There's nothing wrong with going for a run or trying out a HIIT class, but sometimes too much cardio can backfire, especially if you're not doing adequate weights to match. Looking at signs your body needs more strength and less cardio can help you redefine and boost muscle, as well as take better care of your body and health, long-term. Especially given the fact that being low in muscle can put you at risk for scarier conditions down the road.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on finding an exercise routine that fits for their bodily needs, schedules, and preferences. Plus, it needs to be fun and effective. I often find that combination workouts are best for achieving total body wellness goals, and those often include both strength and cardio components. Of course, not every session can incorporate both, so you may need to trade off on days in the week, but if you're sticking solely with cardio and not taking time for weight training, you could be missing out on some serious athletic results. Here are 7 signs you're doing too much cardio and need to increase your strength training. Don't be shocked if you start to see some awesome, empowering body changes.
1. Your Muscles Are Less Defined Than You'd Like
"If you are spending hours at the gym spinning, running and climbing the stairs but your weight loss has plateaued and you are not achieving a lean toned physique, it's time to integrate more strength training into your workout," says Rebecca Gahan, owner of Kick@55 Fitness in Chicago.
2. You Don't Get Enough "After Burn"
Pay attention to the difference in heart rate: Gahan says that "when you engage in cardio exercise your metabolic rate accelerates for an average of 1-2 hours post workout., but when you engage in strength training, your metabolic rate accelerates for 24-72 hours post workout." Wow. Take advantage of this state. "The muscles are in a state where oxygen has been deleted, energy needs to be restored, and the muscles are breaking down and then building up again," Gahan adds.
3. You're Hungry All The Time
Grace Albin, trainer at Fitstylegrace, says to Bustle, "Aerobic exercise is wonderful because it strengthens the heart muscle and increases endorphins. Cardio certainly does burn calories in the short term, but all that fat melting also triggers your body’s hunger mechanism. This leads some people to [binge-eat], or generally to consumer more calories than their body needs." In contrast, "weight training increases muscle mass, which in turn raises your body’s long-term metabolic rate," says Albin.
4. You're Getting Overuse Injuries
"Overuse injuries result from too much running, biking, or other repetitive moves, especially if you do them with poor form. The best way to prevent cardio-based injuries is to strengthen the muscles around the fragile area," says Albin. "For example, runners are prone to knee injuries that result from having overdeveloped quadriceps and underdeveloped hamstrings. This muscle imbalance results from only running, a movement which uses the quadriceps more than the hamstrings," Albin adds. By skipping a day of cardio and opting for strength training, you'll actually run a faster pace and help prevent injury.
5. You Have Osteoporosis
If you get diagnosed with osteoporosis, or osteopenia (a precursor for osteoporosis), it could be due to overtraining in the cardio area, as excess cardio can strip your body of good, bone-building muscle, says Albin. Contrarily, "weight training helps strengthen bones and prevent further bone loss," says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, to Bustle.
6. Your Testosterone Levels Are Lower
Excess cardio can interfere with the body's production of testosterone and human growth hormone, says Herbst. Yet, weight training, in addition to cardio, can counteract these effects. Weight training "has been found to cause the body to produce more testosterone and human growth hormone, which counter cortisol and cause the body to reduce fat. They also elevate the metabolism as the body repairs itself from the workout," Herbst explains.
If you notice any of these physical signs (or as shown during a medical visit or test), it could mean that you're overdoing it on the cardio. Adding in some weights to your regimen could help balance out your routine.