chronic cardio

Are you addicted to cardio?

For most of you reading, you can remember the old way of getting fit: do 45 minutes to 1 hour of intense aerobic activity – and DAILY! Even I can remember reading this as a kid and going inside to “run” (really, a jog) for long bouts of cardio. In college, I would try to “make up for my bad eating” by running. The more mileage the better, right?

runners to race to the finish line of the marathon

The problem with our cardio addiction is we are now a generation of unfit, overtrained, injury prone and immune compromised “exerholics.” Some play tennis then head to the gym for their 45 minutes of Elliptical. Or spin one day then do bootcamp and then to zumba. Oh, yes, and don’t forget the wearable telling you calories burned. Sound like you or someone you know?


Why can’t hours spent on the elliptical and/or treadmill result in a fit and toned body?

First, injury. Over stressing your joints day in and day out (then sitting at a desk or in your car) is a no win strategy. Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) are at an all-time high. Our joints weren’t built for this amount of pounding. Over time, we combine the inability to move correctly with consistently stressing our joints. Invariably injury occurs and sidelines you.

Human knee joint anatomy

Second, too much cardio overexerts your body’s own way of managing stress. In an overtrained body, a hormone called cortisol elevates and leads to more fat accumulation in the areas no one wants them. When stress is chronic, increased cortisol can lead to a variety of results: weight gain (especially in the abdominal area), craving the wrong foods, and more frequent illnesses like colds to name a few. I am oversimplifying the very complex process of accumulating stress on the body. I will spend more time on this my next post. In essence, we need to learn how to read our body’s clues to exhaustion. A teaser: our bodies do not differentiate between a killer spin class or work or home stress. It’s all stress.

Third, we want our bodies to derive a lot of that energy needed from fat, not glucose or carbohydrate. When our bodies are overstressed, it draws its energy from the latter and becomes literally addicted to carbohydrates. When we ask our bodies to train at high intensity for extended periods of time and continually without sufficient recovery, the body has to call on carbohydrates as a source of fuel. Meanwhile, your body, although you may not feel it, is exhausted. And, guess what, then your body craves carbs to sustain the chronic cardio. It’s an ugly cycle.

Last and definitely not least, when we engage in a continuous cycle of cardiovascular exercise, we are tricking our bodies into thinking they are able to “keep going” even when exhausted. Our own internal “good cop/bad cop” is overrun by “I can keep going”, “I need to keep up with the class”, “I promised myself 45 minutes”, or the worst “I need to work off that cupcake at lunch.”

So, what is better? Relying on your body’s own systems to burn fat efficiently, or forcing it into overdrive and starving it of its necessary fuel. You be the judge.

  • The latest from Adrien
Adrien founded Fitness on the Run in 2004 out of her home after a successful career in policy and public affairs communications. After spending 15 years developing her own personal definition of wellness and watching thousands struggle with theirs, in January 2019 Adrien founded Alexandria Wellness, the home for the Concierge Wellness Program and Corporate Wellness with Adrien Cotton. Over the course of 15 years, “FOR” was home to more than 2,000 clients, 30 instructors, and hundreds of inspirational success stories. Adrien is now, more-than-ever, passionate about helping women view their fitness as a journey, not a quick fix. Adrien’s recipe for success herself has evolved from a rigid training plan of sweaty and heart pumping workouts to some days getting in her 10,000 steps, consciously breathing, her 7.5 hours of sleep, and her beloved 5-Minute Flow. Adrien believes the most important ingredient is making small changes for big results, even if it’s one new habit formed each month. Still passionate about fitness, Adrien’s clients appreciate her ability to make sessions seriously challenging without a “beat down,” a healthy mix of strength and metabolic (cardio) work and ultimately helping her clients gain real strength in mind and body. She believes we all benefit from being curious about our bodies and that change, or improvement, is within reach despite what your “inner voice” or others may tell you. Adrien is bubbling with excitement to help women learn the importance of a comprehensive approach to wellness, weight loss, and contentedness with yourself, and that every person has the right to feel good about themselves. Most days, you can find her helping clients with their wellness, listening to success stories, and bragging about her twin 13-year-old children and “fittest man in Alexandria” Bill Cotton. Adrien prides herself on her practice of mindfulness, meditation, and putting it all into perspective.

Alexandria Wellness offers achievable answers for anyone who is tired of chasing fitness and health without a clear plan, someone who has struggled and is not satisfied with their fitness and wellness or someone who is open to maximized healthful longevity and fitness along with healthful weight loss. Adrien and her team offer help with food guidance, body acceptance, sleep and stress issues, and insist you have fun along the way.

Schedule your free 30 minute consult here!

Alexandria Wellness
215 North Payne Street
Alexandria, VA 22314




  1. Avatar ACyclistInThePortCity says:

    Confused. I ride to work a couple of times a week, and aiming to ride more. This does not stress my knees, and I do not carbo load. Is it that you mean a more intense kind of cardio (I ride at about 12 to 13 MPH, though on a hybrid, and there are a few hills on the way) ?

    Also I feel much less (psychological and emotional) stress when I ride.

    • From Adrien: Sounds like you have a great program that is leaving you less stressed and injury free. As long as you take your recovery as seriously as your rides, you should be in good shape. Adding a walk in or something other than cycling is also recommended.

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