Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cardio vs. Strength Training

I've been spending some of my afternoon going through training materials for "Zumba in the Circuit," which is a new program that I (fingers crossed) will be teaching at one of the Northern Kentucky Curves locations starting in December.  For those of you who don't know much about it, Curves is an interesting program for women.  Basically they have weight training machines that target each muscle group (using resistance rather than weight) and they mix in cardio in between each rep for a 30-minute circuit training session. 

While I am always of the opinion that any exercise is good exercise, it got me to thinking about my feelings about strength training versus cardio.

A few years before I started getting serious about weight loss, my well-intentioned father bought me some hand weights for Christmas.  In case you are wondering:  Men, you should never, ever get a gift for a woman that implies she needs to exercise more.  I mean, ever.  As you may have suspected, there were tears. 

After my misguided father apologized profusely, we got down to the meat of the issue. Yes, of course I wanted to lose weight. But, I understood exercise and I knew what to do already.  And I knew the 5-lb hand weights my dad bought me were not going to get me to the 75-100 pounds I needed to lose.  He ended up buying me a treadmill (a very nice make-up gift), and once I got motivated, walking and running on that treadmill was my sole form of exercise for the first year of my weight loss.

This brings me to a very controversial piece of advice that I give people all the time: You don't have to strength train to lose weight.  I personally feel like if you are pressed for time, you're always better off doing just cardio. Plus, many types of cardio are far more approachable for someone new to working out than the complicated machines at the gym. 

Today, I do about 85% cardio and 15% strength training.  I don't enjoy doing the strength training at all, but I like the way I feel from it (less marshmallowy) and I know it helps my running a ton. And, as people better educated in fitness than I am will tell you--strength training can help burn fat and raise your metabolism--both important for maintaining weight loss. That said, strength training isn't for everyone.  I think a lot of times people who want to lose weight start out by going to a personal trainer, they get the hardest workout of their life, are sore for three days, and never go back.  (Read more about why I hate this concept here.)  My point is, exercise doesn't have to be excruciating.  It should be fun.  And the more you enjoy your workout--whether it be cardio, weight training, or a mix of the two--the more you are going to want to do it.

By the way, I picked up the hand weights from my parents' house last week and I have been using them, finally.  Thanks, Dad... maybe that wasn't the worst gift after all.


Nancy said...

I'm not much of a strength trainer either. Hate it too actually. Sometimes I do a DVD from Jillian Michaels called "30 Day Shred" and it is an easier way for me to add strength training into my workouts. I don't do it as often as I should!

Patricia said...

Zumba in the circuit sounds like fun! I LOVE Zumba, and am just starting to do strength training, so I can only imagine how great a workout that would be!

BTW - I found your blog through the blog farm! If you have time to read mine, I'd love to have you drop by. My blog is http://gettingfitfor50.wordpress.com