In light of my recent post about cardio I wanted to take some time to clarify the point I was trying to make. My post was targeted primarily towards people, mostly women, who have never lifted weights before. Based on the emails I receive on a daily basis, most of you who are confused about weight training tend to follow an exclusively cardio-based exercise regime.
I never have and never will talk badly about high intensity interval training (HIIT). I recommend that almost everyone should incorporate at least one HIIT cardio session per week. I did not cover HIIT in my post last week, as I didn’t want to overwhelm beginners with too much information.
I am not here to start a war, or tell you that my way of exercising is better than yours. As much as I love to tell people to do what makes them happy, the sad fact is that 90 per cent of people train the way they do because they want to look good. For them, it is not about performance or breaking records, but rather how good they look naked. This is why the sport of bodybuilding exists. Bodybuilders do not attempt to lift as much weight as possible with perfect form – they use many methods of cheating form and high repetitions to ‘pump’ the muscles up to ensure maximal muscle growth.
The reason I am against steady state cardio is that it will not get most people the body they want. Again, I am generalising based on the readers who contact me – most want a lean, defined look which can only be obtained via a regular lifting AND cardio program. Focusing solely on cardio will not do anything to shape your muscles. I do not want to motivate you by concentrating on aesthetics, but sadly that is what most people want to hear.
I started lifting because I wanted to ‘tone and sculpt’ my body, but it is not why I continue to do it today. I love the way weight training makes me feel, both in and out of the gym. I love knowing that I am stronger than many men and I love receiving comments about the size of my muscles, especially from men.
A crucial moment for me was when I stopped focusing on aesthetics and started chasing performance gains. I stopped thinking in terms of losing fat or gaining muscle. I focused on goals such as performing an unassisted chin-up, hitting 50 consecutive push-ups with perfect form, and squatting and deadlifting 1.5-2 times my bodyweight.
Just because you stop thinking about physical results doesn’t mean you will stop seeing them. When I stopped obsessing about fat loss, I naturally lost fat. Because I was less stressed and therefore didn’t have cortisol pumping through my body (which is also released during steady state cardio!), I was able to lose my dreaded tummy fat.
The beauty of lifting weights (or running, swimming, playing tennis, etc) is that your body will adapt. In the case of lifting, provided you keep challenging yourself by increasing the weights, that adaptation will come in the form of greater strength, increased muscle definition and fat loss. I was able to set aside aesthetic motivation, and yet my body continues to constantly adapt to the forces I place it under – meaning I look better each and every day.
In an ideal world, people would find a form of exercise they love and stick to it. They would not care about what form of exercise will give them the best physical results. I can’t tell you how to reach this point. A few years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be where I am today. It takes time, but it is worth it to be freed from the physical aspect of working out.
Instead of focusing on the number on the scale or your clothing size, choose a performance-based goal. Whether you are attempting your first barbell squat, your first push-up on your toes or the completion of your first full marathon, choose a goal and focus your energy in a positive way.
Make sure you are exercising for the right reason. Do what you love, and always strive to be better. As long as you add in at least a couple of resistance sessions a week, I’m happy!
What are your performance goals?