The following is a guest article from Kyle of ThisIsTrouble.com

There’s been a growing trend in America for years now: the best way to lose weight and stay in shape is to do cardio… lots of it.

It’s extremely rare to hear a doctor recommend strength training as a good way to better your health.

The reality is that doing a high-cardio training program can wear your body down… with consequences that can haunt you for years down the road.

How Cardio Ruined My Life

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When I was in my mid-teen years, I was an overweight mess. I was 5’8″ and over 210 pounds.

I managed to lose 85 pounds in 8 months solely by playing basketball and running. At the same time, I was eating only 1,500 calories a day. Plus I had the metabolism of a 15 year-old male.

Once I got to college, I started lifting weights, and eventually decided to join the triathlon team. While I ended up being very successful with this, the true effects of this decision have begun to hit me as I enter my mid-20s.

  • My knees are in terrible shape, and squatting is very painful no matter how I attack it
  • I have neck and back pain from spending so many hours hunched over bicycle handlebars
  • While not medically relevant, I have loads of expensive equipment and nothing to do with it

I loved endurance sports. 

I loved feeling the fresh air on my face as I rode my bike, or went for a run… Swimming, not so much, I wasn’t very good at it.

And really, I still love the feeling I get after going for a good run. However, the reality of the situation is that my body is not the same as when I was training . And because of too much endurance sporting over the years – it never will be the same.

Cardio Can Takes LOTS of Time

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For those of you who participate in a regular weight lifting schedule, let me ask you this: how many hours a week do you spend in the gym?

Even if you do some stretching before and after your workout, and even with a short warm up on the treadmill, I’d imagine most of you are in and out of the gym within an hour and a half. This hour and a half workout, even if it’s only three days a week, allows you to maintain a solid physique (provided you’re eating a balanced diet).

When I was endurance training, I had to work out 25+ hours a week to be competitive… and my physique was far worse than it is now with a basic strength training program.

Looking back, it seems like insanity that I was training that much. A typical week looked like this:

  • Monday: 6-mile morning run, 30-40 mile evening bike ride
  • Tuesday: Light morning lifting session, 1 hour afternoon swim
  • Wednesday: 6-mile morning run, 30-40 mile evening bike ride
  • Thursday: Light morning lifting session, 40 mile evening bike race
  • Friday: 6-mile morning run, 1 hour afternoon swim
  • Saturday: Long bike ride (80-100 miles) or a competition
  • Sunday: Rest and wonder why I was so sore

It’s important to note that I was training to be a competitive athlete, and that a normal person wouldn’t train at that level (or for that duration). However, they’d still need significantly more hours of cardio (vs. strength training) to maintain a physique…

And this increases the likelihood of wearing down your body and your joints (especially for runners who don’t have PERFECT form) and decreasing your quality of life down the road.

Too Much Cardio Can Facilitate a Poor Diet

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Let me ask you a question: when doing a long cardio workout, have you ever had insane cravings for sugar?

Perhaps you read that it’s good to drink soda or snack on a Snickers bar to refuel your energy?

When you sweat so much from being out in the heat, you can reach a point of physical and/or mental exhaustion. This results in the dreaded “bonk”.

You’re probably familiar with the physical bonk: this is when the muscles and liver run out of glycogen stores and become fatigued. Think about when you go for a run or play a pickup basketball game and you “hit a wall”. It’s like you can barely move anymore.

Your legs will be absolute jelly, and your mind will likely also feel fatigued. Some people may even feel extremely dizzy or lightheaded. You’ll have no mental focus or clarity, and the only thing you can think about is suffering until your workout is over (when running or cycling, you have to get back to your starting point – it’s not like the gym where you can just walk out).

It is not a pleasant situation… in extreme cases, a bonk can even cause a coma.

Think about those facts – in order to avoid hitting a physical and emotional level that could end your life, you’re often told to ingest stuff that comes in cans and wrappers; Coca-Cola, Snickers, a slice of pizza if it’s handy, and more. I can personally attest that natural foods, such as a banana, are nowhere near as effective at staving off, or recovering from, a bonk. They simply don’t pack enough simple sugars.

While I’m all about pushing yourself to the limits during a workout, there’s a point of insanity that I think many endurance athletes cross (I did myself many times). And if you must put garbage food into your body in order to perform, then do you think that maybe that type of exercise wasn’t meant to be done (from a biological standpoint)?

To top it all off, that poor nutrition often carries over outside of the workouts. Rather than going home and eating steaks, eggs, and vegetables, it was far more common for me to consume an entire pizza. Part of the reason for this was because my body was craving carbs to replace everything it had lost.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, many recommend to chow down on a pound of pasta the night before a race, and then fail to burn anywhere near than number of calories the next day. As a result, those people actually put on fat…

Too Much Cardio Can Damage Self-Esteem

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Even when I was winning races and having success, I never felt good about my body. And frankly, I never looked great from a visual standpoint.

Cardio simply does NOT build muscle or burn fat… rather it tends to keep you looking small, weak, and skinny fat.

I wasn’t confident in the bedroom, my sex drive wasn’t high, and I never felt satisfied with life. There was always another ride, another race to win, or another day of suffering in the pool. While strength training isn’t always fun, my life is far more balanced – and I have a far better physique – than I did while endurance training.

So How Much Cardio is Too Much?

Our bodies were simply not designed to perform the same repetitive movements over and over again. And this is why people who do loads of cardio often develop muscle imbalances and joint issues like I have. But cardio still offers important benefits like improved conditioning and a healthy heart. The trick is to do it in moderation.

I believe you’re far better off having your weightlifting routine be your focus, and then doing a couple days per week of cardio on the side. I recommend playing pickup basketball, picking up a martial art, or just running sprints instead of doing the long, endurance runs that so many men opt for. These types of things are more enjoyable and side-step just about all of the issues I covered above (when done in moderation).

While I enjoyed my time as a competitive endurance athlete, I can’t recommend it in good faith as a viable form of long-term training, from both a physical health and mental-sanity sense. I’ve found that strength training gives me a better physique, more confidence, and has made me into the well-rounded man I am today.

I hope you guys enjoyed this guest article from my friend Kyle of ThisIsTrouble.com.

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