Cardio vs. Weight Training

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My weight loss story of losing almost one hundred pounds after a body shaming moment by a rude receptionist at a day spa has literally been shared around the world.  I sometimes joke that I’m a little famous for being fat.  Well, maybe not quite “famous,” but even I’m surprised by where my story has been featured.  I often tell people I took a hundred first steps before I found what clicked for me, so it’s with that in mind that I always shake my head a little when people bandy about platitudes of “everything in moderation” or “it’s all about balance.”  Whenever one of these pithy little phrases crossed my path, my answer is always, “Moderation is for maintenance.”  When it comes to food choices, you need to know certain things about yourself and while I was on my way down the scale, I knew that I did not have the ability to have a half a cup of pasta, a single slice of pizza or two cookies without diving headfirst off the proverbial good intentions wagon.  So, for my own success, it was easier to have none of these foods than to try in vain to have a little.

When asked what some of my top tips are for how I’ve lost and, more importantly, kept off the weight, I typically explain how weight training was life-changing for me.  Any time I had ever tried to exercise prior to my much publicized “aha moment,” I always hit the treadmill or a group workout aerobics class.  I think this is true for many women.  It was only when I started weight training that I started to make real progress.  Women tend to be afraid to lift heavy weights fearing that they’ll bulk up.  Whenever someone voices that concern to me, I always reply, “If it was that easy to build muscle mass, don’t you think more men would be walking around looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday?”  Even when some women do venture towards the free weights, they tend to fly through repetitions and sets with weights that are much lighter than they’re capable of lifting.   My advice if you want to change the shape of your body, nix the weenie weights.  A set of twelve repetitions of any exercise should be challenging.  If you’re breezing through your reps, you need to increase the weights!

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Weight training does wonderful things for your body including increasing bone density, burning calories at a higher rate for a longer period even after you’ve stopped working out and building a pound of lean muscle mass burns more calories at rest.  There’s a lot to love about the benefits of weight training and that’s probably why I found myself wanting to spend my entire workout lifting weights.  While I didn’t heed the “everything in moderation” advice for my diet, I did come to understand that it’s actually very good advice when it comes to your workouts.

While I found that weight training and significantly reducing starchy white carbohydrates were key to my kicking a hundred pounds to the curb, cardio based workouts have their own benefits.  Cardiovascular exercise helps improve the strength of your heart and lungs, reduces tension, helps you sleep, boosts your mood, and of course, still burning calories.  I came to learn the merits of a balanced workout and find it easy to sneak in some cardio workouts.  I have a strict rule that, unless it’s a family movie or a big sports game, I won’t watch TV unless I’m on a piece of cardio equipment.  I DVR my favorite programs and hop on the elliptical, exercise bike or treadmill when I want to watch them.  I’ve also been known to walk the track or jog the stadium steps when my sons are at soccer practice.

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As for the diet, I still believe “Moderation is for maintenance” as a week’s worth of good choices, can be easily undone by your weekend choices.  Now that I’m in my weight range, I certainly occasionally splurge on treats that I really want and that feel worth it to me.  Now at my goal weight, I’ve adopted a philosophy of, “It’s not about never having a cupcake, it’s about not always having a cupcake. “As for the workouts, I’ve even come to appreciate the time to cool down, stretch and work on flexibility training as well.  Ultimately, the best workout is the one you’ll actually do and enjoy, but strike a balance and you’ll truly get the best of both worlds!