Bye bye cardio

Bye bye cardio

Running is my drug of choice. Lacing up my joggers fills me with elation, completing my compulsory five minute warm-up leaves me bored yet excited at the prospect of what’s to come, the actual motion of repeatedly pounding the pavement delights me to no end, and post-runs highs never fail to keep me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

While I am one of those annoying people who love to run, this wasn’t always the case. As a child and teenager, I hated running and any threat of a looming race was met with false cries of sickness. When I was 18, however, I decided to become a runner. I can’t really remember the exact reason why, but it probably had something to do with my admiration for people who could run somewhere further than the bus stop without getting winded.

I built up my distance very slowly, slogging out lap after lap at the nearest oval. The pain was unbearable to begin with, especially because I was inflicting it on myself. Within about six months, though, I was hooked. I did straight long-distance running for 2 years, and never got sick of it. I ran 10 kilometres every single day regardless of what else was going on in my life or what challenges the weather was throwing at me. I often ran at the peak of a 42º Celsius day. Sometimes I ran for 2 hours straight by accident because I lost track of the time.

After suffering repeated knee injuries I had to scale it back. I was reduced to soft sand running (which had me exhausted and nursing screaming calf muscles after only about 20 minutes) and running laps of that damn oval again. I couldn’t help feeling like I was back at square one, and always felt guilty for only running 20 minutes a day.

I eventually rebuilt strength in my knee, but my body always struggled with recovering from long distance runs. It was then I discovered the joys of interval training. As I mentioned in my previous post here, I strongly believe interval training is much more beneficial than steady state cardio.

Now I have been forbidden from running. I am trying so hard to build muscle so any extra exertion is only taking me backwards. I’m still torching plenty of calories lifting weights, so I’m not worried about that, but I really do miss getting super sweaty doing intervals. Any cardio I do is limited to a heart rate of 110-150 beats per minute – a far cry from the 185 level I was targeting before.

My husband’s response to my mumbling of “I’m going for a run” is “You’re not allowed to!” It seems pretty ironic, really, that my vice isn’t alcohol, junk food or gambling; instead, it’s doing something many people abhor. In all honesty I have gone running exactly five times in the past four months, and three of those I wouldn’t even consider proper runs.

When one of my friends suggested signing up to do the City to Surf with her a couple of months ago, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. It was only later I realised what a dumb idea it was. My brain was obviously still convinced it was in a runner’s body (one that has been waiting years to actually do a marathon, but has not until now found a race buddy!). Now I am dreading the idea of running 14 kilometres with absolutely zero preparation. I don’t think that will be good for the progress of my guns, either!

In the handful of times I have gone running in recent months, it has been harder than I remember, but I (luckily!) still have the knack. The only thing that has changed is I’m beginning to not like running anymore: whereas my previous mid-run thoughts were ‘ahhhhhhhhhh’ they’re now more like ‘why does anyone put themselves through this pain voluntarily?!’

The good news is that I now love lifting weights, just as much as running. I love feeling strong, and I love pushing myself to lift heavier. It lets you make progress that you just can’t get from doing cardio.

Since dropping cardio completely, I’m lifting heavier than I ever have before, I have even more energy and I’m dropping fat quickly – all while still eating a lot of food and gaining muscle at a pretty solid rate. I would highly recommend you try dropping cardio completely – if you don’t like the outcome you can always add it back in, but the only way you can truly gauge the effect is to give it a go! If it’s any consolation, I was massively sceptical about scrapping cardio at first. But a lot of extremely fit people I know do not do any cardio at all. The only way you can truly sculpt your body is by lifting weights, not by running marathons.

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