I Broke Up With Cardio — and Transformed My Body

Calling all cardio addicts! In this guest post from Brynn Andre, a certified life coach, author and food freedom expert, she shares how cutting back on cardio helped change her body for good. Check out her free Guide to Food Freedom and read an excerpt from her upcoming book here. 

I am a survivor of an abusive relationship — with my own body. I was a cardio junkie. Cardio was the bad-for-me boyfriend that I couldn’t let go of. I needed the rush. For 10 years, using too much cardio, I tried to push my body into submission and pain.

But I finally decided to commit to recovery from disordered eating, food addiction and body shame.

After a long and rocky relationship, I broke up with cardio. Spinning, running and the elliptical machine — we had so many intense times, but the thrill was gone. That old exhilaration and honeymoon phase of losing weight wasn’t happening anymore. With cardio, I felt like I had to do more and more to get the same results. The spark had faded and I was at a maddening plateau. I was hating myself with every treadmill step. Cardio had turned into a shame session.

Now don’t get me wrong; cardio is awesome. It pumps you full of endorphins. It makes your heart happy and healthy. There’s no disputing that cardio works for so many people.

What I needed to break off was the cardio obsession. The addiction to the “high.” I used to be unable to sleep well if I hadn’t gotten my daily cardio fix. That is not healthy. The brain is an important body part, too, and I was abusing it with such addictive working out habits.

Finally, I made a decision to try a new way. I joined a support group for disordered eaters. My pain began to melt. But the biggest thrill and tool to my success was something that changed everything for good.

Weight training.

I picked up the book New Rules of Lifting for Women, desperate for anything that would make me lose. I couldn’t take the plateau; I was willing to open my options up. I was skeptical. I had tried “lifting” before, but it felt too slow and I didn’t get results. So I stopped after two days.

This time I surrendered and gave the program a real effort. I stayed humble and had faith that my muscles would grow and that I would feel some kind of peace. I drank protein shakes and watched YouTube videos on how to build triceps. I was a good student. As I read the book, my eyes opened wider. The science of building muscle was fascinating. The principles behind strength training were so empowering.

The biggest change was that I did no cardio. None. The freaking miracle is that I lost weight once and for all without cardio. My metabolism perked up and said let’s do this.

What I Learned From Breaking Up With Cardio

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I shifted from focusing on becoming “smaller” and “less” of myself through burning cardio calories to becoming stronger, more powerful and taking a bigger stance in my own life.

I learned to honor the magic of the physical body. I began to study muscles and my metabolism. I learned how to nourish them, and stoke the fire.

The women in the fitness industry help me view body fat and weight gain with forgiveness. They don’t condemn putting on weight. They call it “fluff”. They understand to build muscle you have to eat.

I found more inspiring role models. Take the beautiful and fit Jamie Eason. She has flat-out said that she does very little cardio exercise. She prefers lifting. I was able to shift my “dream” body from a thin model to a fitness athlete — much more realistic for me.

Today, I feel recovered from the food addiction that gripped me. I also released the excess weight I had been fighting for 10 years.

And, I have a friendship with cardio. We’re like exes that can still hang out.

I have a simple little step machine in my living room now. I watch Matt Lauer in the morning as I leisurely stride for 10 or 20 minutes. In the old days I’d call that a lazy ass workout. Today, it’s my morning ritual; less about calories, more about crazy-proofing my day.

If you’re anything like I was and you hate the idea of lifting weights, I dare you to do it for four weeks. See how you begin to appreciate your muscles. See how you look at food with excitement about how it can boost your metabolism. Feel the power come back to you — not just in your body but in your mind.

We’re here to be strong, not to burn ourselves out with cardio.

Anyone else found that breaking the cardio obsession helped them to get truly healthy inside and out? —Brynn Andre



Comments

  1. Shauna says

    I’m beginning to think that I participate in too much cardio, also. I am definitely going to pick up that book and work more weight lifting into my routine. Strong and capable!

  2. louise says

    This isn’t me but it so could be – 6 weeks of no cardio and I feel amazing. I am eating more, my weight has dropped and I can see real changes in my body. Women everywhere take note!

  3. Jennifer says

    This is a fantastic read, and hits close to home. Thank you for the great references, looks like I have a new book to pick up!

  4. Mike Luque says

    Excellent, Brynn!
    As a trainer, I see entirely too many women obsessing on the cardio equipment. Sometimes a woman who starts at the gym and looks really good and healthy winds up skeletal and it’s really sad.
    Cardio is for your heart and lungs and it’s great for that. Plus it can be fun. But nothing obsessive is ever fun.

    I’m glad to hear you stuck to your weight training for more than two days this time. ;^)

  5. Jennifet says

    Awesome article!!! Can you maybe explain to us that would like to move to this sort of workout schedule what a normal week of lifting looks like for you?

  6. Hannah says

    I broke up with cardio last summer. I’d spent about 6 years yo yo-ing in weight and going between obsessive cardio workouts and burning out and staying out of the gym for months on end. I was exhausted, depressive and I really didn’t like myself inside or out.

    Last summer I picked up heavy weights properly for the first time. I’d played with them before but this time I got myself on a proper programme. I shed a load of bodyfat I’d been hanging onto within weeks – whilst eating MORE than ever. I’m smaller than I’ve been since my early teens and I have a healthy relationship with food – I no longer race to the bottom on calories as I need to eat enough to eat, and I also want to hit my macro targets. It’s helped me overcome 20 years of disordered eating.

    I’m evangelical about women picking up weights now. Not many believe me, but I had a woman come up to me in the gym today and tell me I was her inspiration. I spoke to her about how I trained and we’re going to train together in the future. That’s got to be a good thing – for both of us.

  7. Kerry Lee Haas says

    Beautiful post and what timing. I just injured my knee for the second time doing Insanity Cardio. You think I would have learned the first time I pushed myself too hard and had to take a break due to injury. Two weeks away from finishing my first 90 days in a long time, I injured my knee again. I do love lifting weights and I will embrace it as my main fitness regimen. <3 Thank you for this article! It is so empowering.

  8. Jenny says

    I am half-way through reading that same book! It is amazing and has completely changed the way I think about my body.

  9. Jeramie says

    Loved the article!! Tried clicking the links for the free guide and the book and neither worked :(

  10. Karen says

    Love this .. mostly because I hate cardio and love lifting! The link at top for the Guide to Food Freedom doesn’t work for me though (domain expired.) Thanks!!!!

  11. Liza says

    I’m trying really, really hard to like lifting weights. I’ve done it for 4 weeks now (via RIP and CHISEL classes at my gym) and I’m sad to say I don’t see any results. Yet. I mean, I might be a little stronger. But I haven’t gotten leaner (I’m trying to follow a sort-of “Paleo” diet as well) and my pants are just as tight. Maybe this means I just have father to go. I’m not giving up on weight lifting yet, but I do admit I’m disappointed.

  12. Margie Kozich says

    This is the absolute truth. At 50, I have changed my body completely and am in the best shape of my life. It is truly incredible how strength training will transform you. I knew I had hit a jackpot when people started complimenting me, but you will fail to reach that point of really changing your body unless you remember one thing: consistency. This is the key. Dont expect fast results. This is a long term shift of habits that will be well worth the patience and dedication. I can say that the payoff will be that you will feel and look at least 10 years younger and feel strong and confident.

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