Running Around to Standstill

article_cardio1Lifting weights is better for you than cardio. Cardio isn’t effective. Cardio is a waste of time. Cardio will make you “soft and squishy.” Lately, mass media fitness magazines, bloggers, and very good personal trainers are putting these very thoughts into our heads. Even articles in peer-reviewed journals cause enough confusion to encourage trainers to avoid cardio altogether. I love working in health and fitness but this is an example of why I loathe the industry at times.

It just seems to go from one extreme to another. We wonder why our nation isn’t changing and why we aren’t reducing the obesity epidemic or lowering the cost of health care. Do trainers actually think they are helping someone by telling them to stop walking, hiking, jogging, running, and/or biking?

Does someone actually have the right to call themselves a trainer or coach (a.k.a. teacher) and then turnaround and tell someone they have to stop certain activities that are proven to be healthy? Why would fitness trainers ever start a campaign to get people to stop moving?

Well, in all honesty it is true that you can get an aerobic training effect while lifting weights – if it is done with that goal in mind. And yes, of course, you can build lean muscle mass, burn fat, get strong, and get healthy while lifting weights – if it is done with those goals in mind.

In the words of Keanu Reeves, “Woah!” That’s it, I take it all back. Cardio will make you soft. Besides, it’s obvious to me when I look at some photographic evidence. Runners are definitely “soft” and “squishy” compared to people who lift weights. I mean, it is clear we should just lift weights if we want that “toned” and “taut” body, right?


Ummm, okay maybe that isn’t a good example. Let’s look at a few individuals who participate in cardiovascular-focused activities. These individuals—cyclists, skaters, and runners—all clearly look “squishy.”

squishy_cardioAh, you say, “all those people are pro athletes who have training phases when they lift weights.” Yes, you are absolutely correct, they all lift weights at some point in their training. So obviously, it is the weightlifting that gives them these physiques, right?

The important thing to note is, these athletes use weightlifting to gain strength so they can excel at cardiovascular-based sports. They are lean, strong, and fit because of total training, not due to one specific exercise or modality.

I’ve got a big message for all fitness professionals out there. As trainers and coaches, we need to start doing a better job of teaching balance. Lifting weights builds strength and muscular conditioning. But muscular conditioning is very different from cardiovascular conditioning. The body needs both. This means lift weights and run.

Let me be clear that at no time am I telling people they absolutely have to run a marathon or take a four-hour spin class every day. But if coaches begin to teach based on individual goals and start to create a proper balanced training plan of weightlifting, cardiovascular conditioning, proper nutrition and mindfulness, they can inspire many more people to reach their best health and fitness levels.

Trainers: encourage your clients to get a little bit of everything. Lift weights. Run. Take a yoga class. Lift more weights. Get strong. Learn how to breathe better. Go on a bike ride. Take Pilates. Just do something. But for the love of God, stop with these insane statements that people should no longer run because it will make them soft. The only thing that makes people soft is constantly changing the message to them.

Eschew obfuscation.