Hi guys! I wanted to talk a little bit about cardio today and how it plays a role in my life and training these days, however this quickly turned into a post about my fitness journey over the years.
So, I'm going with it, because maybe it will inspire someone out there, or at least let you see what it has taken to get my health and happiness where it is now! And I'm sucking it up and showing some really bad and embarrassing pictures of myself because I think it is important.
I should start way back when I was in high school and college and cardio was ALL that I did. Basically, I ate mindlessly and went to the gym daily. I'd go spinning, go on the elliptical, or go running on the treadmill. I would dread it every day because I never saw results, but felt like I had to go burn those calories. But after I had burned them, I went home and ate more than I had burned off and therefore felt like it was a total waste and I would always just end up feeling like a failure and hating myself for it. So, yeah. I spent about 13 years or so (ONG that's crazy) in this sick relationship with cardio, and weighing 10-20 pounds more than I do now. It was really not fun and made me pretty miserable, actually. I even trained for and ran a half marathon in hopes that it would motivate me and give me more of a purpose for running, and help me lose weight, but, no, that did not happen. It kind of just made me eat more and made me really tired.
Fast forward to 2013, when I started lifting and my trainer incorporated some conditioning into the ends of my training sessions. By that time, I had already been at the gym for a couple of hours and kind of just wanted to be done with my workout for the day, so some days I would do the conditioning and some days, I would skip it. Even though I was skipping a lot of my conditioning, I noticed major changes in my body and lost about 8 pounds or so just from lifting heavy weights five times a week at that point. I was loving how I felt and looked, but my eating was still inconsistent and I didn't think too much about what or how much I was putting in my body.
Then I started Crossfit. Crossfit involved a lot of cardio between rowing, running, and just doing everything fast. My heart rate was constantly sky high and while I didn't lose any more weight on the scale, I looked better. I got stronger and had a lot more endurance, and could run longer and faster than ever before without completely dying. For awhile I really ramped up the cardio and was lifting, doing metcons, kettlebell WODs, and endurance workouts in hopes of becoming more competitive, but it was sometimes more stressful than fun. Throughout most of my Crossfit experience, I ate pretty healthfully, but I didn't track what or how much I was eating. I mostly just ate based on how I felt (intuitive eating). A lot of times, Crossfit made me feel like I was working really hard and like I needed to fuel myself a whole lot, when I actually wasn't and really didn't need as much as I was taking in.
Last June, I finally decided it was time to learn about my nutrition and approach it as scientifically as I was my training. That's when everything changed. I learned what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat it, and the science (the WHY) behind it. Within a month or so, I lost a bunch of body fat and totally transformed my body and took it to the next level. I actually loved everything about the way I felt and looked for the first time ever. Why didn't I focus on precise nutrition sooner, I don't know. I guess I was in denial, or just not ready. Do I regret not starting it sooner? YES. But since June 4th, 2015, my nutrition and training has been so consistent and has made me feel the best I've ever felt!
This winter, I stopped going to (and coaching) Crossfit after realizing that the only fun parts of it for me were 1) Doing it with Mike and 2) Lifting. I really wanted to focus on and get competetive in powerlifting (another thing I regret not having started a long time ago). Because I have the most supportive husband on earth, he wanted to join me in this transition, and luckily, our garage gym was perfect for this change.
At first, I tried to do my powerlifting training while continuing to do shorter Crossfit metcons, but as the days and weeks went by and my lifting volume and intensity increased, I had to make a choice. Be sore and worn down from a ten minute workout, or be able to complete the sets and reps in my powerlifting training program and work towards my goals of competing. Obviously, my lifts and strength are my top priority, so they won.
But now, to get to my original point of this post, I wasn't worried about cutting out mostly all cardio from my training because I knew how to fuel my body just right for whatever training I was doing. But, I still wanted to do some sort of cardio, because sweating just feels good and makes me happy sometimes, and obviously it's good for your overall health. I had to find something that wasn't going to take a lot out of me physically or mentally, something that wouldn't put any extra stress on my body and would preserve the strength and muscle that I've built. That's when I started learning about the benefits of low intensity steady state cardio. Basically, you keep your heart rate low and work at a level in which you can have a conversation and speak and breathe easily.
I always believed that the faster and harder I worked, the better results I would get. But not anymore! Incorporating this type of cardio into my weekly training has been amazing for me. I have been LOVING power walking either on the treadmill or with Mike and the dogs, and even going on the elliptical for an hour (something that would've been torture to me in my past life). I do this one to three times a week, depending on how busy I am and how tired I am, and how nice the weather is :) When I'm on the elliptical or treadmill, I watch YouTube videos, catch up on blogs and Instagram, or just listen to music. When I'm out on a walk, I soak up the fresh air and sun and have a conversation with Mike. So "cardio" has changed from something I hated and dreaded and got nowhere with years ago, to a (dare I say) relaxing and therapeutic time for me.
I honestly feel like everything has finally fallen into place for me. It's been almost a year now that my nutrition has been on point. I don't even have to think about what to eat anymore and I am helping others in their journeys as well. I feel so good now that I am confident in what I'm eating, and why I'm eating it, and my body loves me for treating it this way. I am stronger than ever, and everything has just been so consistent with my training and life in general, I couldn't be happier.
I hope this helps motivate someone out there, or maybe you have a piece to your puzzle that just needs figuring out like I did. We all have different goals and priorities, I realize that. Happy and healthy are mine, and this is what that looks like to me. Thanks for reading xo
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