Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Cardio Question

We are having QUITE a discussion around extreme cardio and I just wanted to post an official blog on the subject and my thoughts. :)

First of all, I speak about cardio from my own personal experience and come from a place of love and concern for my fellow athlete's/competitors/women who love iron. :) I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or talk down to anyone. I want to share the information and knowledge that I have from my experience and my years of training along with what I have learned from the hours and hours of reading and sharing others experiences.

Please, please, please know that this is my opinion from my experiences and knowledge coming from a place of love. Did I say that already?? :)

I did the two hours of cardio. I did it for 14 weeks and did two back to back competitions. And then I pretty much stopped working out consistently, completely fell off a consistent eating plan and was sick for about 6 months. Literally. I lost my desire to workout and I struggled with intensity.

Now, did I have other things going on in my life like a very rigorous work schedule? YES! Wedding? YES! But, I feel strongly that the 3 hours a day of training (cardio and lifting) and then another hour of food prep put me in a place of extreme over training - mentally and physically.

Further, I was TRAINING my body to store fat once I went back to a normal life. Training it - think about it - your body is surviving on like 1100 calories a day and you are doing tons of cardio and then you start eating normally and training regularly and your body is freaking out - thinking it has to store up for the next starvation so pack it on, pack it on, pack it on.

And it took ME (again this is my story and my perspective) a long time to get back into it. In fact, at one point I said I would never compete again and even said I regretted it. Now I am in a wonderful place.....I know what I need to eat. I know how I need to train. I know I need to dial it in at certain intervals out from the contest. I know I can do it with mental and physical commitment but NOT 2 hours of cardio a day.

And you know what - AFTER this next competition I KNOW what to expect and my body will adjust - not drastically like the last time.

So, that is why I feel the way I do. That COMBINED with tons of articles and scientific info about how your body responds to extreme dieting and cardio. Show me scientific data that supports the long term benefits of 2 hours a day cardio on low calories? Your not going to find it. What you will find is scientific, imperial and experience (lots of competitors) based data that says High Intensity Interval training for 30 minutes and intense weight training workouts and a consistent diet (even adding re-feeds) over a long period of time allow you to achieve your goals AND not rebound.

That's all I got. I hope those of you who have an opinion chime each their own I ALWAYS say and I feel that way as well. Everyone has to go on their own journey and I hope each of you finds the journey that is healthiest and happiest.



Evelyne said...

The more and more I read, I'm beginning to see how too much cardio can really backfire. I really like the idea of eating a healthy diet and doing HIIT for no more than 30 minutes. I've seen that it works. I also like the idea of a re-feed day too. Thanks for posting this!

April said...

Well from my experience last time I did cardio, doubles at around 3.5 weeks out. I was also eating a cup of oats. This time I just started them at 3 weeks out and my cals are over 1400. So I think i'll be good. I did not rebound after this last show and it was awesome. I'm learning about myself more and more so it'll just keep getting better.

I agree with the refeed thing. I'm mentally messed up though and just can't do it. I know that's crazy. There are sometimes like holidays or parties where I indulge but mentally I just can't. Maybe if I do something small like a big bowl of cereal or something?

There are many different approaches to contest prep. What works for some won't work for others. Trust me though i'm all about getting there eating good food and doing minimal cardio!

noel said...

Well, I am sure you know where I stand on all of this LOL. I think you are taking a much smarter approach this time!

Tressa said...

aaahhhh jess!!! you described perfectly what's been going on with me! i feel like a fat cow and i'm embrassed and de motivated. i want it back but i know i definitely don't want to approach it the way i did before. i also gotta stop excuses and start again somewhere, some how.

Charlotte Orr said...

Great post!

Stef said...

I wish I had the time to comment... I have strong feelings about this. I will have to stop back.


Visionquester said...

You know Jessica... I think the best thing that has come from this is that you have really "grown a pair".

I like that about you.

P.S. It also helps to lay off the cardio in the off-season.


Muslfetish said...

Wow, 14 weeks of 2 hours of cardio a day plus weights...yeah, that's enough to push anyone over the edge.
I'm with April when I say mine just doubled at 4 weeks really I'll only be doing 2 hours of cardio for maybe all of 3 weeks cause the last week isn't like that. So instead of feeling drained these last few weeks of comp prep I am instead on fire! I feel like I'm training for the Olympics or something...
leaner. :)
I am not normal though and will be the first to admit it :) but I also like that fact that if in a moment of weakness I wolf down a flat bread covered with protein powder, peanut butter, and honey...I'm covered. It's like insurance lol! :)
The most important thing is you are doing what's best for you and you are happy and getting the results you want cause that's what counts in the end. :)

Visionquester said...


Can you clarify why you were doing that much cardio that far out?

Was it your diet?

Was it that you had adapted?

Were you in starvation mode?

Were you instructed to do it?

Please elaborate.

Kelly Olexa said...

I totally disagree with you. I have decided that I am going to wake up each day and start doing Taebo at 8am until noon, then eat a pizza, then do more Taebo from 1-6pm. Every day.
Hehehehe. I'm being silly, because I have obviously been way nutty about figuring the cardio and all this stuff out. Cynthia was kind enough to chat w/me via email today and I feel very good, VERY GOOD about moving forward.

I appreciate that you took the time to write this out....hearing from someone who has been there, what a huge help.



Krissa said...

Yes, please elaborate. I cannot imagine doing that much cardio. Oh wait. Yes I can. I did it too for about a year! Of course I ended up in therapy for another year too so DONT TRY THIS AT HOME! :)

Cathy said...

Hi Chica! I have decided to maintain my Blogger account. It is so much easier to follow my favorite blogs this way!
I agree w/ your position on cardio. I do not have the time in my life to educate myself on the ins and outs of training. That is why I have Eric. And I have learned so much from him. His training does not incorporate a lot of cardio, in fact hardly any. It does require hard work in the gym, eating well and enough of the right foods.
I posted a progress pic, please check out and offer any comments, positive or critical is welcome.