Fitness advice abounds. Just ask Google. Or your friend. Or remember what you did in high school gym class many years ago. It’s hard to know what to believe anymore. Like the diet industry that tells you a new evil food, then later tells you it is healthy (hello eggs), fitness advice can be confusing. Read on to get the facts about 12 fitness misconceptions that will help you feel great and perform your best.
MYTH #1: STRENGTH TRAINING MAKES YOU BULKY
Truth: 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 (the difference in this hormone level makes men more prone to bulking up). In fact, if weight loss is your goal, strength training can actually help you lean out, but you must also keep your nutrition in line. Since muscle is metabolically active, simply maintaining lean muscle mass requires higher energy. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest. #science.
MYTH #2: A GOOD WORKOUT ALWAYS RESULTS IN SORENESS
Truth: While soreness and workout intensity are sometimes connected, how tired your muscles feel isn’t always a good indicator of a solid workout. Being sore just means that a significant amount of stress was applied to the muscle tissue. You can have a great workout and not be sore the next day. Proper recovery will help prevent achy muscles. Refuel within the first 30 to 45 minutes post-exercise, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep—all of these things can help boost recovery and minimize soreness.
MYTH #3: EVERY WORKOUT REQUIRES 100% EFFORT
Truth: Sort of. You should try your best to stay focused, be present, and give 100 percent during every workout. However, not every workout requires a high level of intensity. If you are sore every day, muscle recover is limited which can lead to overtraining and injury. Target going extra hard two to three times per week, or as often as your body can recover from excessive soreness.
MYTH #4: YOU CAN LOSE FAT FROM CERTAIN BODY PARTS
Truth: There is really no such thing as spot-training. Fat cells are distributed across your entire body. To lose fat from a specific spot, you need to lose overall body fat. High-intensity interval training can work wonders. After an intense workout, your body needs to take in oxygen at a higher rate to help it return to its natural resting state. This process requires the body to work harder, burning more calories in the process. Incorporating strength training can help you hit your goals too, since having more lean muscle will help your body burn more calories at rest. (Psst—here is an entire library of workouts that are insanely effective for weight loss. You can get them all for less than one lunch out per month)
MYTH #5: CARDIO IS THE BEST WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT
Truth: Yes, traditional cardio workouts will help create a day-to-day calorie deficit (with a healthy diet), which is essential for losing weight. But in the long-term, since having more lean muscle mass helps your body burn more calories at rest, you’ll be adding to this deficit without doing a thing. A combination of both high-intensity cardio and strength training is a good idea. And don’t forget, when it comes to weight loss, having a smart nutrition plan is essential.
MYTH #6: YOGA ISN’T A “REAL” WORKOUT
Truth: There is a broad range of yoga, so don’t be stuck on the “spiritual experience” and gentle, relaxing stretches. Speaking from personal experience, yoga is a legit workout, and should be added to your routine. Yoga is the ‘fountain of youth’ in that it helps to keep you flexible while stretching out the soreness that comes from other workouts, and the balance work is imperative for injury prevention as you age. If your vision of your future self includes keeping up with the grandkids and not waking up every morning stiff and creaky, then add simple yoga routines to your game. I learned yoga from the Beachbody Yoga Studio on BOD, so I never need to take a class. Yoga at home is the ticket.
MYTH #7: STRENGTH TRAINING REQUIRES HEAVY WEIGHTS AND MACHINES
Truth: Strength training simply means using resistance to work your muscles—and that resistance doesn’t necessarily have to come from a machine or a heavy weight. (Hello, killer bodyweight exercises!) Aside from your own bodyweight, you can also use tools like kettlebells, medicine balls, and resistance bands to add resistance. None of that around? Try PiYo – the program that launched my healthy living journey.
MYTH #8: WORK OUT EVERY DAY
Truth: Totally false—can I get an Amen! Exercise breaks down muscle fibers so they can rebuild stronger. Rebuilding muscle requires rest, so give your body time to recover from working out. Aim for one or two days per week of active recovery rest days— doing something that doesn’t put stress on your body, like gentle stretching or a walk. I’ve found a groove with 4 workouts a week taking Wednesday and weekends off, which gives me capacity to enjoy other activities without feeling too worn out.
MYTH #9: 20 MINUTES OF CARDIO IS THE MINMUM TO GET RESULTS
Truth: There is no magic duration to do cardio or any workout for that matter. If you are not an exerciser, ANY extra movement is better than none. Low impact, low intensity, short duration, long duration… these exercise variables are less important that just challenging YOUR body. Everyone is different in how they respond to exercise, their personal goals, fitness level, etc., so challenge yourself without comparison to others. And let’s be clear about results & weight loss: Exercise is only part of the formula. Your fastest weight loss results come from what you eat, so getting nutrition right is key. You can’t outwork a bad diet. Get your free Clean Eating Guide here.
MYTH #10: YOU NEED TO STRETCH BEFORE A WORKOUT
Truth: There’s an important difference between the terms ‘stretch’ and ‘dynamic warm-up.’ While it’s true that you shouldn’t just jump right into a workout, dynamic warm-ups are where it’s at—you can save those static stretches for afterwards. Your pre-workout goal should be to improve mobility and elasticity in the muscles. This is best done with foam rolling and a dynamic warm-up, where you keep your body moving (instead of holding stretches still). This preps your body for work and helps increase your range of motion, which means you can get deeper into exercises, work longer and harder, and reduce injury than without proper warmup.
MYTH #11: CRUNCHES ARE GREAT FOR YOUR ABS
Truth: Meh. Crunches do work part of your abs, but they’re not the most efficient exercise you can do to strengthen your midsection. Abdominal muscles are designed to work most effectively when you’re standing upright. Try Shaun T’s Focus T25 or Transform:20 on Beachbody on Demand for entire programs that will shred your core with zero crunches. My Progressive Plank challenge also works really well.
MYTH #12 I CAN EAT THAT _______ SINCE I JUST EXERCISED
Truth: Sorry to burst your bubble, but exercising is not a license to eat junk food. What you eat is far more important than how much or how hard you exercise. While it’s true that exercise burns calories, you will be disappointed to know how much exercise it takes to cover a donut (run a 5k) for example. It’s important to change your mind about making food a reward for good behavior, because you will always underestimate the calories in your food, and overestimate your calorie burn from exercise. Instead, think of food as fuel for the finely tuned machine that you are. And don’t be discouraged about having treats now and then. When planned into your day as part of a mindful, balanced nutrition plan the overall impact of your treat is pretty small. One day of bad food choices will not make you fat, just as one great day of exercise won’t make you fit. Take the long term approach and make healthy eating a lifestyle and you will see results.