Finding the Balance: Incorporating Cardio and Weight Training into Your Routine

In the world of working out the there are two main tracks — weight lifting and cardio-vascular exercises. While many effective plans that balance the two exist, most active people cling loyally to one side. This is unfortunate because staying on the same track for too long will make someone plateau and can lead to overtraining. Optimal fitness doesn’t come from tunnel vision, but a balanced approach to working out.

Yes, individuals can certainly adjust their routines to avoid plateauing or injury. Frequent weight lifters can simply switch-up the way they are exercising a muscle to push through a plateau. Sometimes focusing more on the muscles around the problem area can be better than targeting it directly. Avid runners can switch to ellipticals or other low-impact machinery to keep knee pains away. But mixing the two is the best way for a person to be strong in their area, but also enjoy well-rounded fitness.

Don’t be Afraid of Weight Training
The main reason that a lot of people avoid weight lifting is they don’t want to gain weight or get bulky. It is true that building muscle will make someone weigh more. However, muscle is much slimmer than fat. Five pounds of muscle would have less mass than five pounds of fat. So a muscular 150 lbs. person would probably appear much trimmer than a 135 lbs. person without any muscle training. Individuals who want to have a toned, lean physique should use low-weight/high-rep training routines to tighten their body without adding bulk. Running makes you “skinny” but adding in weight training can also make you “toned.”

Cardio-junkies may also avoid weight training because they don’t know how to do it. There are plenty of great free weight exercises one can easily pull off the internet. However, someone new to lifting who doesn’t have any guidance can start with weight machines. The risk of injury on a machine (when used correctly) is much less, as it directs the weight in the appropriate way for you. Start with a few machines. When you feel comfortable, drop the weight down a little and mimic the motion with free weights.

Don’t be Afraid of Cardio
Building muscle takes a lot of fuel – any type of exercise does. For muscle builders, the struggle to eat enough to gain weight is especially difficult. Weight lifters don’t want to engage in cardio workouts because they don’t want to burn the calories that take so much effort to acquire. This is a fair ruling – cardio does burn a lot of calories. But cardio creates muscle tone too and some of the burn that cardio creates isn’t accessible through lifting alone. An important part of a well-rounded routine uses cardio workouts to burn away that last layer of fat covering up your definition.

If a person consumes calories constantly and is careful not to burn them, then they will gain weight. If they are practicing a rigorous lifting routine, then that weight will be mostly muscle. However, burning fat defines that muscle. Weight lifters are careful not to allow fat into their diets, but incorporating cardio can allow a more flexible menu – a gift considering how repetitive a weight lifters diet can get. Cardio is also great for your heart (that’s why it’s called cardio), something that carrying all your weight around certainly stresses out.

Be Afraid to Not Mix
Runners get tired of running. Lifters get tired of chest presses. At the very least incorporating the occasional weight training or cardio pumping session in your workout will keep you from getting bored and hitting a wall.

The best type of fitness is well rounded. As much as extremely active people like to chalk themselves up as “healthy,” there is a level of repetitive training that begins to damage your body. Someone who remains focused on one area of exercise can become extremely strong, but approaching your fitness from a wider view encourages a healthy body.

Holly Watson, who blogs on behalf of Sears and other trusted brands, is a running addict. She enjoys experimenting with her exercise and learning about new training techniques and challenges.

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