A few years back I was definitely “cardio queen!” This was during my “big gym” days when my efforts were focused primarily on the treadmill, elliptical or group fitness classes. Cardio was my focus … I wasn’t really friends with the weights section. I would attempt a few reps … not really knowing what the heck I was doing. But who cared! I needed to lose weight and all I needed to focus on was my cardio. WRONG!
Unfortunately, there’s a huge misunderstanding about fat loss in our society. Many people, especially women, think that if they starve themselves and put in 2-3 hours of cardio daily that the pounds will melt away. Here’s a rude awakening: performing too much cardio is actually BAD FOR YOU … and can put your body into a catabolic state and even burn hard-earned muscle. Yikes! The loss of muscle mass slows down your metabolism and reduces your strength … which means you will struggle burning off fat (especially with those last stubborn 20 pounds).
My girl Chalene Johnson says, “muscle burns fat” in her at-home workout program ChaLEAN Extreme. I learned SO MUCH doing this program … things like the importance of strength training, proper form, being consistent, creating balance and better nutrition. It was like I had my very own personal trainer in my living room! Turbo Jam/TurboFire and ChaLEAN Extreme were the main programs that changed my life and, unknowingly at the time, were setting the stage for my future line of work!
Unfortunately, there’s no exact answer for how much cardio is too much. I’ve read all sorts of different recommendations, but the one I like most is Jillian Michael’s. She says, in a SELF Magazine interview, “you shouldn’t clock more than 60 minutes of high-intensity or two hours of low-intensity cardio daily unless you’re on a sports team or training for a marathon. Any more than that can cause overtraining, a condition that develops when you haven’t given your body a chance to rest and recover.”
In a nutshell, if you are exercising efficiently and correctly (and you are NOT a a distance runner), anything over 60-70 minutes per day is likely counterproductive, in my opinion. I can tell you my cardio workouts DO NOT last more than 1 hour. Why would I want to do that? I can move on to other things or incorporate some weight training…
Additionally, over training — whether too much cardio or too much weight lifting — can be especially detrimental if you are not consuming enough protein or calories to support the daily caloric expenditure. In order to build or maintain muscle, you need to eat enough food … and the right kinds of food!
5 Tips to Avoid Excessive Cardio
- Cardio + Strength. It’s important to incorporate strength training into your cardio regiment so you can lose weight AND get a toned, sculpted, tighter body. If you’re only doing cardio, you will plateau and as you lose weight your skin will look flabby.
- If you’re used to working for 2+ hours a day, split up your time and do half cardio and half strength/weight training with AT LEAST 20-30 minutes of cardio.
- Add in different kinds of cardio such as long and short duration workouts, interval training and circuit training.
- If you’re local come check out my Live 30 Minute INSANITY Class — it’s a great interval training workout that is short and sweet but will make you WERK! Every minute counts in this workout!
- Ease into weights! Especially, if you ‘re a little scared or unsure. Don’t get crazy trying to lift heavy off the bat! It’s very important to use proper form so you can get the most out of your workout and avoid injury. More important than the size of the weight is FORM! And by using proper form, you can make 5 or 8 pounds feels a lot heavier!
- Try to lift a minimum of 2-3 days a week. Incorporating some strength/toning exercising will help your cardiovascular efforts and help you lose more weight and more importantly, inches!
- Change up your routine every 2-3 weeks. Love a particular workout? You don’t have to give it up. Just mix it up and add in some new workouts that will trick your body and avoid the dreadful plateau.