Tag Archive for #BYBY2016

Should I even do cardio???



Should I even do cardio?

What kind of cardio is the best?

How much should I be doing? 


These are questions that are coming up more frequently these days!


Maybe it’s the welcome changes in weather, warmer temps, more daylight hours in each day, or the promise of shorts and summer clothing being right around the corner…whatever the motivating factor is, questions—and opinions–about cardio are popping up everywhere.


So what kind of cardio should people do? And how much of it?




My answer is: it depends. (Surprise!!)


The kind of cardio you (choose to) do, and how much of that cardio you choose to do depends on:

  • How much time you have
  • What your body’s unique needs are
  • What your personal fitness or physique goals are
  • What you ENJOY doing




Now I’ve been working out for over 20 YEARS, but only working out effectively for the past 9.



In that time, I’ve tried lots of different classes, training programs, used a ton of cardio machines, and planned and taught boot camps, circuit training classes, and HIIT classes.




So I’ve been able to experience personally and witness, first-hand, the effects of different approaches to ‘doing cardio.’



The past year, in particular, has been super enlightening and really changed the way I work out AND the results I’ve gotten (which translates to better workouts and results for my clients, too!).



Here’s what happened…by way of a quick story.


At the beginning of April, I participated in the Big Windy 25 Memorial Run, held in honor of the Chinook crew and service members who perished in a crash in Afghanistan in April 2005. The run raises funds to support T.A.P.S.: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors—an organization that supports the family members of fallen military service members. http://www.taps.org




I’m telling you this because it was the first actual 5k I’d done in over 3 months, and I’m not sure I would have opted to run a 5k anytime soon if it hadn’t been for such a good cause.




Which is pretty funny, because I’ve been a long-time runner!




So what happened? Life happened, lol.




Actually, I phased out running last year after joining a CrossFit gym so I could participate in their kettlebell training program.




For the first 4 months, I tried balancing 2-3 runs a week with 3 days of hard training, but it didn’t’ allow my body enough recovery time and I always felt achy, tired and sluggish.




My hormones didn’t respond favorably, either, and I wasn’t seeing the physique results one would expect from working out so much!



So I made the decision to stop running last summer and give my full attention and commitment to a 5-day kettlebell training program. And it was definitely the right decision!



I recovered better and faster, and I began to see dramatic improvements in my strength and endurance during my kettlebell, barbell and conditioning sessions.



The absolute icing on the cake??  My physique tightened up after resting more and working out less.




Don’t’ get me wrong—there’s still been running involved in those workouts, but it’s been either an easy 400 meter warm up/cool down OR 100 to 200 meter sprints. And by sprints, I mean SPRINTS—all out efforts.



I’ll be honest—I was a little nervous about the prospect of running three miles—straight—with my husband, in a group of soldiers, since I hadn’t been running in a while. I was afraid I’d lost my running endurance and that I might embarrass myself.



But I was pleasantly surprised that my conditioning was more than adequate to run a strong 3 miles, and I was able to revisit that ‘meditative’ quality that running always offers me.



See, when I first started running, I ran to burn calories/lose weight.



Then, after I had kids, it was one of the most convenient ways to get some exercise (next to at-home dumbbell and bodyweight circuit training).



Plus, running truly saved my sanity and helped me calm strong fears and emotions for many years in a row, particularly during my husband’s deployments to Afghanistan.




Those longer runs taught me endurance, to tolerate discomfort longer than I wanted. They helped me train my brain and gave me the chance to be alone with my thoughts. And that repetitive rhythm really is like meditation in motion!



Now sprinting makes my body happier than lots of longer runs each week.



Sprinting has caused me fewer repetitive use injuries, and I credit sprinting for reshaping my physique dramatically—my legs and glutes are shapelier, and my body has become much leaner all over.





And, as I was reminded during that 5k, sprint workouts are just SO much more time-efficient!




That said, I’m going to find a way to work in a gentle run or two each week when it feels right, because yesterday’s run also reminded me how much I like the feeling of being in continuous motion—not because I need to burn more calories, lol.




So once again, the kind of cardio you (choose to) do, and how much of that cardio you choose to do depends on:

  • How much time you have
  • What your body’s unique needs are
  • What your personal fitness or physique goals are
  • What you ENJOY doing




While the physique and performance effects of sprint workouts are both dramatic and pleasing to me, I wouldn’t continue to do them if I didn’t enjoy them.



The same goes for running: if I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it.



My Bottom Line: I don’t ‘do cardio’ just for the sake of ‘doing cardio.’


And my recommendation to you:

Engage in workouts that are satisfying to you, constructive for your body, that work for your schedule, and supportive of your performance and physique goals.


If you’re not sure about what the right kind or amount of cardio is for you, then it might be helpful to answer a few questions:

What are your goals?

Do you have any injuries or inhibiting physical factors?

How much time do you have each day/week for workouts?

Do you like to exercise indoors or outdoors?

Do you enjoy cardio machines, or do you prefer classes?

Are you getting RESULTS from what you’re currently doing?

AND, most importantly, what do YOU like to do?


The way in which you answer these questions will help guide your choices about what kind of cardio to do (if any), how much, how long and how often.


And in case you’re looking for some new workout ideas, I send out time-saving workouts every Wednesday to my inner circle peeps, including some fun cardio training options.


If you’re not already on my email list, sign up here (and get a little bonus, too):  http://bit.ly/RLFWeeklyFitTips



Talk to you soon,



{Trainer Tip Tuesday} Be Like a Dandelion



If you’re in the military, you’re probably aware that April is the Month of the Military Child.  




If you’re not in the military or affiliated in some way with the military, you just learned something new!  




Throughout the month of April, different memes dedicated to military children circulate through social media, many of them featuring a dandelion.






The dandelion is the flower of the military child–and for good reason.  

Dandelions, among other things, are tenacious.  


My tenacious dandelions.





Tenacious might actually be too gentle a word to describe them, actually!  Have you ever tried to rid your lawn or garden of dandelions?  





Each spring, it’s a war in my little backyard, and I hate to admit it, but the dandelions are slowly winning…because of their tenacity.






Dandelions just don’t quit.  






Despite the war I’m waging against them, I really admire dandelions.






They grow wherever they’re planted, they reach for the sun tirelessly, they spread what they have to offer prolifically, and they never stop trying to come back.






So what the heck does this have to do with fitness??  Only everything.






One of the challenges we often face where our fitness is concerned is not being tenacious enough when things aren’t easy.





A kid gets sick.  



We get sick.  

Our schedule changes.  

Work becomes more demanding.  

There’s a crisis in the family.  

We develop an injury.  

Our workout buddy moves away.  

WE move away.  






All of these events can happen, or have happened, at some point, and they can really knock us out of our workout habits and practices.






A short break becomes a longer break, and pretty soon we’re so far ‘off track,’ we don’t know how or feel we have the will to find our way to get back ‘on track.’







This is where being like a dandelion comes in.  




This is where developing and maintaining tenacity comes in.  






The main reason I created “Your Plan B Playbook’ (you can grab a copy by signing up here: Plan B Playbook) was to create a tool by which others could also develop and foster their own tenacity.






Being an Army spouse, now living overseas, has presented me over the years with a slew of challenges.





In the early years of being married to the Army, these challenges DID knock me off track–and that made me sad, angry, resentful, hopeless, and generally feeling like a failure.





I could not see a way out of my situation or any alternative by which to reach my health/fitness/weight loss goals.





Then I took a nasty fall from a friend’s cranky barrel racing horse.  Well, the fall wasn’t so bad–it was kind of a graceful dismount actually–but the landing messed me up.





I landed full PLF-style on my right side on some very hard Louisiana clay, causing trauma to my lumbar spine, both SI joints in my pelvis, and two broken ribs.





In the weeks and months after that accident, I had to decide whether I was going to live as an injured and inhibited person, or do what it took to get better, get stronger.





It took a year of physical therapy and diligent work with a personal trainer, but I did get better–and stronger and more resilient.  






And tenacious.  






Tenacity is defined as being ‘persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired.’  







But how do we get or develop tenacity when we feel like we’re on the ropes?







Over time, I’ve found three things that help develop and foster tenacity on the fitness front.

1. Have a backup plan (or multiple backup plans!) ready to go.  




Your Plan B Playbook’ was born out of a need to have a backup workout options ready to go for all those times where one of my kids was suddenly ill, my husband was deployed, or other life circumstances messed with my plan A workout.  





Knowing I had a plan b, c, d, e and even f ready to go alleviated a ton of stress and kept me consistent with my workouts.






Being able to workout despite unpleasant circumstances also helped me cultivate tenacity through self-confidence:  every time I got that workout in during a challenging time it made me more confident I was capable of continuing on and doing it again the next time things got challenging.






 ” The more I accomplish, the more I know I’m capable of accomplishing.”  ~ Tawny Lara



2. Be a part of a ‘tribe.’  




Being a part of something bigger than yourself can bolster your will and determination when you’d rather just skip a day or quit. 





Social media offers a way to find and connect with like-minded people who can serve as a support network or accountability group.





Recruiting friends on Facebook to be a part of an ‘exercise tribe’ with similar goals or lifestyles can be a great help–you’re there to both encourage others when they need it, and they’re there for you when you need a pep talk or a kick in the pants 🙂





Having a workout community can be the difference between ‘I give up’ and ‘I can do this.’





3.  Dedicate your workouts.




When you don’t feel like working out or going for a run, dedicate that sweat session to someone.





I started doing this in 2011, but only privately–as in my own head, not through any official organizations.  I often choose to dedicate that workout to either those who have passed or those who would love to get up and move, but can’t.





It changes I ‘have to workout’ into ‘I get to workout.’  





There are many different organizations where you can connect with a cause or an individual and dedicate your miles/sweat sessions to them, such as IRun4 .  Or you can create your own dedications and even wear them, such as with grace bands.






When you struggle to get out the door, or into your workout clothes or to the gym, take a moment and dedicate your workout to someone who can’t. It may change your ‘task’ into an experience of gratitude and appreciation.






Every year, as they consume more of my grass, I admire dandelions a little bit more.





And I strive to emulate them–to be tenacious, to grow where I’m planted, to seek the sunshine and stand tall, and to spread what I have to offer prolifically.







When you’re struggling, or someone near to you is struggling, scrounge up that tenacity.






Be like a dandelion.  





Those things don’t quit.



Talk to you soon,




Have Vision Beyond Your Circumstances



There are times when it can be hard to see or recognize the promise and potential outcomes of our actions, our daily hard work and efforts.



Times when we’re thick in the middle of ‘it,’ whatever it may be (a new nutrition plan, working out, building new skills, starting a new job…), when we feel stuck.



We feel unsure of our efforts–we feel unsure that our efforts will pay off or pay out the way we want them to so badly.




We’ve invested ourselves, with our precious resources: time, energy, sacrifice, money, and although we’ve been putting in the effort, we’re not sure we’re making headway.




This is the time when we have to do what I call ‘Grit forward with faith.’




We have to continue to invest ourselves in the pursuit of our goals/dreams, because transformations (of every kind) take TIME.



They take MORE time than we think they *should.*



That doesn’t mean our efforts aren’t working, that we aren’t getting closer to our goals/dreams; it just means we can’t SEE the payoff…YET.



It means we need to continue to invest our time, effort, energy, and hopes. It means we see beyond the place where we feel ‘stuck,’ and to recognize that, however slow it may be, progress is progress.



It means we need to, as Brendon Burchard says, have vision beyond our circumstances.



Keep your eye on the prize. Never doubt that your hard work today is fruitless; truly it’s the only thing getting you closer to your goals, to being that person you wish to be in the world.



See the potential for a different future for yourself, and keep gritting forward in faith.





Workout Wednesday: Let me introduce you to the Leg Blaster.



It’s Workout Wednesday!



Today’s workout is a simple but brutally effective finisher. I say finisher, because I wouldn’t want to have to use my legs for anything else afterwards. lol 😉



I picked this one up today from the Mountain Tactical guys as part of the Military Athlete Advanced Training Program, so I didn’t make it up myself–BUT I can vouch for its effectiveness!



Leg Burner Finisher:
Perform 3 (or more!) rounds of:
20 Air Squats
20 Lunges (10/side)
20 Jump Lunges
20 Jump Squats



No weights additional weights needed–trust me.



3 rounds took just a few seconds over 5 minutes for me today, so this would be a big bang for your buck workout if you didn’t have much time, too. And trust me, you will feel it.



Can you say Jello legs??




If the reps are too high, then scale them down to 10 and add rounds. It’s more important to do them well and keep control of every rep than to push through sloppily.




You can always work up to doing more!




Try this one out, and let me know what YOU think of it 🙂


Maybe next week I’ll try 4 rounds….




Trainer Tip: Make Your Breakfast Meet YOUR Needs.



Today’s Trainer Tip: Make your breakfast match your needs.


I used to be an avid breakfast eater–I always had a hearty breakfast and was usually starving when I woke up. Of course, those hearty breakfasts needed to fuel me for a few hours of training clients before I did my own workout.



These days, I wake up, get the kids to school and get my workout on early in the morning–and these workouts are most often pretty demanding ones. As a result, I’ve totally changed my breakfast regimen to meet my current needs.



Since I work out early in the day (and I have a sensitive stomach), I try to make my breakfasts on the smaller side and easily digestible–which means light on the protein and heavier on the carbs.



My workout breakfast go-to’s: apple pie steel cut oats, basic oatmeal, or banana breakfast cookies for the most part, WITH a cup (or two!) of coffee, of course 😉





But on days when I’m not working out early (aka: weekends!), I aim to have more protein and maybe a bit less carbohydrate and throw in fruits or veggies as well. That means eating any assortment of scrambles, cottage cheese protein pancakes, not-quite-gluten-free banana pancakes, greek yogurts, etc, and even a salad with hard boiled eggs on occasion. Gotta get those greens!


IMG_9711 IMG_9653

Bottom Line: There are no absolute hard and fast rules about what’s best to eat for breakfast. It’s just one of many meals you’ll get throughout the day.



–>If you hate eating first thing in the morning, don’t! Technically, anything you consume in the first 3 hours qualifies as ‘breakfast.’



–>Don’t like ‘breakfast foods’? Eat whatever you want! Leftovers from last night’s dinner, if you feel like it.



–>If you have a big morning ahead of you, it’s a good idea to eat slower-digesting foods that will keep your energy level for a few hours–protein and lower GI carbs and veggies.



–>If you have a big workout ahead of you, maybe you want to eat on the lighter and quicker to digest (and give you energy) side, like some of the options I listed above.



**Whatever you choose, make it work for you–for your current body, lifestyle, taste preference and scheduling needs!**



And if you’d like to get the recipes for ALL the breakfast foods I mentioned above, they’ll be going out to my inner circle peeps in Friday’s email newsletter along with the workout of the week.


Grab your copy by signing up here! http://forms.aweber.com/form/80/1451138380.htm




the ONE question we need to ask.

There is ONE question we need to ask ourselves.  ONE question that can make a huge difference in our choices, and therefore our results.



This is THE question we really need to ask anytime we want to make a big change or start something new, and I think it’s a question that many of us kind of skip over in the hurry to just do that next big new thing!







I remember about 10 years ago I wanted to change my hair—specifically, I wanted to go red/auburn rather than the blond highlights I’d been sporting for the few years prior. So I did!



With the help of a quality hairdresser, we made me a redhead in the course of a couple of hours.






Awesome, right?!? Hmmmmmm…it was awesome until most of the color had washed out of my hair in the first 10 days and I was scrambling to get the right shampoos and conditioners to make it last longer.



It was great until the third week when all of my gray hairs came sparkling out for all the world to see—and even at 31, I had lots of them.




By the fourth week, I realized there was no way I could reasonably maintain this hair color without a huge amount of energy and expense. So I went back to the more manageable blond (gray hair camouflaging!) highlights.



And then what….




There was the time I threw myself into training for a marathon in 6 months—except I wasn’t in shape AT ALL and ended up with a stress fracture 3 months in.




Seemed like a great idea in the beginning, when I was going to raise money for charity and lose 20 pounds of post-breakup weight gain!




And then what….




Then there was the time right after I’d gotten married, and my husband was stationed in Germany while I was still living in Seattle, finishing up the school year before (hopefully) moving to Germany with him, when I felt the need to ‘get skinny’ by exercising more and taking Hydroxycut. This was back when Hydroxycut was the full-ephedra variety—before people figured out this caused cardiac issues.





I lost some weight/leaned out a little, but not a ton since I wasn’t changing my diet—the pills were going to do the work for me!—but I gained a nasty temper, borderline anxiety attacks, a manic response to everything which added to my insecurities instead of making them go away.





Even so, I kept taking Hydroxycut for a while because it was a great pre-workout stimulant (insert face palm here), I didn’t think I looked good enough, and I was afraid of what would happen if I stopped taking it.





In each of those situations, and so many more, I just acted—took drastic action, in fact—without ever stopping to consider what would happen on the other side of that decision—And Then What??





It’s like when we go on a diet. We are all kinds of charged up to make a big change in our weight, our appearance and we just can’t wait to feel and look better! We throw ourselves in, full steam, and do what it takes until we finish the program or hit the right number on the scale.




What we so many times forget, or just neglect, to ask is: What happens AFTER I finish this diet/challenge/program?





We do the 21-Day Fix, investing the roughly $140 for the kit—because this is going to FIX things!


We lose weight and inches.


We get compliments.


We feel accomplished…And then what?



What happens the next 21 days?




Do you do another 21-day fix, or do you go back to your old habits and regain all you lost—including some confidence?




We decide we’re going to follow one of the Herbalife or Shakeology plans, complete with all the necessary products, for a month.



We lose weight—because we’re definitely taking in fewer calories and maybe getting the ‘help’ of some appetite suppressants.



But the plan isn’t sustainable. It doesn’t account for birthday parties, and social occasions, and it costs a small fortune that really isn’t in your monthly budget.




And then what?




Do we try to find a way to keep up with the cost of these products?



Do we just go back to our old habits? Do we turn to another, less expensive weight loss product to help us ‘keep it off?’




The one question to ask before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, before we spend a bunch of money on a weight loss kit, challenge, plan, pill, potion or program: AND THEN WHAT?





What will we do on the other side of that choice and effort?



What will we do when the challenge is over, or the diet has reached it’s desired effect?



If we take a pill, potion, prescription or supplement system, do we plan to take it FOREVER?




When we stop taking the product, and I seriously doubt any of us plan to take a weight loss supplement all the way into old age, WHAT HAPPENS THEN?



The biggest problem with all these diet and weight-loss programs, products and approaches is that they are simply designed to be temporary.




They were never built, or meant to last. They were created to provide a financially lucrative band-aid.





But what about when we start with small habit changes, like we’ve been talking about lately? When we are able to make roughly 26 of those small habit changes over the course of just one year, we can also ask And Then What?




Then we are on a successful, sustainable path towards maintaining a healthy weight and body composition, not to mention sparing our sanity and our pocketbooks.




We are in the process of finding the true-forever solution—the one that fits us best, adapts to our lifestyle, that we like and have ownership of, that’s what.



We know ourselves, we trust ourselves, we are in charge of ourselves—and it’s freaking awesome.




THAT is something no diet, pill, potion, program or challenge will ever be able to give us.




Oops, I did it AGAIN.


I felt so strong, and happy, and proud, and ready to take on new challenges after physical therapy.


During that session, I was able to fully appreciate how much progress I’ve made in the treatment of my lumbar/SI joint issues since I started treatment in December (2014).


I have progressed in difficulty in all of my exercises, I’ve developed an even greater level of body awareness and muscular control, and, best of all–I’ve been pain free for weeks.


My efforts are paying off, and that’s a source of great comfort, hope and pride for me.  I walked around like I was ten feet tall the rest of the day.




Until I reviewed the proofs from my most recent photo shoot and turned into my own worst critic.


Nevermind that those photos showed my strength, nevermind that I was my most relaxed and the happiest I’ve ever been when getting my picture taken, nevermind that there are some gorgeous shots in that collection.


The thing my tired mind zoned in on:  all the ways in which I wasn’t CUT or RIPPED or LEAN or….WORTHY.





I thought I was way past this kind of thinking, of getting my self-worth tied up in, and defined by, aesthetics.


I’ve spent the past two years in particular getting comfortable in my own skin, encouraging other women to adopt more positive body images–to love their bodies ‘as is.’


I’ve focused on practicing gratitude rather than criticism and comparison and I still fell into the trap of comparing myself, my body, to the images I see so often in social media.


Shoot, I even compared myself to my ‘old self,’ which I guess freaked me out even more.  WTF.


I went to bed, struggling with myself, trying to ‘right the ship.’  And when I woke up the next morning, I had a moment of clarity:



These are the only times I feel dissatisfied with my body:

  • When I look at fitness photos of other women and then compare them to my own (or compare my current self to my ‘old’ self)
  • When my body doesn’t feel strong, capable of performing at the level I’m accustomed (and this is usually due to a lapse in training–which is easy to get over, because I’m always actively planning my ‘comeback’)



The times I don’t like my body the most are the times I focus purely on the superficial and/or COMPARE myself to images of others or to my past body.  HOW FREAKING RIDICULOUS.  It was another reminder that “comparison is the thief of joy.”



What the most recent pictures can’t show is how much better I feel in my body now than I did in the past.  How much more capable an athlete, person, trainer and coach than I’ve ever been before.  How much more kind, compassionate, understanding and supportive I’ve grown–to myself and others.


Understanding what triggers my feelings of dissatisfaction and lack of worth, I turned to the other side of the equation:  when it is I feel most satisfied with my body.



These are the times I feel the most at peace with, and proud of, my body:

  • When I run
  • When I lift heavy things
  • When I can do difficult tasks safely (moving heavy boxes, tires, carrying my 65-pound dog up and down the stairs, etc.)



And those times are pretty much everyday occurrences.


Here’s what I know for certain:  Focusing on aesthetics (how you look) alone as a motivator and way to evaluate success (and worth) vs. failure (and lack of worth) is a surefire recipe for never, ever being satisfied.  It’s like constantly aiming at a moving target–FOREVER, because aesthetics are transient.


I refer to it as chasing the ‘Aesthetics Unicorn,’ because it’s about as possible to ‘catch’ and keep a physique permanently as it is to catch and keep a unicorn.



Our bodies are always changing, adapting, and AGING.  We just can’t look exactly the same as we did or exactly as we think we should all the time. It’s just not possible.  It’s also permanently dissatisfying.  What a way to live.



I might have gone there, to that joy-stealing-aesthetic-comparison-never-quite-good-enough place for an evening, but I sure as hell don’t want to live there.  And I sure as hell don’t want YOU to live there either.


Here’s how I pulled myself back from ‘the ledge’:

  • I identified my emotional trigger:  comparison, focusing only on the superficial physique, judging myself in a one-dimensional manner
  • I challenged the negative thoughts and examined their validity:  Does my leanness really reflect my true fitness, my message, my skills and abilities?  Is it a good measure of anything I stand for or hope to accomplish?  Am I serving others by engaging in this kind of thinking?
  • I redirected my thinking in a positive direction:  I considered all the things I’m proud of and feel good about.  None of them had to do with having or maintaining a super low body fat percentage.  All of the things I am proud of are performance-based:  pull ups, running, lifting progressively heavier weights, learning new and challenging movements and exercises as I age, setting a positive example for my kids, clients, community of what positive thinking and consistent hard work can accomplish.
  • I expressed my gratitude for a healthy and mobile body.  Not everyone gets or has one of those, I’m going to appreciate mine.


==>THIS is exactly why I started choosing to focus on performance-based goals rather than aesthetics-based goals about 2 years ago.

==>THIS is why I continue to focus on performance-based goals as my source of challenge, motivation and worth.

==>THIS is why I encourage my clients so strongly to focus on performance-based goals, too.

==>THIS is why I promote doing things like pull ups and push ups so much.


Turning the focus from the outside (appearances) to the inside (muscular strength and endurance) builds a healthier mindset, a more positive outlook, and a more satisfying life experience.


My new healthy thinking mantra, to combat any of those icky negative thoughts that will inevitably pop in from time to time:


“I work out to be more of myself, not less.”





When you have those moments when you feel ‘less than’ or allow yourself to go to that ugly place of comparison, try to:

  • identify what triggers that feeling,

  • stop the negative thought from running away with you,

  • redirect your thoughts into a positive direction–find something to praise,

  • practice gratitude for the body you have,

  • and work your mantra.


We all go ‘there’ sometimes, but we sure as hell don’t want to stay there.

Friends don’t let friends be cardio bunnies! (Or, how I barely kept my mouth shut in the locker room)


I swear I wasn’t eavesdropping.



I was just changing out of my running shoes and into my lifting shoes (yes, I wear different shoes for different activities, lol) and they were loud. Very loud.



And it was all I could do to just change my shoes and not open my mouth–because I know that free advice is worth all you pay for it AND no one asked for my input.



It was still REALLY hard to shut up on this one.



One woman was complaining to the other that no matter what she did, her body just wouldn’t change.


  • That she had horrible genetics.
  • That she worked out TONS throughout the week–biking or spinning a few hours a week, running a bunch, then putting in long-duration efforts on the weekends–you’d think with all the calories she was burning, she’d lose more weight (her words)!
  • That she used to really follow a strict eating plan, but that after a while, she ‘just couldn’t hack it.’
  • That she was now considering adjusting her caloric intake, increasing it from 1200 calories because she wasn’t making any progress and she was starving all the time.


The one commiserated with the other. She just couldn’t, despite her best efforts, get her body to budge either.





You can see why it took iron will on my part not to bust into that conversation!!!



But I wasn’t infuriated or frustrated with THEM.



I actually feel a ton of compassion for them, and for so many others (mostly women) who struggle with their weight, cardio-ing themselves into the ground, restricting calories OR being disconnected from the impact of their eating habits, doing the same old strength training workouts, or barely strength training, grinding themselves down but getting nowhere.



It’s the ‘do more cardio to burn more calories’ approach that prevails all too often that kills me. That and the ‘I’m not getting results, so I’ll cut my calories to 1200 (or below)’ practice (a separate topic).



More cardio, longer cardio, fasted cardio…these alone are not going to help you burn fat/lose weight.



When women think they just need to run/spin/bike/elliptical for longer to make their body cooperate–no, to make it submit–it makes me cringe.



And I’m a runner, a distance one at that, so that’s saying a lot coming from me.




Don’t get me wrong, cardio has it’s place, and for many good reasons (a great read on the topic: http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/long-duration-low-intensity-cardio/). BUT it shouldn’t be your only form of exercise, and more is not (always) better.



The problem that a lot of women have is that they do cardio exclusively, do the same kind of cardio repeatedly, and do that cardio at a very moderate intensity.



Initially, when you’re building up your fitness base, you need this kind of cardio to burn calories and help your body adapt and grow stronger so it can handle more challenging kinds of movement (with greater impact) later.



But there comes a point when there are diminishing returns, and the body gets used to the kind of cardio you’re doing and gets more efficient, and finds ways to use less energy to get the same job done. And when the job is the same over and over again…the result is less caloric output, and no further muscle development.



Which brings me to the topic of muscles. What pops into your head when you hear or read the word ‘muscles?’ Arnold? The Rock? A cover model for a fitness magazine? (I’m an exercise geek, so I picture muscle fibers and muscle bundles, lol).



My point is that we, as women, too often perceive the terms ‘muscle’ and ‘muscle development’ to mean busting out of our clothes like the Hulk on ‘roids.




That concept scares the bejeebers out of tons of women who don’t want to get ‘bulky’ and think lifting anything greater than a 10-lb. weight (five, if they listen to Tracy Anderson *insert visible cringe*) will cause their muscles to burst out of their shirts.




I promise this is not true. I swear to you it’s not true. I’ve been training hard and lifting heavy for several years, and I’ve only gotten more compact, not larger.




April 2016: After a year of lifting the heaviest weights I’ve ever lifted consistently. No bulking.

In all actuality, lifting challenging weights consistently is one of THE greatest ways to improve your metabolism and your body composition (muscle:fat ratio, simply put).


It creates a situation where your body needs to use more energy to repair the micro-damage caused to muscle tissue when it’s challenged through weight (resistance) training, and using more energy means burning more calories.



All. Day. Long. Like 24/7 (It adds to your NEAT–that’s a topic for another blog).



More active muscle tissue means greater caloric burn all the time, AND even greater challenge (more caloric burn) when you do cardio, because the muscle fibers have been taxed in a new way and have to work a little harder to do that same old job.



Which brings me back to cardio.



Cardio is wonderful, and amazing, and soothing, and there is definitely a place for steady-state, longer-duration cardio in most people’s fitness plans. It’s good for endurance, it’s good for cardiovascular health and efficiency, it creates a nice, meditative ‘hum’ in the brain (my particular favorite, as running keeps me sane!).



All good things.



Also all things that won’t be continue to be great contributors to fat loss (weight loss) and body composition changes after a certain point. What will be a great contributor to continued body composition changes is changing things up a bit.



I mentioned I’m a runner, so obviously I don’t detest or demonize cardio. I don’t train the same way, for the same mileage, at the same intensity day after day, however. I like distance running–ALOT–but each of my runs during the week serves a different purpose.



I usually run three to four times a week, and these runs will include: one long-distance steady-state run to work on my endurance (especially if I’m training for a half-marathon), another run will be a middle-distance tempo run where I run at the fastest sustainable pace I can manage throughout the whole run, and another will be a sprint session where I run Tabata-timed sprints or 30-second sprints or hill repeats to improve my power (VO2 max).



But you don’t have to be a runner to adopt the same kind of approach to your workouts.


Whatever your preferred cardio modality (method), changing the intensity and duration of your workouts throughout the week can be a game-changer.



One longer duration, one sprint session, one ‘tempo’ session at the edge of your ability, and one interval session can make a world of difference in one’s body composition (and boredom factor!).



I also love circuit and interval training. This is where lifting weights and cardio intersect 🙂



Good Stuff.



My favorite circuits are ones that alternate between a strength training exercise and a cardio interval or ‘burst.’ Moving as quickly as you can, with good form, from one exercise to the next, with brief rests between, stimulates greater caloric expenditure than just plodding away on the treadmill or step mill for hours.



10 minute kettlebell training sessions and other short ‘sprint’ workouts have created a much leaner physique than long runs ever did.

It also gives your heart a different kind of conditioning than steady-state cardio, which is beneficial as well–the two conditioning effects on the heart tissue are a nice combination (again, read Mike’s article). Usually, I include at least one circuit or interval session in my weekly workouts, as well as two more traditional weight training sessions.



THIS form of ‘changing it up’ is what your body needs to change, not just more cardio.



So when it comes to cardio, remember the adage: “More is not better. Better is better.”



Swapping out some longer cardio sessions for weight training and circuits? Even better.



But please don’t try to support your new, muscle-building (think SHAPING) and interval training efforts on 1,200 calories or less. That’s a recipe for disaster. And a subject for another day….



And remember:  Friends don’t let friends be cardio bunnies!


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