I had a client who participated in a doctor-monitored weight-loss program. She hit a plateau and was trying to figure out what was going on with her body. The weight-loss program coordinator suggested that she was actually doing too much cardio, which was harming her weight-loss journey.
I hadn’t ever really given it much thought until the client mentioned it. After our conversation, I began researching if too much cardio could negatively impact your strength training and fitness goals. In a nutshell, yes, too much cardio can negatively impact your fitness journey.
If you do long, cardio-only workouts, you will lose weight. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t differentiate between muscle and fat, so you will inevitably lose muscle. The loss of muscle slows down your metabolism, which means you will have an even harder time shedding fat.
Additionally, cardio-only fitness programs can be incredibly taxing on your joints. If you are doing two-hour cardio workouts on a daily basis, your body is under a lot of stress. Without proper strength training for your muscles and rest days, your body is prone to overuse injuries.
When I trained for my first marathon, I thought more running was better. I ran at least five days a week with one of those days dedicated to a long run. I did okay in the beginning, but as I edged closer to my marathon date, I had a handful of injuries pop up. They were overuse injuries; I was only doing cardio and doing a lot of it. I managed to run my marathon but spent the next three months recovering from overuse injuries.
The best way to combat too much cardio is to incorporate strength training into your fitness routine. You will build muscle, which will make many of your cardio activities easier AND strength training helps you maintain muscle mass. Also, the addition of muscle will boost your resting metabolic rate, which helps you burn more calories.
If you haven’t been strength training, set a goal to try doing two sessions a week on nonconsecutive days. Join a small group, hire a personal trainer or try taking a strength training class. This will help you ease into a strength training program and learn proper form. I have several strength training/full-body workouts on my site that would be a great substitution for a cardio workout.