I want to use a relatively simple metaphor; if you go out and spend $1000, it’s gone. You’re not getting it back. But if you invest that $1000, you’ll keep getting payments as a result. Even better, if you take a part of those future payments and reinvest them, you get back even bigger payments. Slowly but surely, you’ve made back your $1000 and then some.
Maybe you can test out of a finance class as a result of this advice.
Why do I use this metaphor? Because I hear people say, “Cardio burns more calories!” or, “Strength training doesn’t burn that many calories,” or “How many calories did I burn today?” or some variation of these all the time. People fall into the mistake of doing cardio because they think it will help them get skinny. Just ask everyone who stopped going to the gym around March how well that worked out for them.
Here’s a thought; everyone points out how good athletes and the like look, but rather than train like they do, they hop on the treadmill instead. They didn’t accidentally start looking like that! They put in lots of hard work using, you guessed it, weights!
Here’s a great example: about 75% of people will stop going to the gym. The biggest reason? “Not seeing results.” We have the highest amount of gyms per capita in this country yet we are the fattest country on the planet! There really must be something going on here if that’s the case.
Doing cardio and focusing on calories alone is just like spending that $1000; you have absolutely nothing to show for it the next day. Sure, you got a good sweat on and increased your aerobic capacity, but, ultimately, what do you have to show for it? Do you still dread the holiday season? Do you morosely wonder how the scale managed to go higher this year compared to last year?
Steady-state cardio is not the way to attain the body that most people want. It’ll burn fat, sure, but it also burns muscle. By its very nature, the more you do cardio, the worse of a fat burning exercise it becomes. We burn fat when we perform a movement inefficiently. Running, for example, makes you better at running. Your body becomes as efficient as it possibly can when you run a lot; you burn less and less fat and calories and any excess muscle mass you have is exterminated with extreme prejudice in an effort to become efficient. It follows that the more you run, the worse at burning fat you become.
This is why strength training is absolutely essential. You never get efficient at strength training because you can up the reps, up the weight, or both. When you increase your muscle mass, your metabolism increases, you look better and you actually have goals to surpass and overcome; “I lifted 20 pounds 10 times last time. I need to lift it 11 or 12 times this time.” It really is that simple; it is the time tested truth of progressive overload. Your body is forced to adapt, grow stronger and visibly change when you lift weights. Then, you reinvest some of your dividends and lift a little bit more weight. Over time, your body completely changes as a result.
This is why most professionals recommend free weights; yoga, pilates and other similar modalities are great initially for people new to exercise, but past a certain point, it’s hard to progressively overload and force your body to keep adapting. You reach plateaus, just like with the cardio machines, and it’s hard to keep steadily progressing and improving. In short, your body becomes efficient and stops changing. That’s not to say they are useless; any well rounded program should include regular yoga or pilates for flexibility, mobility and stress relief.
As I said, you can always force your body to keep changing with free weights with more reps or greater weight. Once your body changes, it becomes much more resistant to fat gain. Ask any people who look fit how much they worry about the holidays, “Why would I worry? I eat lots of food, see my family and have a great time!” It’s such an odd question. But to anyone that hasn’t adopted strength training into their lives, they always make jokes about “eating well” or “exercising extra to make up for it.” Almost every one of them talks about restraint in some form or another.
Investing in your body with strength training future proofs yourself from fat gain plus you feel better, you look better, you move better and you actually can spend less time in the gym. Most of all, you worry less about “slip-ups” and those random social situations such as happy hours or friends in town. Instead, you enjoy them for what they are rather than worry about how to make up for it on the treadmill tomorrow. Every workout builds upon the last and creates a new body. Your body literally pays you back over and over again for the hard work done up front.
Bottom line is strength training will give you a body you’re happy to look at and it’ll be that way for years.