This headline alone is probably going to get a lot of attention.
Cardio has got to be one of the most controversial topics in the fitness world. Lovers, haters, don’t really care-ers, you name it.
Disclaimer: If you are currently struggling with ED or in recovery and think that reading about this topic may result in a trigger effect or is a sensitive issue, please skip the rest of this post. I don’t want to offend or influence others, just share my personal experiences in hopes that they can help others. Everyone is different and knows how certain things affect their bodies and minds—it’s up to us to use our best judgment.
While everyone has their reason for loving cardio, hating cardio, love-hating cardio, etc. I wanted to share my personal story of why I quit cardio.
I knew for years that I did more cardio than was necessary. Even though I could honestly look a client in the eye and tell them they should focus on weight training and supplement with cardio, I was still doing it 5-6 days per week. I KNEW I didn’t need to logically, but emotionally, I NEEDED TO.
I had this fear in my head that if I stopped doing cardio, I would become an elephant with muscles. It’s true. Even though I knew this wouldn’t happen, I thought I was a freak of nature and that’s what would happen to me. It’s the same logic I have when I go in the ocean and think that if someone is going to get bitten by a shark, it’s going to be me. (butreallyitsgoingtobeme).
Over the years my focus has shifted several times. From wanting to be skinny, to wanting to be super lean and toned, to wanting to be muscular, to wanting to just be normal, to EVERYTHING ELSE YOU COULD EVER THINK OF. I’ve been training for 7 years straight, and to think that evolution of my training/mindset wouldn’t happen is silly. Of course it happened. It happens to anyone who trains for a long period of time. Goals change, life changes, and you make different decisions.
My focus finally shifted (although I had wanted it to shift much earlier than it actually did) to wanting to just be super fit and not being overly concerned with how I looked. I just wanted to eat healthy and feel good. I also wanted to be a fitness warrior. I’m an athlete and super competitive, so of course, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a warrior, but I was always afraid of letting cardio go because somehow that would make me some kind of an elephant warrior. I didn’t want to be an elephant warrior, I just wanted to be a regular warrior.
To be quite honest, I can’t remember exactly when I stopped doing cardio, but I think it was sometime last September maybe. I remember texting and e-mailing back and forth with Bret and him telling me to basically just lift heavy a few times a week. He said to keep doing the other things I was doing (not cardio-related) but to focus on my heavy lifting sessions each week. He promised my body would change for the better. No crazy diets, just good clean eating (which I was already doing) and a heavy lifting routine. I like to think that I’ve gotten less stubborn with age (though many would probably argue), and I actually decided to trust Bret and go with it (Lord knows how many times him and I have argued back and forth because I just had to challenge what he told me…sorry Bret!!! :)). I literally just stopped doing cardio altogether and started lifting heavy again and adding in new things like bouldering. What happened as a result of these changes was exactly the opposite of the elephant warrior I feared I would become….
First of all, I had forgotten how much I loved lifting heavy. That amazing feeling of lifting heavy shit and feeling like you can take over the world. It’s freaking awesome and I’m not sure why I stopped doing it (in exchange for more functional training). Secondly, I noticed how much more energy I had for my lifting sessions. I didn’t have that drained feeling I was used to (shocker there!) and actually pushed harder than I thought I could most of the time.
Over time, I started mixing up the heavy lifting days with full body plyometric/functional days as well. This includes exercises like burpees, medicine ball slams/thrusters, KB swings, Box jumps, etc. I had done all of these in my workouts before, but always before or after a cardio session. I could rarely just let that be my workout alone. Because I NEEDED to do cardio too…
In addition to creating a stronger, fitter, more functional me, my body started changing too. My arms are more defined, my abs are showing more and more, my butt is looking better than ever, my back is pretty shredded these days and most importantly, I feel GOOD. I feel mentally and physically awesome and I don’t miss cardio a bit.
Do I do cardio from time to time? Yes I do. I do 20 minutes on the stairmill maybe once a week (or not at all) and…well that’s about it. It’s usually just because I have a lot of meetings on Mondays and I need a break from sitting. I don’t miss running for the time being (and if I ever do, I’ll go running when I feel like it, not because I “have” to), and I DEFINITELY don’t miss the long sessions on the treadmill. I’ve actually tried to hop on a few times just to pass time while I’m waiting for something and it’s just the most boring thing on the planet.
Now before I get backlash for saying “cardio is bad”, please understand that is not the case. I do NOTTTTTT think cardio is bad. Not one bit. And if you hate lifting weights and just want to do cardio, DO IT!!! It obviously has GREAT cardiovascular benefits (duh, hence the name) and keeps your heart ticking at a nice leisurely pace. Cardio is NOT bad, just so we’re clear.
MY PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CARDIO WAS BAD. Because I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I was doing it to burn fat and stay in good cardiovascular shape, but knew it wasn’t necessary for me given the other activities that I do.
I train HARD. When I do a workout, I am sweating, my heart is POUNDING, and my breathing is heavy in almost every workout I do. I train like I’m training for an event. In fact, I’m often asked what I’m training for, but it’s just how I approach training. For me, training is not just an outlet, but a chance for me to prove to myself just how much I can do. I feel AMAZING when I push myself past my limits in the gym, and I treat it like I’m up against others. In my head, I don’t want anyone else to be more fit than I am, so I train with that mentality. I definitely get my cardiovascular benefits, and probably have more endurance now than I did when I was doing so much cardio.
My point in this post is to hopefully reach others out there who may also have a similar relationship with cardio. The people that aren’t out there running miles a day because they like running, but because they feel like they have to. To the people spending hours walking on a treadmill, not because they want to get a sweat for the day, but because they feel they HAVE to. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE I’M SPEAKING TO. Not the ones who enjoy it. Because if you enjoy running and biking and swimming….ENJOY THE HELL OUT OF IT. You’re doing a GOOD THING for your body, so don’t misinterpret me.
This is my personal story and it shouldn’t be the same as yours. It is merely to put some perspective on a struggle that I KNOW I am not alone in. I’ve had HUNDREDS of conversations with fellow fitness friends that go through the same struggle and I think it is important to show others that it doesn’t have to be that way and that you WILL NOT become an elephant if you stop doing cardio.
I’d love to hear your stories as well. Feel free to e-mail me if you’d like at FitLizzio@gmail.com.
Do you do cardio because you like it or because you feel like you have to?
Do you feel you have a good or bad relationship with cardio?