Can you see yourself still doing this 6 months from now?
This is the number one question I ask any friend or client when they want to take on a new habit in their fitness journey. It is something you should always have in the back of your mind if you want to not only succeed, but take the habits that got you the body or health goal you wanted, and keep it going long after the diet is over.
With that in mind, there always seems to be a divide amongst the cardio and resistance training crowd. People who do nothing but cardio think that weightlifting will get them too bulky. People who only do resistance training think incorporating cardio will make them into skinny twigs. Both are extreme cases and not fully correct.
In an ideal world, you should be utilizing both tools to maintain a healthy heart and muscular physique. Ultimately it comes down to your fitness goals?
Losing Weight VS Losing Fat
Whether you want a super muscular physique or not, chances are you want some sort of muscle on your body. That “tone” look women always talk about is muscle. Being “shredded” is also muscle. If we focus on JUST doing cardio, the problem is a lack of stimulus. Cardio in itself, isn’t enough of a muscle building signal to grow or even maintain it. Add on top of that a deficit of calories, and your body is being primed over the long-term to prioritize burning through muscle over fat. Why? It is calorically expensive to keep muscle. Unless you are giving a good reason for it to do so, your body would rather get rid of muscle and keep fat (since fat provides fuel).
Burning Calories at Rest
The amazing thing about focusing predominantly on resistance training, is the more muscle you put on, the more calories you burn just being alive. Which is great news since most people wish they could earn MORE calories per day to enjoy more food. On the flip side, when you are implementing cardio, you are constantly chasing this battle of only eating back what you burned off, and hoping you don’t go over. Your body, if anything, will get more efficient at burning LESS calories as you continue to run.
Mix It Up!
You don’t have to just do steady state, long jogs on the treadmill. If cardio is something you want to keep in your arsenal, or you just enjoy doing it, try implementing HIIT training. This will be quicker sessions (usually 15-20 minutes tops), and provide more of a muscle building signal since the intensity is short bursts of sprints.
You can also increase cardio in the form of NEAT. As mentioned before, you need to be able to see yourself continuing these habits 6 months from now. I don’t know many people who want to continually run 40-50 minutes a day on a treadmill, 4-5 days a week. Instead, try shooting for a step count (let's say 10,000 steps to start), and finding more ways throughout your day to go for longer walks. This takes you out of the gym, and allows you to find more natural ways to get your cardio in without having to rely on the gym. You can go for walks with your dog or loved ones, making it a much more sustainable habit.
Follow Your Goal
I don't think everyone wants to be super jacked. I like to use the analogy of a marathon runner vs an Olympic weightlifter. Both have very different body types based on their goals. These may be the extremes, but it should give you an idea of which way you want to lean more towards. Assuming most of us want to be somewhere in the middle, I recommend doing 2-3 days of some form of cardio for overall heart health, and 2-3 days of resistance training to put on muscle.