I know how it is… I, too, was a cardio junkie. My idea of exercise was heading to the gym for a few hours of running on the treadmill, power-marching on the elliptical, and climbing the stair-master. I had myself convinced that if I didn’t leave the gym drenched in sweat and out of breath, I hadn’t done anything!
And I did this for years! And you know what? Even though I thought I was doing SOMETHING… my results showed I was getting NOTHING out of it! I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, and there’s plenty of science behind why that was the case.
But I’ll get right to the shocking stuff!
Cardio is certainly good for you, but only in small bite-sized servings. That’s because the benefits that cardio exercise produces peak after just 30 minutes! So when you go to the gym to do your cardio routine, the first 30 minutes work to strengthen your cardiovascular system (your heart and it’s functions). After those 30 minutes, all you’re doing is improving your cardiovascular endurance. And unless you’re training for a marathon, that’s normally overkill.
The other problem is even more troubling! Too much cardio causes the breakdown of muscle fiber and eventually bone density and joint health. When you exercise, your body uses glycogen (which is a stored form of carbohydrates) as the main source of fuel to give you energy. Cardio depletes your glycogen faster than any other kind of exercise. So once your glycogen stores are gone, your body still needs to rely on something to use as an energy source. And the next available source is your muscle fiber. Trust me when I say that there are tons of medical reasons you don’t ever want to allow your own body to eat away your muscle fiber! I won’t go into them all, but I will explain a few in the list below…
I had to let cardio go…
Well, not totally… but I definitely had to change my perspective on what type of fitness was best for my goals and overall wellness. I thought to myself… “Why am I doing this? Do I want to be a long distance runner professionally”?
Absolutely not! I wanted to have energy and good balance since I knew I’d be standing a lot for many hours in the ER. I wanted to be strong and look strong because that’s what my confidence needed. And of course, I had some pesky body fat that needed to go. Cardio hadn’t worked in all these years, so I went in the totally opposite direction and started picking up some weights!
“I don’t want to get bulky” (Women everywhere)
Let’s get this one out of the way…right away. You won’t unless you want to! Seriously, it takes a tremendous amount of work, commitment, and focus on very specific daily behaviors to adopt an exercise and nutrition regimen that will result in you looking like a body-builder. It won’t just happen by accident because you’re strength training.
Strength training might actually be the missing link that’s been keeping you from seeing the results you’ve always wanted. It was for me! After years of being a cardio gym-bunny and not seeing results, I switched to strength training and finally started hitting goals and making new ones! My clothes fit better and I was able to start seeing myself with a confidence I’d never had. My energy continually grew and stayed persistent throughout my long days at work. My posture improved and my joints stopped hurting. And you better believe that pesky belly fat started disappearing!
Had I found some top-secret recipe for success? No, but the more I researched WHY these results were staying consistent… the more I realized that strength training should have been my focus all along. Not only that, but I firmly believe that EVERY woman should consider strength training as their primary form of fitness.
9. Muscle Burns Fat
Here’s a glaring reason why sticking to only cardio is so counter-productive. As I mentioned above, cardio eats away at your muscles. As it turns out, weight lifting burns almost exclusively body fat. Body fat sits sandwiched between your skin and your muscles. As you strengthen your muscles, it melts that body fat away. The added bonus is that it also pulls your skin tightly around it as the body fat disappears. If you don’t want to have loose skin that hangs from your muscles (like people who lose weight doing only cardio), you need to build muscle so it keeps your skin smooth and tight!
8. Muscle Burns More Calories
Everyone has something called a “resting metabolic rate”. It’s what determines how many calories you burn just living and breathing. It’s what is making you burn calories as you read this newsletter! Turns out, the more muscle you have… the more energy (calories) your body expends. If you’re actively losing muscle because your main exercise focus is on cardio… you’re also causing your resting metabolic rate to decrease. If you switch your focus to strength training, normal things like brushing your teeth, reading emails, posting on social media, and even sleeping will burn MORE calories!
7. Strength Builds Confidence
That sounds vain, doesn’t it? It’s actually not. When you make the transition away from cardio and start lifting weights, you’re going to be doing things you never thought were possible for you! When you first start, that 5 lb weight is going to feel like a ton. But over time, you’ll get better and stronger and you’ll toss that lighter weight aside to keep yourself challenged with heavier ones. That’s literally what confidence is all about… knowing that through commitment and focus you can do anything! The strength you’re building in your muscles will start to spill over into your life and your mindset will elevate with it!
6. Strength Stretches You
Static stretching (holding a muscle in a stretched position to ease tightness) is actually really bad for you unless your muscles are already sufficiently warm. It’s an easy way to an exercise injury! Studies have found that ballistic stretching (moving your body through full-range of motion in short controlled bursts of movement) is far more beneficial to keeping you flexible and safe. Basically, dropping into a full-range lunge or squat (full range means all the way down and all the way up) will keep the associated muscles flexible just as well as static stretching…without the risk of injury! (I should add that you should exercise using proper form and make sure you choose a weight that allows you to reach the full range of motion… even if that means only using body weight)
5. Muscle Builds Strong Bones
That’s right! Strength training doesn’t just give you strong muscles. When you do any strength move, the muscle being worked tugs on the bone it surrounds. This then causes the cells within that bone to duplicate and create new bone cells. This helps your bones become stronger and denser, and it’s a great way to protect you from osteoporosis.
4. You’ll Get Smaller
Wait… what? But I thought lifting weights would make me bulky! Here’s why that’s a myth you need to let go of. Women only produce between 5-10% of the testosterone that men do, which limits our muscle building potential in comparison. Like I said above, you’d have to literally live in the gym and lift weights all day long in order to gain the type of size you’re afraid of. The truth is, the more your weight comes from muscle rather than fat… the smaller you’ll be. So (and this is important) you need STOP caring about the number on the weight scale!!! When you’re strength training, you’ll often find your weight staying the same or even slightly increasing… while you continue to drop dress sizes. It’s time to start paying attention to body fat%, how you look, and how you feel. Forget that scale!
3. Joint Pain Goes Away
One of the most common issues I see with people who run a lot or do a ton of cardio for their fitness is that they have consistent joint pain… or joint related injuries. Once again, this is due to how cardio eats away at muscle. When you strengthen muscle through exercise, those muscles will hold your joints in the correct position more tightly. So go ahead and drop low into the squat and hold that plank… your joints will sing your praises!
2. Muscle Improves Cardio
Building muscle improves performance. Your core muscles will be stronger which will help support you when you do other types of exercise… like running. Plus, your legs and arms will be stronger which means will push you harder and farther. And since you’re growing muscle most of the time rather than losing it, your occasional run will burn even more calories than ever before! Let’s not ignore one simple fact as well. Many strength training exercises will have you going from up to down, side to side, stop to go. This also strengthens your cardiovascular system. In fact, you’ll get better cardio lifting weights than you ever did running for hours.
1. Lifting Is Heart Healthy
I kind of touched on this above in #2, but let me clarify. Not only does strength training benefit your cardiovascular system and it’s functions… but recent studies have found that just 45 minutes of moderate intensity strength training can lower your blood pressure by 20%! That’s just as good… if not better… than that blood pressure pill you hate taking.
I hope this post has helped you to shed some of the misconceptions about lifting weights so you can make the decision to give it a real try. When done safely, weight training has a ton of benefits and very little risk of injury. It’s time to graduate from that repetitive cardio routine and start challenging your body so you grow stronger, more confident, and so you can hit those goals you’ve been chasing!
Here’s to a stronger you!
With all my ️,