Going out of business

March 12, 2011

A debate had started with a client. The client said, ” I need to lose weight. I have to do more cardio.”

I asked, “To lose weight, why do you have to do more slow, low intensive, longer duration activity that burns at best 600 calories/hour, is easy to plateau on and will comprimise strength?”

He said, “Because it makes me lose the fastest.”

Does it really? Not in my experience.

My job is to get results. Time period to achieve this: usually one to three months. Therefore, using what’s optimum is essential. This usually means progressive overload, recovery, positive nutritional changes & coaching.

On the other end of the spectrum most exercise programs have a different goal. They just want exercisers to exercise. So they entertain, amuse, keep clients busy, utilize programs that are idiotic in their overall design and create the illusion a work out is exhausting the client. This leads to a whole bunch of weird exercise myths which pursue. One is cardio will make you lose fat.

Cardio is easy to set up. All you need is time and self motivation. The usual cardio prescription is go for a run, or spend some time on a elliptical trainer or bike. Presuming the pace is the same there is only one way to improve. Go longer. And longer. And longer. When you started the cardio program you might have completed 1k in six and half minutes, burning approximately 80 -100 calories. Three months later you are completing a 10k in sixty five minutes burning around 600 calories. Then, if the client is both super motivated and doesn’t have a job, in another six months they will reach 20k in over two hours exploding in the process approximately 1000 calories.

Then one day it happens. You look in the mirror and say to yourself “I’ve been doing this for six months spending countless hours so….why don’t I look any different?”

Cardio can make you lose weight. Their is enough case studies that show it does this. However, it achieves this extremely slowly and only with sublime eating habits or worse, no eating habits. A cardio program often makes you crave carbohydrates and here’s the part that sucks. The longer you do cardio the more muscle/strength you can expect to lose. Often when you hop on that scale the weight has gone down, but the fat has gone up. You think you’ve lost weight. Think again, you’ve lost muscle.

I’ve seen this phenomena first hand. Individuals with wonderful shape & marvelous muscle tone, yet feel the scale should read a lower number. Inevitably they start a cardio program on their own. You know instantly when it happens. Their muscle definition starts to disappear. They used to have a bum: it’s gone. Their arms were the envy of the gym: not anymore. Their strength goes down. They can no longer tolerate high intensities, but rush between exercises as they can tolerate lower intensities with ease. Their faces are looking more gaunt. Soon, people are commenting. A fitness test is suggested. Hop on the scale. True, oh yeah baby, the weight has gone down. But. No but. Yes but. Fat has gone up. Uh oh. Nightmare scenario. The individual hasn’t lost weight, the individual has lost muscle, and gained fat.The body already naturally loses muscle as we age. Now it’s losing more. Far from ideal. For the client this cardio onslaught with a skinny fat result creates three likely scenarios.

*coaching and a complete re-evaluation/revamp is required.

*So disheartened with the results and time expanded the client will give up preaching exercise doesn’t work for his/her body type.

*on the other end of the spectrum the client loves cardio so much will pursue the low intensive long duration program & continue to lose muscle/strength, feel a need to do it longer and longer for the same result and will be one of these people who brag about completing a marathon in a snail pace perpetuating the myth cardio is good for us and will make you lose fat.

A much better option is to have a life. Don’t spend forever exercising. Train smarter instead. If I prescribed the kind of programs most people do for results the TLA would be out of business.