Thursday, November 8, 2012


I think it's a four letter word to be honest! How much cardio should a person do? There is no set answer nor is there a right one. It all depends. It depends on the person, their caloric intake, their other training or sport and their goals.

But it's mainly about THE GOAL.

A while back I wrote that I would be increasing my weight training and decreasing my cardio "because I didn't like how cardio made me look". One of my readers asked about it, "what did you mean, you didn't like the way cardio makes you look?"

Let me explain. I think too much cardio makes most people look tired, ragged  emaciated and skinny. If you want to insult me, tell me I look skinny. Skinny is not attractive in my book, it is synonymous with starvation and eating disorders in my mind. 

The problem is, most people don't know when to stop doing cardio. They think it's the magic ticket out of the realm of fat. But it's not, take it from me. 

These pictures were just taken the day I write this. In fact, I almost always use current pictures, (I will tell you when they are older ones); it helps me see where I am everyday and it "keeps it real"; you see me year round as my physique changes and fluctuates.  You don't just see me at my best (but then you know that already huh)?

I think I look great- I am very happy with my physique right now. I am not dieting, in fact, I am enjoying quite a range of foods and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich moments before sitting down to write. (That was after a can of tuna mixed with a mashed up hard cooked egg and a huge spoon of dill pickle relish. Dill pickle relish has no sugar like sweet does).

My goal right now is to add muscle, lots of muscle. It is a difficult endeavor for a woman, we just don't have the necessary muscle building testosterone like men do. It is proven that you need a surplus of calories to build (fat or muscle); and you need a deficit to lose (fat or muscle). Anyone who tells you that you can add a significant amount pf muscle and lose fat at the same time is trying to sell you something, I guarantee it.

Yes, there are methods of "body re-composition"  where you can increase lean mass and decrease fat, but this is mainly for extremely overweight people. When you are at my level, where i have been training for a long time and my physique is fairly dialed in year round, it's more fine tuning and it's not as easy.

I look around at people who lift, then they head up to get their cardio in. These people are either competitors who are trying to lose fat (and they will probably do a second cardio session the same day), or they are people who never look any different. Their cardio wipes out all the hard work from their lifting. Many of these competitors will end up looking like they "dieted too long" when their competition rolls around, and it's because they did too much cardio.

A couple months ago I cut way back on cardio, and I stopped all steady state cardio altogether. I am doing "cardio" 2 times a week for 30 minutes, that's it! 

And I look like this.

I have been riding a spin bike with my gymboss, so I am basically doing intervals on a bike. I cannot tell you how important this little electronic gadget is, it ensures you stay on task and don't cheat. I set it on 3 minutes off (seated ride) and then 1 minute on (standing, hard pedaling, butt hovering over and just touching the saddle, all the power coming from my quads). There is a loud beep and a vibration (I need all the help I can get because my music is so loud) for 5 seconds at each start and stop point.

I am actually seriously considering eliminating all cardio for a while. It would be interesting to see how I change!

I still lift every single day, and on Wednesdays twice a day! So I am still quite active, in fact I am in a gym, lifting 70 minutes a day (2 days a week) and 120 to 150 minutes a day (the other 5 days a week, usually split into two sessions). Yes, that's over an hour on my "short" days and 2 1/5 hours on the "long" days.

This is the first time in years that I have done this, and I like the results. I look full, muscular, healthy and lean still. 

I think that eliminating most of the cardio has allowed my body to grow the way I want it to. And as I mentioned, I am not dieting, but it certainly is not a free for all! During the entire month of October I strayed into the Halloween candy only one day at work, that was it for candy.  I have been adhering to my typical diet where all food is weighed and measured, but I allow myself to eat with the family several times a week (when I am not lifting at night with Roy). 

How much was I doing before? A lot compared to now, but not a lot compared to many other people I know. I would do steady state cardio (treadmill or stairmill) for 30 minutes 5 times a week. In addition, I was running stairs and jumping rope at lunch 4 times a week. I will start in on this again, but not until I get closer to a competition, when I need to drop all the extra fat (and yes, I do have fat that needs to go for a competition).

I have replaced my cardio with heavy lifting. I train hard, as hard as possible every time I am in the gym. And Roy ensures that my weights go up, no stagnation, always improvements.

It shows that sometimes we can have blinders on about our training and diet. I have relaxed the diet a bit and cut way back on the cardio and I couldn't really be happier with the results.

Think about your cardio and training, and then assess your results. Are you happy? Have you been "busting your butt" yet not seeing the results? Maybe it's time to make a change. Yes, it was a bit frightening, I was sure I would blow up like a balloon, but I didn't did I? Not even close. 

Drop me a line if you want to chat about it and I will give you my honest opinion. I don't recommend making drastic changes if you have an event on the near horizon, such as a competition, or a wedding or vacation. But if you are ready to make some positive changes, think about it.

Set a goal and
Lift Hard.


  1. So reassuring! I really don't like cardio but love to lift. There's always a little voice in my head telling me cardio is better which gives me a dose of guilt. I'm excited to see how you change!

    1. Hi carla! I haven't heard from you in a long time, I hope things are going well. We all have that nasty little voice telling us cardio is good for us. And it is- if you do the right kind, at the right time and for the right reason!

  2. Thank you for your article... I too spend a 5-6 days in the gym and almost always finish out my weight training with 20-30 minutes of cardio,, mostly because i feel like if i don't i will get fat...

    I know its a MIND thing... My diet is super clean and in the last few years of training I don't eat a lot of carbs.. I struggle with gaining muscle. I have been doing a lot of reading on the subject and follow your posts for inspiration. Today was the day i decided to change one thing, although i think it may prove to be a huge change ( at least i hope so). I normally work out on an empty stomach early in the am.. today,, i decided to try and make "friends" with carbs.. .I had oatmeal and a whey protein shake 1 and half hours before heading to the gym.
    My workout seemed to have a whole level of endurance and strength and I notice it right away... Is this from having the carbs a few hours before lifting?

    I am a bit anxious that i will gain fat eating carbs .. can you give me some advice about healthy carbs and muscle building.. .I really need someone to set me straight.. I can't get it out of my head that carbs=fat and weight gain in the wrong places.....

    I too think cardio can UNDO alot of my hard work in the gym but am fearful to reduce it...



    1. Hi Cyanda-

      You are absolutely correct! The cardio is messing with any gains you are trying to make in the muscle building area! You need to decide: " do I want to remain thin and not worry about getting fat?" or "Do I want to add some good lean mass onto this frame of mine?"

      First, I think doing any exercise on an empty stomach is insane, I have read everything that everyone has written and there are still two camps- those who swear by it and those who don't. I don;t. Never have and never will. If our bodies just started using FAT for fuel because we didn't eat for several hours, and spared the muscle, then it would be os so easy for all of us to lose weight just by fasting for a few hours then hitting the gym. But you are using the muscle for fuel along with that fat I am afraid.

      You will gain weight if you eat too many carbs and/ or the wrong foods and it may be a while before you can experiment with it and get it right. When I am prepping for a competition, prior to weight training I have oatmeal (1/3 cup dry measure cooked) then a why protein drink prior to going to the gym. BINGO!!! It did help you in the gym and it will not make you fat. Unless you are a large person, I would not eat the 1/2 cup suggested serving size though.

      So the carbs helped you have a more effective workout, and that is what you need to gain- you need a good, hard session in the gym (over and over again of course).

      Look at all of those people who do all that cardio- they don;t look good do they? Or they never change, they stay the same.

      I would try just going for 3 to 4 days of cardio for three weeks and keep eating that oatmeal and see what happens. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised! Let me know how it goes!