, someone might be crushing their second workout of the day. You don’t know everyone’s story – don’t be so judgy and think your workout is more important or better than yours.
  8. High Fives. Ever just high 5 a stranger?  Try it.  You are both there working your butts off, and sometimes you just need to celebrate. Or try it because sometimes you see a person there struggling, and maybe they need it!

We get that stairs should have no rules, its free, its open to anyone to enjoy and no one owns them.  But if we all follow a few of these rules, then everyone’s experience will be more positive.

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC

Myths of Cardio

Are you ready to have all of your cardio questions answered? To have all the controversy solved once and for all? Get answers from experienced fitness professionals who learn and teach this stuff for a living? Well, just keep reading! Ready? Here we go:

Q: Does cardio mean jogging on a treadmill or going on an elliptical for a really long time?
A: No.

Q: Is cardio the same as Crossfit?
A: No.

Q: Do I have to become a runner to do cardio?
A: No.

Q: Is it a rule that I have to do cardio to lose fat?
A: No. 

Q: Will doing cardio make me lose all my GAINZ?
A: No.

Q: Is cardio all I need to do to be healthy and fit?
A: No.

Q: If I’m female, is cardio all I should be doing?
A: No.

Q: Does walking to the fridge between Netflix episodes count as cardio?
A: No. 

Q: Do I HAVE to do cardio?
A: No.


Controversy solved! Wasn’t that great?? So glad we had this talk.

Joking aside, what we hope becomes apparent from reading this list of common myths is that there is no clear definition of what the word “cardio” actually means. Lack of a commonly agreed-upon definition for a particular term makes the situation ripe for misunderstanding and controversy. This goes for everything, not just fitness-related stuff. Words matter! What do we actually mean when we use certain words and phrases, such as “cardio”?  Before we can answer questions about cardio, we need to define it so we know what we are actually talking about.

A Google search of “what is cardio?” garners over 8 million results. Some of the definitions that pop up include:

“Cardiovascular exercise.” Wow, that’s helpful.

“Endurance exercises that strengthen the heart and blood vessels.” More specific, but is that all there is to it?

“Any exercise that raises your heart rate.” By this definition, our whole Netflix and walking to the fridge thing would qualify as cardio after all.

“Cardio is the most common form of weight loss exercise.” Debatable, and that doesn’t actually define what cardio means.

As you can see, there isn’t really a clear definition here. So we have come up with our own definition. You don’t have to agree with it – it’s just a working definition that we have created to hopefully help clear up some of the myths surrounding cardio.

Our definition of cardio is any method of training that improves the body’s ability to produce sufficient energy to accomplish a particular task.

In order to be able to produce the energy needed to accomplish any activity, the body has to be able to:

·      take in sufficient amounts of oxygen (strong breathing muscles, efficient breathing mechanics)

·      transport that oxygen into the bloodstream (quick delivery of oxygen from lungs to blood vessels)

·      move the blood to the working muscles as fast as possible (strong heart)

·      take up that oxygen into the muscles as efficiently as possible (fast oxygen transfer from capillaries into muscle cells)

·      utilize that oxygen within the muscle as efficiently as possible (efficient inside-cell chemical processes)

As you can see, there’s a little more to it than just getting the ol’ heart rate up!

Now, to bring all of this back to a more practical level, what activities could we use to improve the body’s ability to produce energy at all of those different levels? 

Could we use running? Yes.

Could we use strength training? Absolutely.

Could we use cycling, swimming, pushing a super heavy sled, going for a hike, or doing high intensity intervals? Sure.


The key factor here is not necessarily the method of exercise used, but the intent of the training, the stimulus being sent to the body, and the resulting adaptation that we see as a result.

 Are the adaptations from running going to be the same as those from strength training? No, because they are two different stimuli to the body, and will produce a different response. However, could you use specific running methods to improve the body’s ability to take in oxygen? And use specific strength training methods to improve the body’s ability to utilize oxygen within muscle cells? Most definitely.

The key takeaway is that both of these activities can improve the body’s ability to produce energy to accomplish a task. It simply comes down to application – how they are being used. Thus, according to our definition, they are both being used as “cardio”.

Moral of the story: any activity that makes your body better at producing the energy needed for the task you want to do – whether that be running a marathon, playing recreational sports, or playing with your kids – is “cardio”. What form that “cardio” takes simply depends on what your individual body most needs to accomplish the tasks you most want to do. 

Don’t get us wrong, cardio is not bad! Doing only cardio at the expense of strength training, or taking a will-nilly approach to doing cardio – this is where we tend to go wrong. But training the body’s ability to produce energy is a crucial part of a well-rounded approach to fitness and health, and should not be overlooked. Cardio just needs to be programmed well (with individual needs and goals in mind), and done purposefully so that we get the desired adaptations in the body.

SVPT Trainer, Erica Saunders