When you think about losing weight and start to think about exercise, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? Let me guess….is it cardio? How do you feel about cardio? Do you love it or do you hate it?
I am not about to bash cardio, I would just like to put it into its perspective place.
When you set off on your exercise journey, most start utilizing either the treadmill, elliptical or spin bike. Many start running (I did) and see great results. Starting off with a goal of 1 mile, then 2, next 3 and so on. In order to keep seeing results you have to go longer and harder. Ever wonder why you have to keep increasing time or distance when cardio is your main source of exercise? This is because the body adapts very quickly.
Time and time again I hear people say, I just need to start doing cardio to lose the excess pounds, then I will start working out with weights. And my response is, your best option is BOTH… right now! Start strength training at the level you are at and add in cardio a couple times a week. Their response is….OH REALLY??
So many are shocked that I don’t agree with the cardio first phenomenon. It has been drilled in our brains for so long that in order to lose weight you must do cardio, cardio, cardio.
Here’s where the perspective comes in…..
Cardio does not build muscle. When doing long bouts of cardio as your main source of exercise, it ends up using muscle for energy.
Now imagine you have reached your weight loss goal with cardio and you are ready to start building muscle. This is where frustration sets in because any muscle you did have has dwindled down to almost nothing.
You go into the gym and pick up the weight you think you should be able to lift and it feels crazy heavy! You go ahead and push through your workout but the next day you can’t walk properly (feeling a bit bowlegged) or can’t lift your arm because your muscles are so freaking sore!
Recovery takes many days and you are feeling defeated. You’re reconsidering the whole building muscle thing. You think, maybe I should just go back to cardio?? Back to what my body is comfortable with…..
Isn’t it crazy that in all aspects of our lives, many of us are so resistant to change? You’d rather continue doing something that no longer serves you instead of trying something new.
What doesn’t change remains the same….
Since our bodies are very adaptive, just like with cardio the body will adapt very quickly to strength training. If you continue, each week you will get stronger. You will notice with each exercise you no longer struggle lifting the weight you began with. This is an indication it’s time to increase the weight. Remember what doesn’t change remains the same…..
The difference between strength training vs cardio is if you do 30-45 minutes of strength training 3-4 times a week, the duration does not change. There’s no need to increase the time, what does change is the weight each week and your STRENGTH increases!! If you are solely relying on cardio, overtime you will be putting in many hours a day, several times a week. Who has time to workout for 2+ hours a day? I know I do not!
Let’s go over the pros and cons of both
So how can you have the best of both worlds and not spend hours upon hours in the gym working out several times a day?
Honestly it’s VERY simple! You need both strength training and cardio, but cardio should not be the main focus. Think of it as a way to spice up your workouts, you sprinkle it in.
The best way is to incorporate cardio into your strength training by doing circuits.
What does this look like?
Take 4-6 exercises split between upper and lower body and complete all before resting. Rest for as long as you need to catch your breath and go 3 more rounds. This will have your heart pumping and you’ll be sweating!! The result = build muscle, burn fat and get in cardio too!
You’ll spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour with a warm up and cool down. Strength training 3-4 times per week with an additional 2 days of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or your choice of cardio for a max of 15-20 minutes and take several nice leisure walks a week to relax and distress. This setup will give you the results you want and extra time to enjoy LIFE!
Each body is different and it will take some experimenting to find that “sweet spot”. But what I do know is over exercising whether it is cardio, strength training or both can back fire. Your body will fight back if it does not have proper rest and recovery.
Too often I see people spending hours upon hours in the gym only to look the same year after year. And they think it means they have to push themselves even harder. But this isn’t true, they just haven’t figured out what works best for their body.
Exercise really isn’t an option if you want to maintain your overall health. The point is to find the right combination that you can sustain and you actually enjoy. Once you hit your “sweet spot” it’s really hard to find anything else that will lift your spirit and give you instant energy like a great work out does. This is where lifestyles change.
Start listening to your body!!
Our body is extremely great at communicating what it needs, we just need to listen up!
When your body is screaming for rest, it doesn’t mean push harder, it means rest and recover.
When your body is responding in hunger pains, it doesn’t mean restrict food, it means fuel your body.
When your mood is horrible and you are feeling depressed, it doesn’t mean go eat a carton of ice cream, it means go get in a great workout and you will feel better.
Remember the key is consistency and balance, you can spend all this time working out, but if you are still eating like crap and relying heavily on carbs, well……… You must get your nutrition in check too!
We only have one body, let’s serve it well so that we can get back to enjoying our lives!
Workout smarter NOT harder!!!
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