“I really want to drop some weight. I know I need to get serious about my cardio.” Have you said that before? Me too and I have heard it more times than I can count from friends and clients.
Each time I hear this, I want to jump up and down and scream NO NO NOOOOOOOO while cutting up her gym check in tag and burning her treadmill. Thanks to my mom, I have enough self-control to resist the temptation. I understand the thought behind this statement but it is just plain wrong for most people.
I spent years stuck in the cardio trap. I would get some results and then plateau. I would add more cardio. I would lose a little more only to get burned out and take an involuntary cardio break (fancy word for falling off the wagon).
The funny thing is that as much cardio as I was doing, I pretty much looked THE SAME. Sure the scale would move a little bit but it would go right back up any time I missed a few cardio sessions. The more cardio I did, the more cardio I needed just to STAY THE SAME.
On top of spending so much time to stay the same, I was killing my relationships. I would turn down or cut out early on social events to “get my cardio minutes in”. I even RUINED AN ANNIVERSARY DATE with my husband because I was too exhausted to have any fun when he planned a really cool date for us. I thought I was doing what I had to do. It never occurred to find a better way to get in shape so that I could enjoy my life outside of the gym.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, listen up. If not, listen up anyway because if you think the way to get the weight off is to get serious about your cardio… you are staring at your future.
3 REASONS TO AVOID THE CARDIO TRAP
Reason #1: Your cardio program is why your eating is out of control.
The way you train affects the way you eat. Your body has not gotten the memo that you are in no danger of starving to death like your former cave woman self. You may want to look great in a pair of jeans. Your body wants to have stored body fat to survive a possible food shortage. See those conflicting goals?
When you are working out a ton to burn off body fat, your responds as its chance of survival is being threatened. Your hormones come to the rescue and make you hungry and lethargic to ensure that you eat more and move less to protect its “famine survival insurance plan”- your stored fat.
Now you are engaged in the battle of You vs. Your Hormones. Guess who’s going to win in the end… not you!
Have you ever noticed that when you start your hardcore workout plan, you are ravenous? I bet you have. What about how much willpower it takes to NOT eat everything in the pantry? You’re with me now right. The solution here is simple. Stop logging hours of intense activity and do something short and effective instead.
Reason #2: Your cardio program is the reason why you still don’t see any muscle definition.
No matter how many times you say it or hear it, going for long runs is not a way to “work your legs”. If you want “muscle tone”- seeing your muscles even when you aren’t contracting them- you have to make your muscles more dense. Guess what does that? Weight training.
If you want to see definition in your legs, you can squat, lunge, deadlift, and hip bridge to make the muscles respond. They will get stronger and more dense. Just like that, you have the “muscle tone” that beating the pavement and the elliptical were never going to give you.
Doing cardio (like running, the elliptical, and the stairmaster) is a way to burn calories. If you are not doing anything to preserve your muscle mass (like strength training and eating sufficient protein), you will also be burning MUSCLE. When you diet and do tons of cardio to lose weight, you lose fat AND muscle and you become a smaller, squishier version of yourself- not the tight and toned version that you may be working to attain.
Reason #3: Your cardio plan is the reason why your joints ache and you are always injured.
I can vividly remember taking supplements to combat my joint aches at the height of my “cardio career”. My hips would lock and my knees would ache when I walked, sat, or thought about doing either. Cute right? Not!
“Your body can handle almost anything. It is your mind that needs convincing.” Right? Well kind of. Quotes like these, while inspiring, can help you convince yourself to keep doing stuff that makes nooooo sense.
You can do anything you want AND everything you do has a consequence whether positive or negative. If you train like an elite endurance athlete (massive amounts of cardio) then you need to recover like one. That means doing regular massages, contrast showers, ice baths, and special supplementation. If you are not doing this, you will end up injured before you end up fit. Sore joints and injuries are not par for the course when it comes to losing weight. They are a result of a training approach that doesn’t make sense for you.
Bonus Reason… All that cardio is not working! If you are not losing the weight and keeping it off with your cardio plan, it isn’t working. No amount of “getting serious” is going to fix that. The lack of results or ability to sustain that routine is a huge red flag. It is a sign that it is time to change.
So now that I have made my case against loads of cardio for weight loss, what do I suggest instead? I wrote an ENTIRE BLOG POST giving you the full details right here: Working Out for Weight Loss 101.
For those days when you want to get in a good sweat, try this sample conditioning workout from my Coaching Club. It could be your new boo. It won’t do any of those things that doing too much cardio will do either. Double win!
What did you think? Let me know in the comments below! And if you found this helpful or inspirational, be sure to share.