Dispel These 5 Fitness Myths

As a personal trainer, if I had a dollar for every time that I heard someone say that women don’t want to bulk up, so they don’t want to lift weights, I would be laughing all the way to the bank.  There is no shortage of health and fitness myths that, unless you take a little time to read about them, you simply just believe that they are true.  Here are a few common myths.  Perhaps you have heard some or all of these.  Maybe you are a believer, and after reading this article, you will change your mind.

Myth:  Women will bulk up if they lift weights

Dispel These 5 Fitness Myths
You Are Highly Unlikely To Bulk Up From Lifting Weights

To all of the women out there…you are highly unlikely to bulk up from lifting weights.  You will gain muscle tone, and might feel tighter, but unless you have unusually high testosterone levels for a woman, you will not bulk up like men.  You will tighten up, because what was once loose “flab” and skin becomes firm muscle.   Generally speaking, toning up is what a lot of women want when they lift weights.  They want that leaner, firmer look and feel that comes from building muscle and losing fat.

With all of the benefits from weight training, women who avoid it because they believe that they will bulk up are really missing out.   Now, if you focus on lifting super heavy weights and get into a serious body-building mode, including a very strict body-building diet, you will gain more muscle mass. You will still not look like the body-building guys out there.

Aren’t strong and shapely glutes (butt muscles) “in” right now?  Well, unless those are fake, they are achieved through muscle building!

Think about it, which is a leaner look, soft muscles covered with a thick layer of body fat (jiggly triceps come to mind), or firm muscles where you can actually see the shape of the muscle?  This result comes from placing a demand on the muscles that stimulates growth and a demand on the metabolism that burns body fat.  This demand comes from weight lifting that is done at the proper intensity.

So, ladies, there is no need to run out and buy 3 and 5 pound dumbbells, store them under your couch, and pull them out while watching TV and doing tons of repetitions mindlessly.  You need to lift heavy enough weights to actually stimulate the desired results, which is between 8 and 12 repetitions.

Weight training also delivers so many benefits that I highly recommend it for anyone, men or women, young to older adults, people with disabilities, and pregnant women.

Besides improved body composition, by placing demands on your muscles and tendons during weight lifting, you stimulate bone growth.  Osteoporosis is a serious disease affecting many women, particularly post-menopause, and men as well.  Resistance training, including weight training, two to three times a week, is recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Myth:  Running is really bad for your knees

Dispel These 5 Fitness Myths
Running Simply Brings Any Imbalances You Might Have To The Forefront.

Copyright: victor69 / 123RF Stock Photo

As an avid runner, I cringe when I read this.  I have been running for 40 years, and do not have knee problems!  There is a major flaw in logic with this statement.  First of all, many runners have misalignments or improper body mechanics that are the cause of the knee issues that they experience when they run.

Running simply brings these imbalances to the forefront.  It puts them on center stage and is the easiest thing to blame.  Sure, if you have existing knee problems, running with bad mechanics, or even with the wrong shoes, can exacerbate these problems, but don’t blame running!

We are all different!  Some bodies can run well into their 80’s and, while they naturally slow down their intensity, their knees are fine.  Others don’t last but a few months.  Excess weight will add to wear and tear in the knee joint more than running will.

The pounding from running might be bad for someone who already has worn cartilage and arthritis in their knees, but not a problem at all for someone who has healthy knees to begin with.  In fact, it could be beneficial to the knees by strengthening the muscles around the joint.   Experts say that running has been shown to thicken the cartilage in knee joints as well as the bones surrounding the joint, making the knee more stable.

A New York Times article, entitled “Why Runners Don’t Get Knee Arthritis” revealed that many long-term studies of runners show that “as long as knees are healthy to start with, running does not substantially increase the risk of developing arthritis, even if someone jogs into middle age and beyond”.  Another study of almost 75k runners found “no evidence that running increases the risk of osteoarthritis, including participating in marathons.”  These runners actually had less risk of developing arthritis that less active people.

A good all-around strengthening program for the joints above and below the knees is ideal. A lot of knee problems stem from hip problems, such as a weakness in the stabilizer muscles, such as the glutes.  Runners can protect their knees by properly strengthening their hips and improving their ankle flexibility.  Ankle flexibility is crucial to having a proper running or walking gait.

There is a fair amount of dialogue between the barefoot running community and the die-hard supportive cushiony running shoe advocates.  I don’t feel inclined to tell you which one is best for you, but I do recommend that you do your research, if you choose to try the minimal or barefoot running style shoes.  If your foot is accustomed to being crammed into dress shoes all day at work, and you then try and run on a minimal style shoe, there is likely going to be some rebellion in your foot, which can translate up to your knee.  Similarly, if you have foot issues, such as flat feet, you will need a different type of running shoe than someone with high arches or someone with super flexible feet.

Myth:  All that I have to do is exercise a lot to lose weight

I actually just saw this on a Facebook post recently.  The person who posted it may have been joking around, but a lot of people live by this “rule”.  No amount of exercise alone will help you achieve a healthy weight loss in a healthy body.

For starters, how long do you really want to spend working out?  Yes, some people love to go for 5 hour bike rides, but we are not talking about them.  We are talking about you and me, who might have time in our day for an hour workout 3-5 times/week and maybe a little longer, if we want, one other time.

Most machines, such as treadmills, or stationary bikes, overestimate the amount of calories burned.  Most people do the same!  You might feel like you worked super hard in your Pilates or yoga class and might be surprised to find out how few calories you actually burned compared to that 500 calorie treat that you allowed yourself to have after class.  A particularly intense workout, such as a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout, will burn lots of calories, but you also need to replenish them with nutritious food that will fuel your muscle building and fat burning processes.

Something else that often goes along with this type of thinking is that “I can eat that pizza and have those beers because I earned them and burned them off”.  Once in a great while, this isn’t going to sabotage your health and fitness goals, but making this a regular habit, well think again!  The danger of this type of thinking is, obviously, that you will overeat because you either underestimate the amount of calories that you burned during your exercise or activity, or that you will feel like you can reward your hard workout with food.

The best approach to weight loss is both diet and exercise.  Statistically, very few dieters alone are successful at keeping their weight off, and generally they gain it back within 3-5 years (ACE Fitness).  Have you heard of the term “yo-yo dieting”?  This refers to the pattern of weight loss and weight gain that most dieters experience.  Incorporating regular exercise into your life along with healthy eating is the best way to successfully lose weight and keep it off.

Myth:  You need to do tons of crunches to have a flat stomach

Dispel These 5 Fitness Myths
If You Just Do Tons Of Crunches, You Are Not Bulding The Deeper Ab Muscles

Copyright: samotrebizan / 123RF Stock Photo

Crunches and all of the many varieties of crunches, have been around forever.  How often have you heard someone brag that they just did 100 crunches?  We have all seen tons of pictures of buff guys with their 6-pack abs, and fitness models with flat stomachs.

First of all, a flat stomach is dependent on what is beneath your skin….muscle or fat. Secondly, if you just do tons of crunches, you will build up the surface muscles in the abdominals (i.e. rectus abdominis), but not the deeper ab muscles that also play a role in the appearance of your stomach.  This is true for most people who don’t access their deep abdominal muscles, such as the transverse abdominis, first, and also push out when “crunching”, which pushes the muscles out instead of developing strong flatter muscles.

You can do crunches all day, but if you don’t address diet and other fat-burning exercises, you will still have that extra padding that prevents you from having a flat stomach.  For other ways to burn belly fat, download our free report “7 Reasons You Are Not Losing Fat” here.

Dispel These 5 Fitness Myths
Planks are a much better way to flatten your belly. Sue Is Showing A Type Of Planks

Planks are a much better way to flatten your belly because they involve your whole body, burn more calories than crunches, and they focus on the other abdominal muscles than just the rectus.  There are lots of varieties of planks, so no reason to fear getting bored with them.  One super challenging variation is to “walk the plank”, or go from a plank on both hands to down on one forearm, then the other one, then back to both hands.  Another plank that I love is simply to hold steady either on hands or forearms, and alternate leg lifts with a straight leg behind you.

Genetics definitely plays a role in how your stomach will look when it is strengthened and you lose the belly fat.  Some people are more genetically predisposed to developing that coveted 6-pack, while others just aren’t.  The bottom line, as far as we are concerned, is to have a strong core.  If you strengthen your core in a variety of ways, such as planks, “chops”, or methods like Pilates, you will have a strong stomach that will look strong without a layer of abdominal fat covering it, whether or not you have a 6-pack.

Good posture means holding sucking in your gut and standing tall

Does good posture mean that you have to constantly be sucking in your gut and sitting or standing tall?  We don’t think so.

Dispel These 5 Fitness Myths
Posture Is Dynamic. It Is Not A Static Thing.

Try holding your stomach in for 5 minutes.  Where does your breath go?  It will go into your upper chest and shoulders.  This concept of sucking in your gut does not reinforce good posture.  We need to allow our breath to go all of the way into our belly (diaphragm) in order to not constantly be recruiting those other muscles to help us breathe.  We are designed to breathe fully and deeply.

Posture is dynamic.  It is not a static thing.  We are not static.  We need our posture to support our different movements, from sitting at your desk and working on your computer to walking down the street, hiking, skiing, lifting weights, and more.

When you are sitting at your desk, you are constantly adjusting your posture.  Granted, you want to avoid slouching and jutting your neck forward to see  your computer screen, but you also don’t want to hold yourself in a “perfect” posture because that will cause you to tense up and likely create more problems.

Training your postural muscles to support your bones is the goal, but even this cannot be something that you are constantly thinking about.  It needs to be more subconscious and automatic.  Picture someone standing at military attention.  Do they look stiff and unnatural to you?  Usually, they pull their shoulders back, stick their chest out, pull in their stomach, and maybe even tuck their pelvis.  It is doubtful if this feels good, or if it sets them up for healthy movement patterns.

In his article, “Three Essential Elements of Good Posture“,  Todd Hargrove says that good posture needs to be efficient, allow for movement, and set you up for your next movement. He talks about using visualization to help us with our posture such as “Visualize your spine lengthening as the space between each vertebrae grows larger.”  We often use cues like this in Pilates.   Another postural visualization that I like to use is to imagine stacking your head on top of your ribs on top of your pelvis.  Simple, but effective.

In Summary

Myths in fitness are numerous.  We hope that our article clears up some misunderstandings that  you may have had and gives you some insight as to these fitness “truths”.  It is so easy to be mislead even by well-intentioned experts so, when something doesn’t make sense to you, do your research.  Don’t just take it as a fact.

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By yoursimplehealthylife.com
Meme´s photo copyright: samotrebizan / 123RF Stock Photo (Meme was made by yoursimplehealthylife.com)

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