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.
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
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