Strength Training vs. Cardio

A few weeks ago I submitted an article to Labrada Lean Body for Her that was published over the Christmas break! I was really excited about it so I wanted to share it here as well in case you missed it!

It’s always fun to get to choose what I want to write about. I chose the topic of comparing strength training to cardio workouts because it’s something that has literally transformed not only the way I work out, but my body as well.

I used to be completely afraid of the weight floor. I used to be intimidated by the people who were there. I used to not have a clue what to do or how to do it. But one of the main problems along with those fears is that I just was honestly not convinced lifting weights had any more of an impact on my body than my long runs and cardio routines. (Or maybe that’s just what I told myself so that I didn’t have to step onto that weight floor!!!!) I totally thought that if I just pushed it hard enough with cardio then the results I was hoping for with my body would eventually come.

So, I would spend a ton of time running and often felt like it took forever to get anywhere…but then once I did get “somewhere” it was so tough to maintain it.


OH I could not have been more off base! Cardio is important. Don’t get me wrong! There’s definitely a place for cardio. But cardio WITHOUT strength training would never have given me the results I have now. Yes, I’m still a work in progress, but I have already seen some major changes.

For example: here’s what the difference looks like between a runner’s body and a lifter’s body. The pic on the left is the amazing Jamie Eason. The pic on the right is me…about a 8-9 months ago. Jamie has obviously been at this far longer than me so you can tell how she is much more well proportioned than me. There’s much more definition and much more muscle tone. And this pic of me is WITH weights included in my regimen for about a year! Girls, do NOT be afraid to bulk up! It’s so so so tough to get muscle!

pic comparison

That’s where supplements really do help as well. If you’re new to those, then read this article to help guide you through what I feel are the essentials. Or you can click HERE to send you directly to the website of all the products I use on a daily basis.

Real and sustainable changes with my body (post my five kids) began with allowing my thinking to be changed from what I had always known/done with my running career.

I know I can’t be the only one who gets stuck in a certain way of thinking when it comes to cardio!

I have had 4 conversations in the past week alone with girls who say they want to get started with a workout regimen and then tell me their entire plan is get on an elliptical machine every day for the next year. The article I wrote is just a small glimpse into the reasons why I now lift weights instead of relying on cardio alone. And I could not possibly encourage someone enough to start down this path as well. Hey moms, you have to hear this…I know that you’re already short on time. Don’t waste any more of it doing cardio alone. Make your efforts work FOR you by changing up how you view your workouts and adding resistance training.

Let me show you the difference. Here’s a pic that was taken about 3-4 months ago…can you see the difference in my arms from the photo up above?!?!  My shoulders are improving little by little and my triceps and biceps are finally starting to show up too.

beach running

The changes are slow but there ARE changes. And that’s the fun part. Don’t watch the scale. Sometimes the scale goes up or stays the same. Muscle weighs more than fat, so don’t let that throw you. Watch your shape instead. I totally regret not taking pictures weekly to encourage myself in my own process. I’ve started doing that this year though and I’m excited to see the progress continue to happen in my own journey.

There is no better time to begin a new program than now. There are usually large incentives and great deals on gym memberships at this time of the year. Everyone in the world seems to be on board with setting new goals and making new changes and the gyms are no different.

But don’t join a gym without a plan for what to do once you get there. Without a plan it is much easier to fizzle out. You don’t necessarily have to have a trainer either. I personally have never had one. I learned everything I know from the plethora of information online. Check out or for hoards of info readily available. I also learned from my free consultation when I signed up at the gym, from asking tons of questions, and from watching other people who seem to know what they are doing at the gym. Seriously, try it. Observing what others are doing can be one of the most helpful tutorials!

If you’re BRAND NEW to strength training and are looking for a spelled out plan of EXACTLY what to do then here is my recommendation in 11 simple steps:

  1. Find a good gym and join it -this is half the battle. Just pick one and get it done.
  2. Get some good shoes on and drive yourself to that gym you’ve just joined.
  3. Warm up on cardio equipment for 5-10 minutes.
  4. While on said-cardio-equipment get your phone out and pull up this program.
    ***TIP: Save that link in your phone’s “bookmarks” so that you can come back to it during tomorrow’s warm up as easily as possible.
  5. While you warm up, look through the days exercises and figure out where exercise number one will be. If you aren’t sure then watch the handy little video tutorial that shows you exactly what to do.
  6. Get OFF of cardio equipment and go to exercise one.
    ***TIP: The majority of exercises you see in this plan can be done with free weights OR with a machine. You have options here. Some gyms have a lot of machines and some don’t. This is where the one free consultation that most gyms offer will come in useful. Have them simply give you a tour of the weight floor to show you how they’ve organized the equipment. My gym, for example, has placed all of the equipment in order of body part. All of the chest machines are together. All of the leg machines are together. Knowing the floor plan and where things are at help you better grasp what they each do and help you move more quickly through your workout.
  7. Complete set #1 and #2. While resting and waiting to do set #3 get your phone back out and look up the next exercise. Look around to see where you are to go next. Knowing where to get up and move to after the first exercise is complete will help you feel like you know what you’re doing.
    ***TIP: The gym employees are available to help. If you have no idea where a particular exercise can be done then just go up to an employee, show them what it is on your phone that your’e trying to find, and ask them where you should go. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need.
  8. Complete all exercises.
  9. Go find the mats and stretch out.
  10. Go home knowing you’ve just completed Day #1 toward a brand new you.
  11. Do it again the next day.

Oh and number 12 would be to enjoy the process! Fitness is NOT a drain! 🙂 Let yourself have fun learning to do something new. You’ve got this girl!

Note: I’m assuming that everyone would know that there are most definitely other ways to work out besides joining a gym, but if not then let me say it again now. You can most definitely get workouts in many other ways. The main idea is to just find a plan that involves lifting weights or body weight in order to get some resistance in your training.

11 Replies to “Strength Training vs. Cardio”

  1. Great post. For most everyone, you must use strength to gain strength. Keep up the hard work. It is paying off because it shows. I will share this with my friends! Thanks!

  2. Meg – I read your article while I was on the elliptical staring at the intimidating weight floor at the gym. So inspiring!! Thanks for being so honest about your own experience with braving the weight floor!!

      1. actually, yes! my workouts are slowly and steadily evolving from cardio and body weight exercises. my first weight machine is the pull-up assist with my goal as an unassisted pull up for my birthday in march. i also recently added box jumps even though that’s not a machine the box is located allllllllll the way across the weight floor 🙂 and gives this shy-gym-girl a concrete goal.

        1. that’s awesome! such a great, great start! did you see the link that was in the post for the weight training workouts? They’re really incredibly easy to follow and would be a perfect “next step” for you. Keep me posted with how it goes and let me know if I can help in ANY way!

  3. I am really inspired by you! Being a mom of 5 and making time for yourself, and using it in such a healthy way! Plus your abs look awesome! I have a precious 7 month old daughter who I currently stay at home with, and I LOVE IT! But I struggle finding time to go to the gym. I’m also in school full time online to get my Bachelors of Science in Nursing as I am already an RN. That’s probably a huge part of my struggle because my husband will watch our daughter while I do my school work, but when I finish it, I feel guilty asking him to watch her more again. Plus I don’t exactly feel like spending more time away from her (or working out lol). Do you have any tips or suggestions? I was in great running shape before I got pregnant (I even ran a half marathon) but long distance running is SO time consuming that it’s not really an option anymore. Also I didn’t do a great job of keeping in shape during my pregnancy as we were in a fairly severe car accident that seriously injured my abdomen and back.

    Well, good grief, I think I just told you my whole life story lol. I really am ready to get into healthier eating habits and exercise habits. I really want to drop the rest of my baby weight and get back into a body I recognize and love. Any tips on what you do to make time and what you do to support a healthy lifestyle for you and your family (find recipes, etc), would be appreciated! Thank you and God bless!

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement! I love hearing your story so thank you for sharing that as well! Oh and just to put it out there…my abs come and go like the ocean tide. It’s not an arrival, more like a bad game of hide and seek! ???????????? But I keep pressing on regardless!
      Yes, I would love to help out with more workout ideas as food ideas. I put a survey up a few months ago and received a lot of requests for more fitness info. I had sugery and then also needed to get some different filming/camera equipment to be able to do more. I’m for sure heading in that direction soon and I couldn’t be more excited. I have to say though…there is no magic potion and no magic formula I have to offer. When you really boil it down it matters far less what workout you do. The majority of the issue is simply making the decision to be consistent. If fitness is important to you then it is important to make a way. Involve your husband and share with him your concerns. Come up with a plan together. I completely understand the mom-guilt too, but that only lasts as long as it takes me to realize I am too tired to play with kids anymore or until I waste the same amount of time trying on clothes that don’t fit anymore as it would have to simply gone and worked out. One perk to taking the time to get fit is the fact I don’t have to think about myself as much. I can throw clothes on, feel good and move on to loving and serving others. I’ll soon write more on the blog about the ‘practical’ to help out as much as I can though. I know it’s so hard when you feel like you have no idea where to start. I had to take time off for a surgery and haven’t been consistent now for a number of weeks…I’m kind of right where you are yet again. So when I jump in hard core for this next season I’ll be posting and sharing it all!

  4. YES YES YES!!!! This is so right on! Weight training combined with HIIT and cardio transforms your body. I’ve done it both ways, and muscles are just so much prettier. Love this article!

  5. Excellent blog! Do you have any recommendations
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    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a
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