Cardio Versus Strength Training

Around the Hook Today – November 2010

By Susan Patton, Personal Trainer, Eastpointe Health & Fitness

So you’ve decided to get yourself into shape. Congratulations! You’ve joined Eastpointe Health & Fitness.  Even bigger kudos! You have visions of your future self with leaner legs, defined shoulders and tighter arms.  You want to create a bit of a little “situation” out of your own abs.  Most of all, you want to increase your metabolism and your overall health.

Now what?

You dig through some old boxes you haven’t seen in a while to retrieve some old workout clothes.  You check yourself out in the mirror and decide to take off the headbands, wristbands and leg warmers and put them back in the box (hey, they could come back in style someday). You think, “Has it been that long since I worked out?” and instead, opt for a pair of sweats and a “Pete and Eldas” t-shirt.  On your way to EPH&F, you think about what won you that free t-shirt (eating an entire double XL pie yourself) and how many of them you have (27). Then you think about pizza.

Pulling into EPH&F, slightly hungry now, you boldly swipe your key tag as the front desk encourages you to “enjoy your workout!”  “Wait, I’m really here to workout?” you think as you stand before a conglomerate of people who seem to operate on auto-pilot.  They buzz busily around the gym, as if following a map, and you think “hey, where’s my map?”

Scanning the room in a panic, you search for the most familiar piece of equipment you can find and spot the cardio area.  Ahh, sweet stationary bike.  After a few weeks at the gym and careful observation of fellow gym members, you boldly venture on to a new piece, the elliptical. You bounce around from cardio piece to cardio piece, gradually adding onto your workout.  20 minutes, 35 minutes, 55 minutes! Wow! You feel better.  You actually like to sweat and you have more energy.  One problem . . .the scale is moving at a snails pace, you’ve only moved your belt buckle over one notch and your arms still jiggle when you celebrate an interception in the red zone on Sundays. “I’ve been working out for months and I don’t look any different, what the heck is the problem,” you ask?

Too much cardio.

That’s right!  Doing too much cardio can actually have a slightly adverse affect on your goals for a more svelte you.  Now, that’s not to say you should toss your time on the treadmill or bike completely, but if that’s all your workout routine consists of, you’re missing a huge piece of the pie (no, no, not pizza pie. Focus!).

The truth of the matter is that cardio workouts will burn calories and will help you lose weight, but it will NOT change the way your body functions.  Ask yourself this: “Do I want to just lose weight, or do I want to change the way my body functions?”  Now, I’m no Mysterion the Mind Reader, but I’m going to say you opt for the latter.  In that case, I’m going to introduce you to a part of the gym you may not have ventured into just yet, but holds the missing part of your workout regimen, the weight room.  That’s right, weight training will increase your metabolism, will change the way your body functions, and will help with that pesky belt buckle.

Never fear, I’m not talking about becoming the next Mr. or Miss Olympian, but adding just a few pounds of lean muscle to your frame will do your body wonders.  Yes, I said ADD.  Stay with me.

We’ve all heard that “muscle weighs more than fat” right? Wrong! A pound is a pound! (Gotcha).  It’s what that pound is made up of that makes all the difference.  In fact if you compare, side by side, a pound of muscle and a pound of fat, the muscle would take up two thirds of the space the fat takes up! They weigh the same but the muscle is smaller and denser.  Therefore, you can weigh the same, but look and feel completely different, depending on what makes up more of your body’s composition.  I don’t even own a scale.

Adding lean muscle to your body increases your metabolism.  For every one pound of lean muscle you have on your body, you burn approximately 50 calories, AT REST! That’s like giving your body extra points on the final exam, or overtime on the job.  It’s something your body will do naturally while you sleep, eat, work and play. 50 calories? Big deal right? I can knock off 50 calories chewing sugar free gum in a day.  That’s just one pound in one day. We need to look at the big picture here.  Say we replace 10 pounds of body fat with 10 pounds of lean muscle.  Now the numbers are more impressive:  500 extra calories at rest per day, at seven days a week adds up to 3500 calories! And guess how many calories just happen to be in a pound of body fat? Ding ding! That’s right Johnny, the answer is 3500 calories in a pound of body fat! Now tell’em what they’ve won: a leaner physique, increased energy, lower risk for killer diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, and a new wardrobe! (Well, that unfortunately would come out of your wallet, unless you have some great clothes that are in the box next to the headbands, wristbands and leg warmers. You just may want to consult your favorite reality TV star for its decade appropriateness.).

So get up off that cardio machine and start learning about the rest of the equipment at EPH&F.  Hey, you pay for a gym membership, right? Might as well use the whole facility.  Of course, it’s best to consult with a professional, especially when embarking on new territory in your workouts. EPH&F personal trainers will offer the best guidance towards the most efficient and safest ways of getting to your own personal goals, keeping in mind injury and the proper way of easing into a new workout.

And finally, be patient.  It can take up to 6 weeks for some people to develop 1 pound of lean muscle.  Think about how many years (and how many pizzas) it took you to get where you are now: five years, 10 years, 20 years or more? I can promise, if you workout the right way, stay consistent with it and follow up with some other adjustments in your lifestyle, the next 12 months could change your life.  Yes, one year, not five.  So good luck my friends and stay healthy!

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