I did well with my strength training despite the nasty weather. I almost always do. I get my 2-3 sessions of lifting in each week no matter what the season. It is important to me, but it is also my scheduled workout. I am either signed up for Body Pump class, scheduled with a friend to lift, or have written on my calendar what my plan is for the gym. I treat strength training as an unbreakable appointment.
Not always so with my walks. If it is too cold out, I’ll bail. If there is too much ice or snow, I’ll talk myself out of time on the treadmill. If I am not scheduled to walk with someone, I can easily decide I don’t have time. I just don’t have as much accountability for my cardio.
What exactly is cardio? Cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is any activity that increases the heart rate. I believe that one of the reasons we value, schedule or make time for, strength training above cardio is we believe in it. We can see it:
Stronger muscles and definition that wasn’t there before. Pain relief once imbalances have been corrected. Better posture and core strength.
Cardio is a different beast. If you have a goal to get stronger legs, you can do leg exercises at an appropriate weight and repetition, and it happens. Same with biceps, shoulders, back. But if you have a goal of weight loss, you can’t just do cardio and make it happen. That is like aiming for a target while blindfolded. We don’t understand the truth about cardio. If we did, we would do it correctly. If we did it correctly, we would get the results we are aiming for. And we would keep going because we are seeing results. Here’s the deal:
False Belief: Cardio = aerobic.
Truth: Cardio (cardiovascular exercise) can be aerobic or anaerobic.
False Belief: Cardio is about weight loss.
Truth: Cardio (heart) vascular (lung) exercise is about heart and lung function.
False Belief: I burn fat working out aerobically or anaerobically.
Truth: My body burns fat when I exercise aerobically.
False Belief: Aerobics is a type of exercise class.
Truth: Aerobics is a description of oxygen concentration/utilization during exercise.
False Belief: I can tell I am working aerobically by how I feel.
Truth: Aerobics, from the words aero = air and bios = life, must be measured.
False Belief: I exercise aerobically but don’t burn fat.
Truth: Nope...aerobic exercise burns fat. Something else is going on.
So my question to you is this. Are you doing cardio or are you exercising aerobically?
As you know, I am training for a full marathon. I started on June 7th and we just finished our longest training run; 20 miles.
In the 15 weeks of training, I have burned approximately 3,500 calories/week from running. I track it on my heart rate monitor. One week, I burned over 6,000 calories and ran 49 miles. Now, I have eaten a little bit extra here and there. Absolutely. But look at the math. That many calories per week for 15 weeks = 15 pounds. If I were running aerobically, I would have burned off 10-15 pounds. But I am not an aerobic runner yet (some are, I am not, I run in zone 3). I got my zones measured, and not a single mile run throughout this entire training program was in my aerobic zone. Not one! Time in zone = 0
I made this decision to run anyway, knowing I was giving up my aerobic zone 1 & 2 walks (my super effective weight maintenance!) for running over the summer. Here’s what I know. As soon as this marathon is over, and I get back to Highbanks for my walks, I will burn any weight I gained right off. Do you see? I replaced my aerobic exercise that I’d been doing consistently (walks - zones 1 & 2) with anaerobic exercise (running - zone 3) and my body stopped burning fat. As in screeching halt stopped.
But, it’s been like a science experiment for me. It has been such confirmation of this truth:
You must exercise consistently and aerobically (in zones 1 and 2) to lose fat and to keep it off.
This is the mission statement. And this needs to be where empowerment and good choices come from. I know what to do! I know how to use a heart rate monitor. I know how to get my zones measured. I know how to walk in my zone. The real question, the interesting question, is this. If I know what to do, am I willing to do it?
And the answer must be yes! I know what to do and I will do it. Even if it is cold and dark and icy and depressing. Even if I don’t feel like it. I will find a way. I will schedule my aerobic workouts AND my strength workouts. I will find fitness friends to make it fun and hold me accountable. I will join the community center, get a treadmill, or find a friend with fitness equipment in their house. And I will believe in fitness again.
The root of the problem is we lost faith in fitness. We tried to do things against the way we are created with quick fixes, diets, and exercising incorrectly for our goals. We need to believe again. We need to understand how we are made. It is simple really. Aerobic exercise burns fat and keeps it off. Strength training builds muscle. Take off the blindfold and start aiming at the target like you mean it. This isn’t rocket science, it’s physiology, which to me is an incredible description of one of God’s most fascinating creations: the miracle we call the human body.