Why I Don’t Do Cardio by Natalie Brainerd

Per­son­al train­er, Natal­ie Brain­erd has agreed to take time out of whip­ping clients into shape (includ­ing our own Kevin Palmer) and write a series for The Clymb. She’ll share her expe­ri­ences with get­ting health­i­er in body, mind and spir­it. In her first install­ment, Natal­ie shares how she began to think dif­fer­ent­ly about what it took to get her body where she want­ed it to be… and then act­ed accordingly.


When­ev­er I sit down with some­one new I will ask them a ques­tion to make sure we are on the same page. “Point for me where you go to get stronger and build lean mus­cle.” Their hand ris­es hes­i­tant­ly and their fin­ger points to the weight-room floor, and just to avoid mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion I restate, “You are point­ing to the dumb­bells, and not the reclin­er bike. Which would imply that one would go to the lat­ter to get weak­er. Correct?”

So the tone is set. Indeed most peo­ple want to look bet­ter naked and don’t want the same ver­sion of them­selves just tak­ing up less space. They want lean mus­cles, they want their abs to show, they want to feel stronger, younger and live longer. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the old tech­nol­o­gy of burn­ing more ener­gy and giv­ing the body less ener­gy to work is still the dom­i­nant phi­los­o­phy with too many health and fit­ness practitioners.

Look at your home and your office. Blu­Ray discs, iPhones, cars that park them­selves, and oth­er mar­vels of tech­nol­o­gy are a part of our lives. Addi­tion­al­ly, pio­neers in health and fit­ness have upgrad­ed our under­stand­ing of exer­cise, nutri­tion, and on how to improve the human body. It is time to leave the ‘calo­ries-in, calo­ries-out’ idea where it belongs: in your attic with your audio cas­settes and rotary phone.

So what if I do ‘more cardio,’(all ‘car­dio’ refers to con­stant state) and I still don’t see any change? I can’t quit my job and just do hours of the ellip­ti­cal, though some peo­ple do.  I was a run­ner, but not with the hope or inten­tion to become the best run­ner, or even get­ting faster. I just want­ed my expen­sive jeans to fit again. I start­ed run­ning for 30 min­utes. And it worked at first, and then it didn’t. So I added more time and 30 min­utes quick­ly became 60, which became 90 and so forth. I just thought that this change wasn’t hap­pen­ing because I wasn’t doing enough.

Then one day I was sit­ting down with a future men­tor who was lis­ten­ing patient­ly to my com­plaints and woes. When I came up for air, he asked, “If you con­tin­ue to do the same thing over and over, more and more, why do you keep expect­ing some­thing to be dif­fer­ent in your out­come? Stop your car­dio and read this.” He hand­ed me a copy of strength coach Charles Poliquin’s Ger­man Body Comp Pro­gram. I read it and my mind was blown —  along with my entire train­ing paradigm.

This book was my ‘Pandora’s Box.’ Here was a guy who got results on the Olympic lev­el and also trained the aver­age per­son to their fat loss and per­for­mance goals. I felt like I knew noth­ing. But instead of quit­ting, I found a new pas­sion. Learn­ing. My work­outs went from 90mins to 2 hours, down to 30min-45min. Con­stant state car­dio turned into lift­ing heavy weights. The results were astound­ing. 26% body­fat down to 16%. I went from being weak and frus­trat­ed, to being able to do full pull-ups, squat full depth my body weight, and then some. My ener­gy went up, I was stronger, my hair grew thick­er (a loss result­ing from aerobic/oxidative stress) and I was happier.

As my body changed my eyes opened up and the hori­zon broad­ened. I thought I knew, but I had no idea. As I stud­ied more I began to under­stand; the solu­tion to all our weight loss woes was not sim­ply just a phys­i­cal one.

So I dug a lit­tle deep­er and found the next step close by, wait­ing for me to be dis­cov­ered in the refrig­er­a­tor and in the bedroom.

To be continued…

Since mak­ing the leap from work as a para­le­gal to fit­ness coach­ing, Natal­ie has built a rep­u­ta­tion for achiev­ing a high lev­el of suc­cess with clients with a vari­ety of back­grounds and goals. Natal­ie has spent the last 5 years under­stand­ing the cut­ting-edge tech­niques required to improve the men­tal and phys­i­cal health and fit­ness of her stu­dents.  Her clients have ranged from elite ath­letes, famous artists and grand­moth­ers all look­ing to improve their lives. In her free time Natal­ie enjoys cook­ing up new cre­ations, and read­ing about nutri­tion and pro­gram design, which she shares on her blog Real Women Squat. Natal­ie cur­rent­ly resides in Port­land Oregon.