woman wearing ponytail in gym doing bicep curls with bar weights

Weights or Cardio: What's Better?

WEIGHTS VS CARDIO
Lifting weights vs cardio is a long-debated subject with varying degrees of information, studies, and opinions.

What are we supposed to do with all of this information? How do we know what's really best for us?

I'm going to tell you how this self-proclaimed recovering cardio addict made the transition to weight lifting queen. There was a time in my life where I ran and/or walked five to six days per week. There really is such a thing as runners high. I'm totally serious!

two women running outside near water with headphones on

Running was my workout of choice for many years. Don't get me wrong, I did strength training as well, but it certainly wasn't a priority.

That worked for a while. Until I got to the point in my 40's where I started noticing age-related muscle loss kicking in. All of a sudden (or at least it seemed like it was), I was soft and even kind of flabby. I could actually feel my back fat swaying as I walked. I know, TMI!

What's a girl supposed to do? I did what I usually do when I feel frustrated. I educated myself. I started researching age-related muscle loss to see if there was anything that I could do about it.

AGE-RELATED MUSCLE LOSS
CAUSES & TREATMENT
First of all, I learned that there's a medical term for it - Sarcopenia.

The process usually starts sometime in your 30's, and the more physically inactive you are, the higher the percentage of loss.

That means my muscle loss might have been more significant if I wasn't physically active. The rate of loss tends to increase with each decade, and can significantly speed up after 65.

So what are some of the causes? Loss of the growth hormone testosterone, decrease in the ability to turn protein into energy, and not consuming enough protein or calories can all play a part.

Now that I had an understanding of the causes, I wanted to learn how to stop it or at least minimize it. Apparently, the most effective treatment is resistance training. Oh, you mean the very thing that I wasn't making a priority? It works so well that it can improve your body's ability to convert protein to energy in as little as two weeks. Yay, it's fixable! I love it when that happens.

Another little gem that I learned through all of my research is that my beloved cardio might burn muscle in addition to fat. I was possibly burning muscle by doing too much cardio in addition to losing muscle because of age.

Yikes! I really wish I could insert the crying emoji here. So guess what I did? You better believe that I absolutely made strength training a priority!

THE TRANSITION

woman sitting on weight bench in gym doing a bicep curl

I was already pretty knowledgeable on what to do. I just needed to do it more consistently. My preference is compound moves, which means I'm working multiple muscle groups at the same time. This is more efficient, and I'm all about efficiency. It also gets my heart rate up and burns more calories.

I do a combination of weights and bodyweight exercises, alternating between upper-body and lower-body focused days (two days each).

Cardio is a complement to my resistance training, but it is no longer the focus. Weights are now the superstar in my life instead of the treadmill.

THE CHALLENGE
There was some frustration at first because I didn't feel like my body was changing for the better. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to, but nothing was noticeably happening. Seeing results helps in keeping me motivated. It was definitely affecting my motivation and hurting my mindset.

I'm not a quitter though, so I decided to try increasing my weight. It's been several weeks of lifting heavier at the time of this blog post being written, and I'm starting to see a difference! Y'all, my body is changing! I'm actually seeing muscle definition without having to flex. I feel stronger! I even think that my back fat may have stopped swaying.

woman sitting in gym doing a bicep curl

This is important to share with you so you can understand that it's a learning process. Sometimes we need to try different things until we find out what works best for us. No journey is perfect, and no journey is the same.

Please keep in mind, that when I say I increased the amount of weight - I almost doubled it. It wasn't just a little change that made the difference. I really had to challenge myself.

And, yes those last couple reps of each set are difficult. But, that's the point. Sometimes we have to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone in order to see positive changes. It's hard to progress when we're complacent.

I feel like most women, including myself, tend to not lift heavy enough. We're worried about bulking up or looking too masculine. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm getting leaner. Ladies, we have been duped!

So, what does all of this mean? Are weights more important than cardio?

From my own personal experience, I absolutely believe it is. Especially if you are female and over 40.

Have you made the transition from cardio to weights, or are you thinking about it?

Never be afraid to reinvent yourself. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes change is necessary.

I have made the transition from cardio to weights, and I'm loving it! Never thought I would say that, yet here we are.

~Andi, XOXO