Stop Getting All Cracked Out On Cardio! 4 Reasons To Try Something Else.

I see it all the time. I’m at the Hollywood YMCA and inevitably someone across from me is acting like a total lunatic on the treadmill or eliptical. Hair flapping around, teeth grinding, eyes squinting, grunting – huffing and puffing! This lasts at warp speed for about 45-60 minutes. Most people believe longer harder steady state cardio is the best way to get a rockin’ hot body and lose weight. While cardio has it’s purpose getting all cracked out on it is counter productive and you’ll end up gaining weight and suffering in the long run. (no pun intended.)

Here are 4 reasons why you should try something else for a change.

1. It really doesn’t take much mental effort to do cardio. You set the machine up and just go on autopilot. It’s thoughtless, virtually meaningless movement. It takes no real mental focus or muscular awareness to move back and forth on the eliptical.  There’s no real motor planning taking place.  This is not the way to achieve optimal health, physical strength and reduce weight.

2.  Cardio is boring. It’s so boring that unless you have an ipod you’ll never get through it. How many people do you know who are so excited to get on the elliptical or treadmill they are beaming from ear to ear and bouncing with joy? Not too many. There are the exceptions and for those few I’d say, go for it. But, you should still keep it to a maximum of 30 minutes.  If you are dragging your feet and dreading going to the gym because you “have” to get your cardio in then, to you I’d say…. STOP! Life is to short to spend any amount of time doing something you don’t enjoy. There are plenty of more effective ways to get your exercise in. Plus, your motivation to exercise at all is compromised because your experience of exercise is of something that you dread. Not good for longevity.

3.  Running 5 miles a day 1 – 2 x a day, 5 x a week or long burts of high intensity steady state cardio, can cause overuse & repetitive stress injuries and can cause your muscles to fall into a pattern of use. This type of regimen is very common in people who are trying to lose weight and/ or maintain weight loss. You will feel great doing this for a while, which is why so many people find it hard to believe that this can cause damage, injury, strain or weight gain, but eventually your body will start to wear down. Just ask all the long distance runners about their knee injuries and I’m sure they’d be happy to share their experience with you.

4.  Long hours of cardio can cause your adrenal glands to blow up. Okay, maybe not blow up, but your adrenals will definitely take a beating and stop working properly causing all sorts of problems. Your adrenals are two little glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Their job is to produce all the steroidal hormones: Cortisol, DHEA, Progesterone, Testosterone, Estrogens etc. These hormones all have different jobs but must work together. They must also produce a certain ratio of hormones to maintain homeostasis and do their jobs properly. Here’s what happens when you over do the cardio:  Cardio triggers a stress or “fight or flight” response in the body. This tells the adrenals to pump out cortisol. Cortisol levels rise at the expense of the other steroidal hormones. When this process is repeated too often or too long adrenal fatigue sets in and many physiological processes are compromised. Metabolism of fat and protein, weight and fat distribution, glucose homeostasis, muscle integrity, detox ability etc. are all processes of the adrenal glands. Think about that the next time you decide to go for your second 5 mile run of the day.

My advice is to cool it with the long steady state cardio. I recommend doing a 20-30 minutes of cardio 4-5 days a week max. Do pilates, do yoga, add resistance training, interval training, play basketball, go hiking, climb stairs, go swimming and add restorative movement like thi chi once a week. You’ll be amazing at the results you get with less effort.

Erin HugginsStop Getting All Cracked Out On Cardio! 4 Reasons To Try Something Else.

Comments 6

  1. Patty Blake

    Dear Erin-

    You are amazing! I LOVE your pilates videos, and this blog post is awesome :). I used to do crazy amounts of cardio believing the lies that it would help me to lose weight. What it resulted in was everything you wrote:
    -only being able to pound out a workout with music
    -no weightloss…no matter how much I did (sometimes I would be at the gym for 2hours doing different types of cardio!!!)


    I really focus on pilates, yoga, and moderate weight training. Like you said, I get in 20-30 min of cardio a few times a week. I have NEVER felt better in my life..

    Surprisingly, I have lost weight, and my muscles look more toned!!

    Much love,

  2. Gina

    Found this from your tweet….wow. I must admit, I am a bit disappointed, because I DO love spinning and I do it three times a week. I will move back to 2, and add an extra yoga practice in. Thanks for the article!

  3. Pingback: The Longevity Life Plan » Tabata Training for a Cardio Alternative

  4. Tia

    Thank you! I hate cardio and never lost weight with it. But after starting a simple yoga class and some weight training I have dropped 35 pounds!!!!!

  5. Diana

    I love this post. I see exactly the same thing at the gym and think people are killing themselves! They always do the same machine too. Some will only do the elliptical or only do the treadmill or only the bike. I see them day after day doing the same insane cardio workouts but no strength training.

    If I don’t mix it up I go insane. Plus I limit it to a maximum of 40 minutes of cardio and 40 minutes of strength.

    Your post just re-confirms what I already knew. 🙂

  6. Madame

    I always thought cardio was the be all, end all … the more sweat & pain = I’m losing weight/the better. Not until recently, being instructed by a professional – did I come to realize the hard truth of the strain on my body, over time it can cause … and finding alternatives, as proposed … has been a great and evermore adventurous experience! Amazing post!

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