Six months ago, a friend dared me to give up cardio for three months and focus on strength training. My initial response was, “No way! I’m a runner, I’ve always been a runner. There is no better exercise than running!” My friend was relentless and eventually I agreed to take a brief hiatus, although I was convinced that I would turn into a mushy ball of goo if I didn’t get in my daily run.
How I Changed My Workouts
Fast-forward six months. During this time, I’ve followed a low-impact exercise routine, which includes four days of low-impact strength activities such as yoga, one day of cardio, and one day of heavy weightlifting. And I have to say, the results are completely the opposite of what I expected.
How the Change Affected How I Look and Feel
What happened when I stopped doing cardio:
- I gained 10 pounds, but my body measurements decreased. This was perhaps the most surprising change that I noticed. Muscle tissue takes up much less space than fat. After nearly six months of strength training, I’ve added 10 pounds to my frame and my clothes are fitting better than ever—not to mention it feels good to look in the mirror.
- My energy levels skyrocketed. There is a reason why running burns so many calories: It’s HARD work! And when your body works that hard, you’re going to feel fatigued. Even if you sleep seven to eight hours a night, the physical strain of high mileage takes a toll on the body. I must admit that my energy levels are higher than they’ve ever been, even though I have a 5am alarm to fit in my exercise before work. In fact, I feel more fatigued on the days I don’t exercise!
- I’m not as hungry. This was a “well DUH” moment for me. Many people tend to focus on the calorie-burning power of running without stopping to think that your body will want to replace all those calories. Several weeks after I stopped running, I noticed that I had a much easier time regulating my food intake. I didn’t need to eat as much, but I felt fuller with the foods I did eat.
- I’ve noticed improvements in other areas of physical fitness. Previously, I was focused on distance, time, and miles. To me, a run wasn’t “a run” unless I ran at least four miles. Now I’m focused on how many pushups I can do with proper form (I’m getting close to 30!), how long I can hold a plank (nearly five minutes!), and how many pullups I can do (well, let’s just say I’m still working on this one).
- I have fewer injuries. Focusing on low-impact exercise and strength training has helped my body recover from more than two decades of intense, running-focused exercise programs. My legs no longer ache if I stand for more than an hour. My tight hip flexors are starting to relax, particularly as I focus on improving the flexibility and strength of my hamstrings and glutes.
In sum, to everyone out there who is worried about limiting their cardio because they don’t want to risk gaining weight, try it for three to four months. You might just be surprised at how different you feel and the gains you make!
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*Weight loss claims or individiual results vary and are not guaranteed.