For every two fitness truths, there’s a lie. Sometimes it’s hard to determine which is which. Especially with Google, there’s an article or a “study” on everything. In light of this, I want to discuss 12 fitness myths that drive me crazy.
Myth #1: Strength-training will make you bulky. This one gets me a little fired up, because as a male trainer, it’s a common stereotype that women shouldn’t train with me, because they will get “bulky.” It’s pretty hard for women to bulk up from a normal strength-training routine, because they don’t have as much testosterone as men. In fact, if weight-loss is your goal, strength-training is what builds lean muscle and muscle burns fat. Reason being, when you gain lean muscle, it requires more energy to maintain that muscle. Long story short, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even just sitting still.
Myth #2: You can lose fat from certain body parts. “Spot-training” is not a thing. Fat cells are distributed across our entire bodies and genetics dictate where we store that fat. If we want to lose fat from a specific spot, we need to lose overall body fat. So, if you have a specific area on your body that you would like to “tone or shape,” then the ultimate goal should be decreasing overall body fat. HIIT aka High-Intensity Interval Training and strength-training are your friends when it comes to getting lean, decreasing body fat and increasing muscle.
Myth #3: Doing lots of cardio is the best way to lose weight. If your goal is weight-loss, logging endless miles on the treadmill or the elliptical isn’t always the best approach. Traditional cardio workouts will help our bodies become more fit for a short period of time, but once our bodies adapt, these workouts aren’t effective anymore. In the long-run, like I said in Myth #1 and #2, having more lean muscle mass requires more energy aka your body will be a fat burning machine. We all know a cardio junkie and I used to be one myself, but the truth is a combination of high-intensity interval training and strength-training is the best way to go. And don’t forget, when it comes to long-term weight-loss, proper nutrition is essential. Because, you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.
Myth #4: Not feeling sore means you didn’t get a good workout. Soreness and intensity are sometimes connected to how good of a workout we had. However, being sore doesn’t necessarily mean it was a great workout. I personally love feeling sore, it’s an affirmation that I’m working hard and pushed myself. But, I’m getting to the point where I’m not as sore as I used to be. Like I said before, our bodies adapt. The truth is that proper recovery will help prevent achy muscles as well. Refueling after a workout (a good balance of protein and healthy carbs), foam rolling, quality sleep, drinking water, epsom salt bath, yoga, stretching, etc. will all help boost recovery and minimize soreness.
Myth #5: You should give 100 percent effort during every workout. Sure we always want to do and try our best, but your goal shouldn’t be having an intense workout every workout. Some days it’s lower intensity strength-training with lots of rest in between sets and it’s all about getting it done. Other days you will be full of energy and complete your entire workout with little to no rest in between exercises. The key is to avoid over-training and listen to your body. Nobody knows your body better than you do and exercise is stress. It’s a good kind of stress for our bodies and ironically provides stress relief, but don’t over do it. Over-training leads to injury or chronic issues.
Myth #6: Strength-training means using machines and heavy weights. First off, most machines aren’t ideal for training in general and free weights are a great way to build lean muscle. But, you can build some serious muscle using your own body weight as well. Also, if you have tools like kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance bands, exercise balls or cable machines, etc. those are some great options to help you achieve your goals. Not to mention they allow your body to move more naturally, which is ideal. Most machines are designed to be “one size fits all” and force our bodies to move in unnatural ways, which can cause injury or create long-term problems.
Myth #7: Sweating a ton means you worked your a$$ off. For those who know me, you know I sweat a lot. We sweat, because our core temperature is increasing. Naturally we sweat more in hot weather and humidity, but we don’t sweat that much when we are cold. Sweating is important, because it means we are warm, our muscles are warm and it decreases our chance of injury. We also excrete toxins through our sweat, but you don’t have to be dripping in sweat to have a good workout. And if you are sweating a lot, please drink a lot of water!
Myth #8: Crunches are the best way to work your abs. Crunches might help your core strength and so will all of those other exercises where we are planking, on a mat, etc. However, our core is truly activated when we are standing upright. That’s why my clients do 90% of their exercises standing. When we are standing and lifting weights, our core is naturally engaged. Without it, we would simply fall over. Sure seated exercises on a mat are great for isolating our core, but if you truly want to work your abs, opt-in for standing exercises.
Myth #9: You have to do at least 20 minutes of cardio to make it worth your while. Like I’ve said multiple times, HIIT can be the way to go and you can burn more calories in 15 minutes of going all out with minimal rest versus 45 minutes of steady state cardio. HIIT also creates what is known as an “after burn,” which means you will continue to burn calories after your done versus steady state cardio that doesn’t provide as much as an “after burn.” One way to tackle this is that I coach my clients to do 30-45 seconds of hard work, 15 seconds of rest and repeat that eight times. Or if you’re on the treadmill, run for a minute, walk for two minutes and repeat until you hit 20 minutes. The trick is to keep the body guessing.
Myth #10: You need to stretch before a workout. It’s true that you shouldn’t workout cold, because you need to increase your core temperature before physical activity. Dynamic stretching or foam rolling are ideal ways to warm up. Static stretching is best saved for the end of a workout. Dynamic and functional warm ups help prep your body for motion and truly loosens your muscles up. While static stretching resets your muscles.
Myth #11: Yoga isn’t a “real” workout. If you think yoga isn’t a real workout, I challenge you to try a 45 minute to an hour-long class. Shoot, even try a 30 minute yoga class. Yoga might involve more gentle movements, but holding those positions and isometric holds in general are hard on the body in a good way. You are challenging your stabilizers aka neurological system and your muscles in ways that they are probably not used to working. Also, yoga is very progressive, so there are always new ways to challenge yourself and new positions to work towards.
Myth #12: You should work out every day. Like I mentioned earlier, don’t over-train. So if you already did a few days of strength-training, switch to some HIIT or ride a bike, go for a run, do some yoga. ALWAYS mix it up and rotate your routine. Some people like to train certain muscles twice a week. That’s totally fine, just make sure you give yourself ample time to recover. It’s also a good idea to mix active recovery days in as well. Go for a walk or find another low intensity way to move.