Why I Don’t Do Cardio Anymore


Treadmills : Movement :: Diets : Eating

I have nothing against aerobic activity. Aerobic activities can be very fun: skiing, hiking, swimming, ultimate frisbee… laser tag… what have you. It can be life-affirming, endorphin-releasing and awesome. (And walking! One of my favorite things to do is walking with my iPod. Seriously.)

But sustained cardio for long-term weight loss OR EVEN for health? Not so much.

Why?

1. Cardio Makes Me Hungry

Cardio Burns Calories. So it makes you hungry, naturally. If you don’t eat to hunger your body thinks it is starving (and you will be miserable)- which lowers metabolism, so if you ever stop your militant regimen it will be easy to gain weight. If you do eat to hunger, you will not lose weight. (Because a + b – b = a. Or something.) And thirdly, if you are like me, you will be so hungry at night by trying to “be good” all day, you will overeat or binge, and gain weight. And be very mad.

2. Cardio Stresses Me Out Mentally

It lends itself easily to disordered eating mentalities. You “burn” something off. You “pay” for the food you ate earlier. It can easily become punitive and filled with guilty thoughts. “I should have gone running this morning- I don’t deserve to sit here so quietly doing cats cradle”. Also intense cardio is hard and I would dread it, then not do it, then feel guilty. Or do it, and get addicted to it and it’s promise of everlasting beauty, and then what if I couldn’t that day….  and God, the showering logistics!

3. Cardio Stresses Me Out Physically

Once it would become part of my militant regimen, I would undoubtedly injure my foot or my knee from overuse and God-given poor alignment, then I wouldn’t be able to stick to my regimen, and it would stress me out mentally. See where I am going with this?

4. Apparently, It Isn’t That Great Anyway

It apparently increases systemic inflammation, raises cortisol, encourages muscle loss and fat storage. As well as being annoying and making me want to punch people in the face.

You can read more here, for some science-y stuff. I only have the wherewithal to speak on personal experience.

5. I Have Been Thinner and Calmer NOT Doing Cardio

I have never been as thin doing moderate/crazy cardio, as I have been doing none/light  cardio. So there.


Not that being thin is the be-all end-all, but if anyone is doing maniacal cardio for the purpose of everlasting thinness, they should just beware. And also, reading some literature on cardio’s health effects, it seems it is not all it was ever cracked up to be

So, What To Do?

If one wants do organized exercise: random sprints and strength training are the way to go. Both things only need to be a few times a week, if that.

I now walk a lot (NYC) and do 15-20 minutes of yoga in my room a few times a week. I might lift weights if I didn’t hate gyms so much.

But please, figure out what works for you! In the comments I wanna hear your relationship with cardio, and whether you found it to be a lying bitch or not!

21 comments

  1. Woo!

    I have decided not to do *exercise* any more. I won’t work just for the goal of reshaping my body. Fuck it.

    I will, however, seek out fun activities that might look like exercise. But the only reason I will do them is because they are fun – not because I think they will “get me in shape”.

  2. yes!! just came across your blog yesterday and love it because I believe we are both in the ‘same place’ at the same time.
    I used to run 5 miles a day and count calories, and not only be stressed out about my body but miserably fatigued. Also, was still ‘squishy’ (skinny fat). Where were those Runner Magazine abs??
    I now have not run more than 1 minute straight in a few weeks, and have not run more than 1.5 miles in over 2 months, and with Tabatas, quality exercises to failure, and a few weights now and then, my body is TOO lean. (I just got off LC Paleo because my skin is dry, I have ‘bonked’, and my poop is terrible.)
    I’m eating intuitively to appetite, which sometimes includes lots of ice cream.
    Thank you for your inspiration!

    1. So glad to connect with you. I have been off LC Paleo for… 4 months now… and I gained a good 15 pounds at least reincorporating carbs and eating the food I wanted- even while only eating to hunger. It was just my slower, sadder body, responding to food in the only way it could. But now my weight is slowly coming back down without doing anything different at all. I am still generally gluten free- but that is even challenged by ‘fuck it’- shared a sandwich with my friend tonight. Boo ya.

      I just think of all the horrible things that were happening to me on Paleo that I just wrote off as “detox’ or “adjusting”. UGH! No different than my mentality on Raw Veganism!

      And yes, I have conquered my fear of dairy, my fear of sugar AND my diagnosed lactose intolerance with ample ice cream. YESSSSSSSS.

      1. “I just think of all the horrible things that were happening to me on Paleo that I just wrote off as “detox’ or “adjusting”. UGH! No different than my mentality on Raw Veganism!”

        I know. I am so embarrassed for ever turning up my nose at ‘those radical morons’. I was no different. BLEH!!

  3. I tried to like cardio but never could get into it. Boring, and I always felt hungrier after. I am glad to be learning it is a waste of time (and that I never wasted that much of mine on it!). I love walking in nature or interesting cities. I’m in NYC too. Biking could be fun if it didn’t scare me in this city.

    1. Biking seems like a death wish in this city, but I agree, I would definitely enjoy it if it wasn’t so dangerous. Where do you live in NYC!? I am on the UWS, but moving to Queens…

      1. I live in Brooklyn, near Prospect Park. It is an oasis (most of the time). Lived in Manhattan, Astoria and Forest Hills when I was younger. Queens has some interesting areas. BTW got here from your post on 180DH.

  4. I bike 17km two or three times a week and I love it. Is this gonna damage me!? I actually have Addisson’s disease though, so not like I am gonna be damaged by high cortisol, but the other stuff is worrying. :(

    I am 1.5 years into recovery from orthorexia and eat well (wholefoods and balanced, none of the restrictive LC crap I used to do) so I thought I’d be fine.

    What do you think?

    1. Hi Lynn, I don’t think that there is inherently anything wrong with intense cardio exercise a few times a week. Especially if you love it. If you are eating enough, enjoy it, are sleeping well, and are not suffering from over-exhaustion in other areas of your life, I see no reason your biking is a problem. The best barometer, in my opinion, is: are you exercising out of fear? Or joy? That is the most telling question, to find out yourself if it is a positive addition to your life.

      I don’t know much about Addison’s disease, so I would never want to recommend that you stop something that you felt was helping you. I just know that for me and my food/weight/exercise relationship was greatly helped by cutting out regular, intense cardio. I also believe that stress is the #1 problem! I don’t know how that works in with Addisons, but I would guess it still applies. :)

      I hope this response was helpful!

      1. I do love it. I love the wind in my hair, the fresh air, the speeding down hills and the challenge of increasing km. So very different to my former gym life where all I was thinking about was my weight or counting the minutes until it was over and the boredom would end.

        It also makes me feel good about my body; that I may not be as thin as I want to be, but I can beat most everyone in a biking contest. :)

        It’s definitely a positive addition to my life.

        I am making sure to eat well etc. but sleep is still a struggle for me. Sometimes I sleep great and other times I don’t sleep as well.

        Addissons disease is a condition where the adrenals don’t work properly and the body doesn’t make enough cortisol, which is why I don’t need to worry about high cortisol. If I ever developed high cortisol, some scientist would have won the Noble Prize. :)

  5. I find “exercise” dull, for the most part.

    I do like having fun- dancing, learning to fight while dressed in a costume (SCA heavy fighting), spinning fire, hiking, etc. The only thing I do close to a “standard” exercise is lift weights because that is how I meditate.

    1. Woa I am looking up SCA fighting. And, Spinning Fire! Talk about badass! How do you meditate while lifting weights? Do you focus on the sensation? Fascinating. Do you do it in a gym or with your own weights? Glad you commented, are you on twitter as archeo_girl1? I can’t find you!

      1. I am on twitter as archaeo_girl1 (check the second a) and the gawkerverse as archaeo_girl, but i mostly just use the twitter to log in to wordpress and disqus commenting. I’m on LJ under a different name if you ever cruise there i’ll tell it to you.

        The meditation comes with counting reps while doing repetitive motion. focusing on the movements and posture, the muscle groups being activated by the workout AND activated by maintaining posture (free weights work the core, too). Focusing on breathing. For whatever reason, that action puts everything else out of my mind. I don’t know why. It just calms me. I don’t go to a gym to do it, I don’t have the cash. I have basic dumbbells and makeshift weights (water jugs, broom sticks, and such), and I’m saving up for a kettlebell set.

  6. This is Rick, remember i commented in the summer and you thought I was menacing and what not, and we understood in the end different things work for us, but thats no the point, I can swear that I saw you in Brooklyn after the hurricane aftermath at this Gulf in Bensonhurst and I was like shit, i commented on this girls diet page in the summer I remember her. I kind of had a bathroom emergency and you were yelling because I was taking forever, it was on Halloween. I’m just wondering if thats true because that means its a really small world lol.

  7. I’ve noticed cardio curbs my appetite a couple of hours after doing it, I’m not exactly sure why. I do notice increased hunger later in the day though, but I try to keep my snacks before dinner healthy and low calorie. Maybe some carrots and hummus or a greek yogurt with it’s high protein content.

  8. True, now that I think about it, I’ve adapted some of your principles, but not all of them. I was being a bit close-minded on some of the stuff here. Since the summer, I’ve come to abandon the principle of eating 6 small meals a day because I think that is the biggest bunch of bullshit and you aren’t even satisfied after them. I have also gone back to what I used to do, skipping breakfast and eating 2 to 3 big, satisfying meals. I am so used to that that it doesn’t bother me and I enjoy being in fasted state because fasted state does give some benefits and the rest of the day, I eat whatever I want. I have found that healthy eating is in my intuition because of everything I’ve gone through in the past and all of these health problems that have disappeared since I started eating healthier, so healthy eating has become my intuition. However, I have learned about macronutrients and learned that no matter what you eat, you can still have six pack abs. I pretty much eat what I want and I never crave fast food ever. I eat plenty of sweets, but not fast food. Also for me salt and carbs are no big deal. I actually find that I build more muscle when I eat carbs at night, including ice cream and cake;) . Carbs at night actually may make you lose more weight, I found some info on this. I also have really gotten things together since summer. I love being active and I run races and lift. Health and fitness keep me away from drugs and have transformed my life and helped me improve in every area of and have become a passion of mine. However I now see your point about carbs, sugar, salt and that stuff not mattering. I have also learned you could eat whatever you want, as long as you aren’t over-reating. Since I am running and lifting, it makes more sense not to cut carbs and sugars, my body needs it for energy in the races. Theres a lot of traditional health stuff out there that is just pure bs and people swear by it!!! What I do is mix something called intermittent fasting with intuitive eating. That in combination is splended for me!!

  9. I can’t do sustained cardio because of heart and adrenal problems, so I’m happy to read your post. I also LOVE your website, being an ex-dieter. After 40 years of hating my perfectly lovely body and punishing the crap out of it to be impossibly thin, like you, I am done. I only wish I didn’t have so many food allergies and intolerances that accompany my autoimmune issues – but that won’t last forever (I hope!). Thanks for putting yourself out there and being a voice for sanity.

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