Could you or someone you know be royalty without even realizing it? Take this 'YES or NO' quiz to find out!
If you answered YES to the majority of these questions, then I now crown you Cardio Queen!
Before you claim your royal title, I need to know one thing: Does your fitness goal include losing fat, increasing lean mass and accelerating your metabolism so that you burn more calories at rest? If you answered yes to this as well, you may want to reconsider donning that crown.
But first, allow me to applaud your commitment to exercise. The fact that you incorporate movement into your day already demonstrates that you value fitness. Making exercise a habit is a critical step in your path to wellness.
My guess is, though, that if you've been performing steady-state cardio for a while (meaning, aerobic activity that is a continuous, steady effort, as opposed to an interval workout where you vary your intensity, allowing for periods of recovery), one or several of these has occurred:
Am I right? Here's some additional insight from one of my favorite fitness experts, Rachel Cosgrove, who co-owns one of the most successful gyms in the country and writes for numerous reputable fitness magazines: "Your body quickly adapts to steady state aerobic activity, decreasing the amount of calories you burn with each walk/run, making you more and more efficient at the activity. This is the goal if you're training for an endurance event – to be super efficient using the least amount of energy (calories) possible to complete the distance. You want just the opposite if you're trying to lose fat."
Numerous studies support this, including this one from the American Journal of Medicine --
I had a client, who is now a good friend (I love when that happens!), who began her fitness journey attending one cardio-based group fitness class most days of the week. Then it progressed to two classes per session. Eventually, she began jogging a couple of miles on the treadmill before classes. She came to me exasperated, exhausted and feeling like she was losing the weight management battle, not to mention her free time. I recall asking her two questions: "How's your diet?" and "Are you doing any strength training?" Her diet was mostly liquid--sweet tea--and she wasn't doing any strength training for fear that it would make her bulky. Please, lady friends, put that myth to rest! While some of us may have an easier time than others adding defined lean mass, we women lack the natural hormones to develop man muscles.
Ok, so back to my client. Once she cut the sweet tea, added real food to her diet, especially healthy amounts of protein, drastically reduced traditional cardio and emphasized circuit-style weight training into her program to build muscle and burn significant calories, she noticed immediate results. Very quickly, she became strong, lean, shapely and energized. Beyond that, she reclaimed her schedule by cutting her time in the gym by more than half.
Are we saying that you should never perform steady state cardio? Absolutely not. It builds endurance, conditions your internal organs, releases feel-good endorphins, and improves our mental state. Furthermore, as I reported in a previous blog, "An individual's cardiorespiratory fitness level is one of the strongest predictors of morbidity and mortality." (NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Fourth Edition Revised). But if your goal is fat loss, steady-state cardio should not take precedence over muscle-building strength training or metabolism-revving interval training. If you are an endurance competitor, then by all means, perform steady state cardio as that is training for your sport. That said, even distance athletes benefit from strength training.
So, where does that leave your Cardio Queen crown? Hopefully, on your mantle, at least for most days of the week. On other days, swap it out for weights, a kettlebell or bodyweight exercises performed in interval fashion. For example, after warming up, perform exercises as intensely as you can--and with correct form--for, say, 30 seconds. Then rest for 60-90 seconds. Repeat all work/rest intervals for a total of 15 minutes. As your conditioning improves, reduce the length of your recovery, as low as 30 seconds. And if you're a serial cardio class taker, reclaim some time in your life by skipping three one-hour classes and lifting weights instead for 20 minutes. Imagine what you could do with the two hours you'll get back from that simple decision!
Need help putting an interval training and/or metabolic resistance training program together? You know where to find me!
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Molly is a wife, mom,
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.