As some of you may know, I am about 5 weeks into my third bikini prep and a question that I get asked a lot is how much cardio I do a day. Now many people who ask me that question immediately follow it by saying ‘oh you must be doing hours and hours a day’. But that is where they are wrong. I am currently doing no cardio apart from taking my dog for a walk which is what I would do normally anyway. The amazing thing is that I’m actually leaner than I ever have been before, whilst doing the least amount I have ever done before at this stage during a competition prep. I am going to discuss my experiences in this blog but remember that’s exactly what they are and that does not mean what I do will work for everyone but if you’re interested in finding out a bit more than keep reading!
A little background on my exercise history:
Although it may be hard to believe because I’m forever in the weights room, back in the day I was a complete cardio bunny. I would do hours and hours of cycling in the gym coupled with walking. I was tiny but not in a good way. I was extremely weak and had no muscle mass whatsoever. My endurance was amazing and to be honest still is as a result, but it was doing nothing for my metabolism. This extreme level of cardio addiction was coupled with undereating on a very low fat diet. A complete recipe for disaster!
My first competition and second competitions:
Now as a result of all my previous bad habits I decided to enlist the help of two top strength and conditioning coaches at The SCI in Tonbridge, Kent. Now over the next few years we worked hard to rebuild my metabolism and increase my lean body mass. Through consistent eating and heavy lifting I finally started to put on some muscle and increase the amount of calories that I was eating. Now if you are going to embark on a Bikini prep then I would wholly suggest building the right foundations before you begin. By making sure you are eating a decent amount of calories it means that when it comes to dieting you have more room to play around. Over the past four years of working with the guys I’ve increase my calories from roughly 1600kcal a day to 2500kcal. I am fitter, stronger and healthier now that I eat more and also visibly leaner! Crazy I know.
For my first two competitions there was a lot of trial and error as it was the first time myself and my coach had prepped so it was hard to know how my body would react due to the past metabolic damage but with healthy dieting and a properly structured programme I was able to get into amazing shape. The most amount of cardio I did was 3 x 15 minute interval sessions on the cross trainer coupled with circuit style weight training sessions in the final few weeks.
My current competition prep:
Now after spending the best part of two years in and out of dieting, myself and my coach thought it would be best to take some time away from competing and work on building some more lean tissue and taking my calories up. During the past two years I have managed to completely change shape. I have more muscle in my lower half as well as my upper, which had also been hard for me to build up. I could also eat anywhere between 2500-2800kcal a day and happily stay around the same weight. I still never did much cardio during this time and purely lifted heavy.
At 5 weeks in I am currently only doing the following:
- 5 weight training sessions a week-lasting no more than 45/50 minutes
- 15000 steps a day on average – I work in London so a lot of this is my commute and walking my dog
I have slowly been dropping weight which is great as we have not had to implement any proper cardio as of yet.
With regards to cardio going forward, we will only add it in once other methods of burning calories have been exhausted eg
- manipulating my macros,
- adding more sets during my weight sessions
- decreasing my rest period in-between sets
- increasing my daily steps
- Implementing conditioning and HITT sessions like prowling at the end of a leg session for example.
There are so many other methods that are more effective for dropping weight than cardio yet still so many girls who are prepping opt for hours and hours of cardio. The drawbacks to doing too much cardio:
- Damage can also occur- physical injuries, hormonal and metabolic. You just have to look at a marathon runner or a sprinter to see what I am referring to.
- Extended periods of cardio places your body under stress. The stress hormone cortisol actually prevents fat burning so your body will look to burn lean tissue for fuel instead
- It can lead to a loss of lean body mass over time. This is something you want to try to avoid as much as possible especially when you are trying to maintain some shape for stage
- When you start doing cardio you experience initial fat loss due to the increase in burning calories this then decreases over time because you become more efficient at it and thereby reduce the fat burning effect.
Make sure to follow my Bikini journey over on my Instagram account @fitfergo to see how my training and nutrition changes over the next 12 weeks!