Dad Bod Strikes Back: The Reluctant Return To Cardio

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The force of inertia is strong with this one…sometimes.

In general, I love my wife. I’ve got a cool, funny, beautiful wife, a rad kid, and a free PS4 on the way. But I do reserve the right to gripe about a few things. Things like: popcorn kernels in between my molars, the gradual decline of critical thinking in our population leading to a society of lowest common denominator entertainment and viral prank videos that allows for civilization to be dismantled and sold off to greedy nefarious morons, oh, and also cardio. I really hate cardio.

I think the main reason I hate cardio is that I have never not looked terrible doing it. You can’t unsee the over-cranked level of jiggle my man boobs and love handles blast out when my wife drags me to Zumba. They’re like community theater tap dancers who’re finally getting to audition for Broadway. And, baby, they’re gonna shine! Cardio is also boring and as a human being living in 2017 who needs constant streams of escapist entertainment, there’s nothing worse than boring pain…maybe the collapse of democracy. However, just like I’ve come to accept that I’ll never be teleported to an adults only version of Narnia where I can be a sorcerer King who seduces elves all day, I’ve also come to accept that I have to do cardio. I’ve had to do it for three reasons and maybe I can convert some fellow cardio haters with my logic. I’ve started to embrace cardio for increased energy, health benefits, and mood stabilization.

Increasing my baseline level energy is the number one benefit to returning to cardio. Having spent over a year primarily lifting weights, I noticed that while my physical composition was changing for the better I didn’t get a significant increase in my energy levels. As a dad of a toddler, I spend my nights in comedy clubs and my days hustling up whatever freelance work he can find, I’m at constant odds with energy. I also have dealt with a multitude of thyroid issues so I’ve already got the deck stacked against me. A commitment to light cardio with intermittent intense bursts (a fancy way to say walking and sometimes sprinting) has noticeably increased my energy levels. This keeps me out of the doghouse with my wife and helps me get more done which means I have more money to blow on crippling Los Angeles rent.

About a year into my weight training I started to notice I was getting really terrible headaches the day after a super heavy weight workout. They were so brutal I’d have to lay down on the couch with a wet rag over my eyes. Making my wife watch me bust out 4 plates on each side for squats and tell me how strong I am only to end up laying on a couch moaning for two days was not a good look. It got so bad I went to the doctor and after some tests, we narrowed it down to being a blood pressure issue. My weight lifting had been changing my body composition but not enough to impact my blood pressure. To make matters worse, the super heavy weight training was spiking my blood pressure and causing intense exertion headaches. I took a solid two weeks off weight training, got on a very low dose of blood pressure medication and started doing cardio. Within just a couple of months, I was at my target BP and the headaches were gone. Now my blood pressure is back in the healthy range and continues to get better.  I should note that I also seem to lose more fat when I diet and do some form of cardio with my weight training. However, I’ve never personally been able to lose fat and keep it off with cardio. Once I admitted that to myself I allowed myself to embrace the other health benefits I get from it.

Speaking of non-weight loss benefits, one of the biggest benefits of my return to cardio has been a better overall mood. Endorphins are no joke and for whatever reason, I’m constantly smiling ear to ear like a lunatic when I’m done with cardio. Particularly when I’m busting out my Stranger Things Synth Wave Pandora channel. I didn’t seem to get as big of an endorphin rush from weight training. My guess is that I lift so heavy for my body that it’s having a panic attack and I don’t really have an opportunity to stop and smell the dopamine. The lower intensity of my brand of cardio seems to hit the sweet spot for the legal release of in-body drugs. And who doesn’t like those?

The mood shift stays with me all day and usually into the first of the next morning so it’s an enormous benefit. I’ve talked on here before about how exercise seems to help my depression and it’s being constantly reinforced by how good cardio makes me feel. If you’re a down-in-the-dumps-Eeyore too, give it a shot. You might be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.

So, I’m back at cardio. I’m still not a fan boy for it the way I am for Skyrim or crispy chicken tacos but I’m starting to accept my lot in life. I might be just one of those dudes that needs cardio to feel like a human. I still think I look way more bad ass when I’m heaving up weights at the gym and making thunderbolt noises while I flex in the mirror. However, it does look slightly more bad ass to not be grumpy and constantly napping. You take the good, you take the bad, you take ‘em both and there you, cardio.


Andrew DeWitt