I Swapped Cardio For Strength Training For A Month—And WOW

Throughout my career as a weight-loss expert, I’ve tried just about every workout in the books, from traditional cardio to boxing to lifting weights. After years without much of a focus on building strength, I decided to swap my cardio-heavy routine for the weight room to see how it’d change my body—and my mindset about fitness.

My Early Love Affair With Weights

Back in my 20s, while working on my Master’s, I got into strength training while working out at a serious bodybuilding gym in the Bronx with my then-boyfriend.

In those days, I woke up at the crack of dawn, rollerbladed to the gym, and spent two hours lifting weights before class. And though I didn’t stay as hardcore about the weights throughout the years, that time of my life really instilled in me the importance of being strong. It also sparked the passion for fitness that lead me to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

Throughout my career, I learned more and more about why being strong mattered. As we age, we start to lose muscle—and at a faster and faster rate. So, strength training and maintaining a solid base of muscle not only protects us from injury over the years, but also helps keep our metabolism humming.

Fast Forward: A Different Workout Routine

Two decades and two kids after my weight-room days, I found myself in a workout routine that consisted mostly of running and local fitness classes like kickboxing or spinning. Typically, I’d run my favorite six-mile route three days a week and go to classes two days. Without much weight training in my regular programming, I knew I’d lost some of the strength I once had.

Related: Don’t Let These 8 Common Strength-Training Myths Fool You

Considering how much I encouraged my clients to embrace strength training, I knew I needed to get back at it. I decided to focus the next month of my training on hitting the weights, joined a cheap gym in my neighborhood, and recruited my husband to join me.

Getting Back Into The Weight Room

Ready to get started, I made myself a new workout plan, inspired by my former lifting days. I would lift weights three days a week, focusing on legs and shoulders one day, back and biceps the second, and triceps and chest the third. I’d start each workout with a 10-minute jog, lift for about 35 minutes (focusing on sets of 10 to 12 reps to support muscle-building), and finish with some core exercises and another jog. While that first jog would help me warm up, the second would help kick-start recovery by sending lots of oxygen and nutrients to my muscles.

Truthfully, I was nervous to get back into the gym—but the training came back much like riding a bike! I knew I would miss my long, meditative runs—but I was excited to really test my strength.

I walked into the weight room that first day confident that I was already in darn good shape. Not sure what I’d be capable of, I started off using pretty light weights that first week. Even still, I found myself incredibly sore after each workout. Seriously, wow. I can’t name another type of training that’s left me so sore.

On another note, though, I was delighted to find that lifting weights left me with the same endorphin rush I associated with running. The post-workout high was so real!

Settling In

My second week in the gym, I was already able to lift about 10 percent more! As I settled into the routine, I grew more and more excited to keep it up.

At that point, I noticed some effects of my new workouts outside of the gym—particularly, a ravenous appetite. Over the years, I’d moved closer and closer to eating vegetarian—but, as I got back into lifting, I found myself craving protein.

Related: The Perfect Post-Workout Snack For Your Fitness Goals

To satisfy my hunger, I added extra healthy fats and protein to my diet. I swapped my morning plant-based shake for eggs and threw some avocado or cheese to my meals to help keep me satisfied.

I added a handful of nuts or roll-ups made with sliced turkey, cheese, and avocado to my afternoon snack of fruit.

Powering Up

Throughout the second half of my strength-training month, I continued to gain strength—and fast. That first week, I could only curl 10s—but by the end, I curled 15s no problem. I felt accomplished every single week.

As if that wasn’t motivation enough, the camaraderie of the gym also kept me accountable. Everyone I saw, including the front desk manager, cheered me on day after day.

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At the end of the month, I beamed with pride for setting a goal and sticking with it. I also felt stronger in my body. Everything from getting in and out of the car to hauling heavy grocery bags was easier.

Out of curiosity, I stepped on the scale. My body fat percentage had gone down a full one percent in just those 30 days! I’d gained four pounds, but that didn’t matter; my clothing fit wonderfully and I felt confident and strong. I couldn’t believe how much a month in the gym had done for me, body and spirit!

Staying Strong

Now that I’ve reintroduced weights to my routine, I’ll never go back. Though I will add some of my treasured runs back into my routine, I’ll continue strength training at least twice a week.

If you’re curious about hitting the weight room, learn from my experience and keep a few things in mind:

  • recruit a partner or a trainer
  • add protein and fats to meals and snacks to combat hunger
  • during workouts, make proper form your number-one priority
  • try a free app like Keelo or Aaptive when strength training at home

I’ll see you in the gym!

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Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry, as well as a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on.