My friends, it’s time we came face-to-face with the truth about cardio.
If you want to get lean and mean, get strong, and look good in the mirror, you don’t need a lot of it.
That’s right. You don’t need to spend hours every week running, cycling, hitting the elliptical or doing whatever it is you choose to do cardio-wise to lose weight, drop fat and all that other good stuff.
It’s been pointed out in some circles that trainers can take seemingly flabby clients and turn them into shredded ideals of what a physique should look like without having them succumb to long, frequent cardio sessions.
Conventional wisdom tells you otherwise. A whole lot of cardio burns a whole lot of calories, right? And when it comes to weight loss, we’re all trying to find ways to create caloric deficit (i.e., burn more than you consume).
But a growing number of are telling people they can peel off unwanted fat by simply eating right and lifting weights, with minimal cardio. Stick to the plan, the story goes, and you’ll pass the mirror test with flying colors.
You might be thinking that this is bad advice, a gimmick to get people to buy expensive training programs. But here’s the truth: The premise is correct.
When it comes to fat loss, you can lose a bunch of it with the right training and diet plan, and you don’t need to spend much time at the track or plopped into the seat of a stationary bike. An increasing number of physique athletes are finding this out and having success.
But there’s a catch, at least in my opinion. And it goes into the reasons I will always have a strong cardio component in my workout plans.
If you downplay cardio fitness too much, you’re missing out. Sure, you can lose the flab without running a lick. But if you don’t run a lick, there are a lot of things you can’t do, or won’t be able to do as well as those who take their cardio seriously.
Let’s start with the basics. Strong cardio workouts build stamina. And stamina helps in a lot of arenas where sheer physical strength and leanness take a secondary (or even lesser) role.
High stamina helps with sports. If you like to play team sports, or compete in individual sports, endurance will allow you to compete at your best for a longer duration. Name the sport, it doesn’t matter. More stamina translates to better performance, and the way you gain stamina is by working on your cardio.
Feeling more adventurous? Maybe you’re interested in having some fun on a long hike, backpacking trip or trail ride? A powerful physique will help hoist that overnight pack with ease, but when your hike to camp lasts five hours and you’ve spent the bulk of that going uphill, having a strong endurance component to your fitness will make that slog a whole lot more bearable.
And here’s something else: You can feed your competitive bug by competing in endurance sports. Running, cycling, triathlons, ruck challenges, obstacle course races — all these things are fun, and they are sports you can do from when you’re young all the way into old age. But a prerequisite is, at the very least, a stout heart and a strong pair of lungs.
Finally, I’ll add this: Think about what you’re missing if you skip the cardio. When you take your cardio outside (my preference), you can soak in the awesomeness of long bike rides, awesome runs, epic trail outings and more. It’s been proven that time in nature is good for your body and mind. And soaking in a little sun gives you some sweet Vitamin D. You won’t get that by becoming a permanent indoor gym rat.
And here’s the kicker: Do all of these things — lift, eat right, and get your cardio on — and you’ll probably get leaner, too.
So no, you don’t need a lot of cardio to get lean. But yes, you should do it, because your life will be better for it in the long run. By all means, eat right. Get into the gym and move that iron. But tailor your fitness to your goals. And if your goals entail something that requires a good deal of stamina, be careful not to fall into an extreme view of putting your cardio in the back seat.