Do you ever get sick of hearing that you won’t lose weight without proper cardio and that cardio is the heart of your program?
As an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, with an average of 19% body fat, I decided to experiment.
For three weeks, I participated in strength training, and conditioning without the addition of a cardio program. Aside from my normal walking, and daily step counts, I didn’t go for any runs more than a 1km jog on the treadmill as a warm-up. For three weeks. For most of you, you’re probably thinking “well, no running doesn’t sound too bad!”. But, for me, it was hard!
I love running. I am a mom with 3 kids, and 2 dogs, and running with a set of wireless earbuds in is my way of escaping the world. It is my COVID-19 vacation without wings. For me, it is the only escape in my little town – where everything I used to enjoy is shut down!
When this experiment started, and I was at 19.8% body fat and 139 pounds. March 13th, 2021, was the final weigh-in of my experiment. We will get to those numbers in a bit, first I want to break down exactly what I changed, what I didn’t change, and how this challenge affected my performance.
Upon starting, I continued to do my regular strength training and conditioning.
In the first week, my body felt confused.
Because I normally consumed a double scoop protein shake after my cardio sessions, my body felt super depleted of protein, but I only wanted to remove the cardio rituals, and not alter my other habits. It took my body a while to adjust to the lower protein intake. The first week I was very tired, and I had to lower the size of my dumbbells. This triggered some anxiety and stress for me. I have been very focused on increasing my weight, and this felt like a step in the wrong direction. By the end of the week, I got back to my regular weight amount and carried on as usual.
Week one was a personal trainers nightmare.
I kept my eating habits the same. A lot of water, green veggies, and lean proteins. I found myself craving sweets more often. I recently cut alcohol from my life completely, and the sweets became a part of my routine after that. But I feel like I had finally weaned off of them before ditching cardio. My skin started to break out badly and I felt even more tired. I tried so hard to eat right. Lots of veggies, good carbs. But I caved a few times. Which is normal in any lifestyle change. All in all, I feel I did well with the changes.
The second week was a bit better with no cardio.
I was able to push and pull my weights as usual, but my motivation suffered. Found myself eager to do anything but exercise and needed to force myself to my gym. I did a lot of shorter workouts and spent a lot of time relaxing and reading. Not my best week for gym commitments, but I struggled and my muscles were pretty sore. That double scoop protein shake was more important to my recovery than just after cardio! I did manage to get my minimum of three sessions in, regardless.
The third week hurt.
My muscles were sore. It was a constant feeling that I was coming down with something. I was irritable and didn’t want to work out at all; forced myself to meet my minimum, and found by the last day of no cardio, I craved being on the treadmill. Not just to go running, but also to do something for my body, that was different. I was so bored! I wanted to run away from those dumbbells!
So, all in all, the only things that changed in my plan were skipping cardio, and my double scoop protein shakes. But, without the cardio, I found I lacked the motivation to even continue my program. During my weigh-in at the end, I was 143 pounds (+4 pounds) and 22.4% body fat (+2.6%). None of my other measurements changed, except that I had gained 1 inch in my stomach and .25 inch on each of my thighs (so, 1.5 inches total) and not on any of the areas that I had been lifting weights to enhance. My girth measurements for my biceps and calves remained the same.
From this experiment, I believe that cardio is an essential component of any weight loss program.
Cardio training is an effective way to increase your heart rate, and get your body working off the extra fat, to reveal the toned figure you’ve been working towards. While I prefer running, there are so many other ways to meet your body’s cardio needs – swimming, fast-paced walking, rowing machine, elliptical, jump rope, biking – spin, recumbent, or street! There are many options for many abilities – so if you’re training daily and seeing no results, ask yourself about your cardio output!
Check out this program I have created to help you achieve a sculpted body with a blend of cardio and bodyweight style exercises: