Anyone travelling the road to fitness deserves a big high five! Whether you just started your journey, or you had fallen off the wagon and are getting back in shape, you ought to give yourself a pat on the back for doing something that takes discipline and daily self-motivation. Although working out isn’t rocket science, whether you’ve just started or have been at it for years, there are still quite a few things you could be doing wrong.
Correcting what you think you know about exercising may save you from injury and help you maximize your results. Here are the most common fitness misconceptions beginners through veterans have:
False Fitness Fact #1: Crunches and sit-ups are must-dos for abs.
While crunches and sit-ups do produce results, they’re not the key to washboard abs and have actually been said to be bad for your back.
Remember the advice given for proper body mechanics: Bend at the hips, and lift with your legs, not your back. Well, crunches and sit-ups are essentially back bends in a lying down position, which increase the wear and tear of your spinal disks, increasing the risk for disk herniation.
It also helps to consider what your abs are designed to do in the first place: to keep your spine straight and to provide power to your movements. Repeated flexing as in crunches and sit-ups is very unnatural for your abdominal muscles, and won’t give you a stronger core – which is central if you want to perform better athletically and have a naturally better posture.
What you should do: Exercises that challenge your abs to keep your spine straight such as push-ups, planks or leg drops. Generally, whenever you perform a movement that requires you to stabilize yourself, you’re engaging your core. That’s your goal.
False Fitness Fact #2: Cardio is the key to burning fat.
You can run an hour, but you still won’t burn enough calories to give you results. Even after your cardio, you only burn an extra 40-80 calories, which is practically nothing. Cardio is called cardio because it’s exercise for your heart, which gives you a ton of health benefits such as better circulation and oxygenation – the keys to having more muscle endurance in your future workouts because more oxygen means less lactic acid buildup in your muscles.
So, yes, keep doing your cardio. But if you really want to torch fat, weight training is the way to go. When your body has more lean muscle, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is higher. This basically means your body burns more calories at rest.
What you should do: Try scheduling a 30-minute cardio either before you lift weights or in between days that you do. 30 minutes is all the cardio you need if you keep it at the right intensity.
False Fitness Fact #3: It’s best to stretch before beginning your workout.
Static stretching is when you slowly move your muscles ’til they begin to hurt and you hold them at that position for several counts. While stretching is good, it’s not meant to be used as a warm up. Some studies have shown that stretching before a workout doesn’t really prevent injuries, but actually decreases strength and speed.
Think of your muscles as a rubber band. A long stretch here and there will make it go limp, and reduce its effectiveness compared to if it had not been stretched.
What you should do: Do around 20-30 minutes of cardio to warm up. Your goal is to warm your muscles by increasing blood flow and oxygen, and priming your body to start secreting adrenaline and other performance enhancing hormones. Do your stretching after your workout, when you’re at your most flexible, and when the act of stretching can reduce muscle fatigue. When you do this, you can reduce the intensity and duration of your incoming delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
False Fitness Fact #4: Women shouldn’t lift weights because it’ll make them bulky.
My personal pet peeve. Whenever girls find out I lift weights or use the machines at the gym, they immediately ask me Why? And I’m like, Why not? Apparently, a lot of people think weight training can make a woman get man muscles. So false! Women don’t have enough testosterone to get that kind of muscle. We’d have to be supplementing like crazy, and lifting weights at least 20 hours a week and be doing 10-15 hours of cardio on top of that to bulk up.
What you should do: Brave a heavy weight to build lean muscle which burns more fat and tones your body. You’ll know it’s the perfect heavy weight for you when you can 1) still maintain proper form, 2) bring the movement to completion (despite a degree of slowness and a bit of face-making), and 3) feel as if you can’t finish the last 2-3 repetitions, but you do.
False Fitness Fact #5: You have to eat/drink protein ASAP after a workout.
That post-workout “crucial protein window” isn’t real. Sure, your muscles’ protein demand for repair is at its peak after your workout, but you don’t have to treat it like its a deadline. Your muscles very slowly taper their high levels of repair and synthesis over 24 hours after your workout, so you can meet your protein requirements by just eating regular, balanced meals.
You don’t need to drink a protein shake. If you can honestly say you’re a healthy eater, then you can stop underestimating the amount of protein you’re getting from your meals.
Registered dietitian and author Nancy Clark once famously wrote that you don’t need a whey protein supplement “unless you are a frail, elderly person with a limited food intake.”
“Supplements are purely for convenience,” says Scritchfield. “There’s nothing in a drink made from a supplement that is superior to regular food.”
What you should do: Just make sure your recovery meal has a protein to carb ratio of 2:1 or 3:1. A few good examples are a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread, eggs and whole wheat toast, chocolate milk (I’m not kidding), and chicken or fish plus a complex carbohydrate like potato, corn, or colored rice (brown, red, or black).
- Myth Buster: Running is counterproductive to strength training (nycfitfoodfashion.com)
- How long should I do cardio? (dannytolbert.com)
- Clearing up 10 myths about fitness (dailyherald.com)
- Crunches & Sit-ups DO NOT burn stomach fat (craigramsayfitness.wordpress.com)