Run one mile on the treadmill with the speed set at 6 miles per hour. That's a 10 minute mile. Now, which category below do you fit into?
1 I Can't Do It!
Then you're out of shape – deconditioned, a bit chubby, whatever. You're just not "fit" in the broad sense of the word. Yes, even if you can lift a ridiculously heavy barbell for a few reps.
2 I Can Do It, No Problem!
If you can do it then you're at least in okay shape. If you do it without stopping and it was super easy, then chances are you're in above average shape.
3 I Can Do It... Barely.
If you can do it BUT it was a near-death experience and left you fighting for air, then you probably have some work to do.
Most of us don't identify as runners. We're "lifters" in one form or another: bodybuilders, strength trainers, or folks who just want to sport a muscular physique. We want to look a little scary maybe, or perhaps just look good naked.
But running? Meh. Maybe we'll add a little when our body fat starts to creep up, but even then most lifters prefer some form of quick metabolic conditioning, not pounding the treadmill or asphalt for distance.
But the one-mile test is still a great barometer. It's a combination of a heart health test and a body fat test. Can't run a mile in 10 minutes? Then either your cardiovascular fitness is lacking or you're just carrying around too much non-functional adipose tissue. (That's "body fat" in fancy words.)
Aging can be tough. And cardiovascular fitness can decline rapidly, even if you're a lifter. That hour or so spent lifting weights 3-6 times per week, plus a hike or a bike ride on the weekend, may not be enough to outweigh a sedentary job and evenings in front of the TV or computer.
If you're in your 40's or older, make sure you can pass this test. According to Dr. Jarett D. Berry, not being able to run a 10-minute mile puts you into the "unfit" category. Remember, heart disease is still the leading cause of death – a bigger killer than cancer – and minimal run times are a good predictor of long-term ticker health.
Dr. Berry adds that a man in his 50's who can run a mile in 8 minutes or less shows a high level of fitness. For women in that age bracket, it's 9 minute or less.
The goal here isn't to get faster and faster, or to start revolving your training around running. The goal is simply to be able to do it with relative ease and ALWAYS be able to do it with relative ease.
If your lifting program involves some big movements and short rest periods, you should be able to pass this test at any time, even if you hate running.
If you can't do it – or you can but it just about kills you – then adjust your training so that you can pass this low-level fitness test. Basically, make sure that some aspect of your training makes you suck some wind. Or, you know, clean up your diet and drop some of that dead weight.
Don't assume anything. Hop on the stupid treadmill, set the speed at 6 miles per hour, and run a mile. See where you stand.