Women, It’s Time To Trade Cardio For Weights!
I love featuring guest blogs from my fans; even more so when they come from far away lands like Denmark. This one comes from my friends at RunnerClick.com authored by Jane Grates who lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Jane is an entrepreneur, wife and ultramarathon distance runner. She spends most of her time on runnerclick.com, monicashealthmag.com & nicershoes.com. She has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.
Women, It’s Time To Trade Cardio For Weights!
I remember my cardio days of college well. I logged hours each week on the elliptical, and miles of running after picking up the sport freshman year. I – and the women on the machines around me – expended tons of energy and time literally going nowhere, in belief it would get us to our fitness goals.
True, I lifted weights twice a week, but I didn’t view it as a true workout because I wasn’t sweaty or out of breath afterwards; a sign I wasn’t challenging myself and how altered my sense of “working out” was!
While cardio has it’s place in a balanced exercise program, more is not better, and strength training won’t make you bulky! After becoming an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer – and later and ACE Certified Health Coach – I reframed my workouts, trading some of that cardio machine time for time in the weight room, and I’ve never looked back!
Here is why you should, too:
Weights Change Your Shape
Yes, cardio burns calories which can translate to a smaller size, but weight training burns calories and builds muscle which changes your shape. Having a “toned” look is what many women strive for, but what does “toned” mean? It means muscle! Hours of cardio is not going to build shapely legs, a tight butt, or strong shoulders, but a challenging strength training routine will.
Too much cardio can cause your body to not only lose fat, but lose muscle, which can lead to the dreaded “skinny fat” look. Lifting relatively heavy weights will maintain and even build muscle, which actually burns fat at rest through EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) meaning you’ll burn fat and calories after your workout.
Cardio Is a Vicious Cycle
With cardio, you can really spin your wheels – pun intended. I myself went down the rabbit hole of adding more time to my sessions, and hitting plateau’s more and more often no matter how much I was doing. Frustrating!
Essentially, you are training your body to perform a certain amount of activity everyday, and your metabolism adapts to that. Our bodies are smarter than we think, and if it knows it’s going to have to slug through 90 minutes on the elliptical everyday, it gets super efficient at doing just that, thus burning less calories. So you end up adding more minutes, until your body gets used to that and you plateau again.
On the other side of this cycle is your appetite. When I was marathon training (running 35-50 miles a week for months) you could not feed me enough! This is why many marathoners actually gain weight while training. Doing excessive cardio will ramp up your cravings, making it very easy to overeat, defeating the purpose of your workout.
Coming from someone who has run for hours alone; prolonged cardio can get boring! I love to run, and many find steady state cardio (the effort where you can hold a conversation) a source of “me-time”, but 30-45 minutes a few times a week is plenty to fill that need. Pushing yourself to do 60+ minutes nearly every day of the week is a recipe for mental burnout.
By swapping some of your cardio time for weight training, you’ll mix up your routine and re engage your focus. On top of that, training with weights is anything but monotonous. There are endless ways to structure your workouts, and the variety of equipment – bodyweight, kettlebells, dumbbells, weight machines, sandbags, stability balls, etc. – will ensure you’re never at a loss of different exercises.
To change your body, you must challenge it. As we talked about before, doing more and more cardio is not an effective way to lose fat and change your shape, but doing more cardio how many add a challenge. When you strength train, you can add a physical challenge without adding time. Up the weights you’re using, or perform a progressed version of the exercise you no longer find challenging (like moving from push-ups on your knees to full push-ups) and your body will be forced to adapt to that challenge, thus building more muscle and changing your shape.
Being able to single handedly get your luggage into the overhead bin or getting all of your groceries into the house in one trip is satisfying. Building strength and coordination in the weight room translates to a confidence outside the weight room. Learning a new exercise, or lifting a weight heavier than you ever have before is an instant self-esteem booster. You’ll start to view your body as a powerful machine that enables you to do new things, and you’ll leave the gym with energy, as opposed to that spent feeling that an hour on the stair stepper gives you.
There’s a place for cardio in your life – I cherish my 3-4 mile runs for sanity purposes – but it shouldn’t run your life. Incorporating weight training into your fitness routine will empower and strengthen you, giving you a strong and fit look in less time!