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How to Break Out of Cardio Cycle…or Should You? 

Do you find yourself prioritizing cardio workouts and neglecting strength? How do you break out of that cycle? And should you? 

This is a question I got when asking for blog topics and, like anything, the answer is “it depends.” 

If your goal is to run a marathon, or compete in an Ironman or any other endurance sport, doing a lot of cardiovascular training is a must and will most likely come with a cost to your muscle. 

Cardio is catabolic and, when you do more cardio than strength training, that’s the signal your body predominately “hears” and it will pare down muscle. It’s just the trade-off of being an endurance athlete. 

Now, if you are a cardio junkie because you think it’s best for fat loss or you’re not quite sure how to strength train, the answer becomes “yes, you should break out of your cardio cycle.” Strength training is superior to cardio in fat loss because the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn at rest. You may burn more calories DURING a cardio session, but you burn more all day if you have muscle. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – tone = MUSCLE. 

Now, I’m not proposing that you nix cardio altogether. It’s beneficial to be both strong and cardiovascularly fit. But, in our opinion, it’s most important that your body “hears” strength as the predominant signal. 

Strength training makes you more resilient and is more beneficial for hormone balance. 

To break out of your cardio cycle, look at your overall workout routine: 

  • If you currently do all cardio and zero strength training, start with just one day per week of hitting the weights. Over time, you can add another day or two.
  • This probably means canceling one (or more) of your aerobic days altogether.
  • If you’re a newbie to strength training, focus on your technique first, then start to challenge yourself with the weights being lifted as you start moving well.
  • You are going to have to learn to rest between sets and not move non-stop (HIIT is not quality strength training, it’s cardio) to send the proper signal and to also make sure you can bring intensity to each set.
  • Note that you may not feel sweaty and accomplished like you would from a long run. But, you can bring intensity to your strength workout in many ways – lifting heavy, doing tempo work (lifting slow to make the weight seem heavier), doing isometric holds, etc. 

Beyond that, make sure you’re getting lots of steps per day (NEAT – non-exercise activity thermogenesis – burns calories and keeps your body feeling good). And make sure you’re eating enough protein to build muscle and getting sleep and rest days to build and recover. 

OK, cardio junkies…who is with me?! Adding a few days of strength training per week can really make a difference in the way you look and feel AND it may just improve your cardio endeavors! 

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