Great article on some of the biggest myths in fitness.
With my bimonthly column now a few months old, it’s time for a Top 10 List. Hopefully this summary of myths and tips helps to inform and invigorate your fitness journey.
- I just can’t do it! Readiness is the key to success. New exercisers must confront a myriad of demons and barriers as they navigate the bumpy road to better health. We all have them to varying degrees — feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, judgment. Unfortunately, intimidating gyms and busy instructors often add to the trepidation. Success will depend on locating an inclusive and supportive environment. Don’t expect to pop by your closest gym and feel at home. If the tour leaves you feeling flat, move on. It’s often easier to find a good trainer in a more intimate boutique setting than a welcoming big box gym designed for volume.
- Patience! When you find the right fit, give yourself six weeks before deciding whether your efforts are working. By the way, your bathroom scale is a poor indicator of early success. There’s simply too much going on inside as muscles grow and calories burn. The general rule for a new exerciser is mental change first, followed by muscle change, then weight change.
- I just want to be healthy. This is a tricky one that involves two parts. First, the greatest health gains come from getting off the couch and moving. Walking is a great first step. Additional gains that are derived from exercising harder have more to do with performance and appearance. Interestingly there is more to the ‘I want to be healthy’ statement than meets the eye. In a study conducted on new female exercisers, health was ranked above appearance on the importance scale. As exercisers experienced success, appearance jumped to No. 1. Empowerment is only second to readiness on your health journey.
- Hips, butt and thighs. Sorry, you can’t spot reduce. Think of it this way: performing bicep curls makes your arms bigger. When you do the same for your hips, butt and thighs they get … bigger. Firmer, but bigger. Of course, firmer is great as long as a layer of unused fuel isn’t hiding your results. By the way, in most settings, lifting light weights with high reps is called undertraining — it doesn’t make your muscles long and lean. Read on …
- The cardio myth. Hours on your favourite cardio machine has taken a back seat to much shorter interval-style workouts. Intervals are better for heart health and melting the fat from hips, butt and thighs. Women collect fat in the hips, men around the midsection. Fat is simply stored fuel waiting to be burned. Intervals, coupled with the appropriate diet, have proven to be the better solution. Even if walking is your exercise of choice, intervals (i.e. the occasional hill, stairs or increase in speed) is the way to go.
- The weight-training myth. More and more women are weightlifting as the realization that they won’t bulk up has finally taken hold. Resistance training (in many forms) is often the best exercise solution as we were designed to perform work — harvest, carry, hunt, climb. When you stop working, you start deteriorating. Weightlifting is the magic bullet that turns back the clock for many seniors, fights osteoporosis, significantly increases strength and enhances appearance. Resistance training can also improve heart health and help with weight loss. As proper weight training can be complicated, find a source you can trust for help — no, not your bother just because he owns a tank top and set of dumbbells.
- CORE-ection. Somewhere in the late ’80s or early ’90s, we became fixated on abs. Recently, our obsession switched from abs to core strength. Most people don’t understand the difference, thinking that core means ‘really complicated’ abs. A strong core functions as it sounds — it keeps your centre stable and aligned during work. If you are sitting all day and don’t pick up anything heavier than a sandwich, chances are you have a weak core. So when it comes time to shovel snow or pick up the groceries you discover you have a ‘bad back.’ Actually you have a weak core, which has led to a bad back. See weight training above.
- Mind over matter. The Financial Post reported that of your 50,000 thoughts a day, 40,000 are negative. What a downer — oops 40,001. Meditation and mindfulness have become mainstream but don’t think that sitting and doing nothing is easy. Thoughts bombard us constantly, competing for space in our noisy brains. There are many meditation books, tapes and websites out there. Give one a shot and carve out a slice of peace. Note: Please don’t confuse meditation, a trip to the massage therapist and chiropractor with exercise. Oops, 40,002.
- You get what you train for. There are many fantastic exercise opportunities out there with each having their own niche. Make sure you choose one that best addresses your goals. Don’t expect results that aren’t part of the science that underpins the activity. The following rating system is a very general guide as each modality produces multiple benefits to varying degrees: Zumba — fun & social; Yoga — mindfulness & flexibility; Walking & Running — cardio; Weight Training — strength & shape; Intervals & HIIT Training — cardio & weight loss; Fitness Equipment stored in basement, draped by housecoat — nothing.
- Progress requires change. As your body adapts, it’s important for you to change your routine every six to eight weeks. Sooner if you are more experienced. Change leads to change. If you are happy with your current status, no worries. But if you are in a rut, change is often the answer. Many of our new clients come to us even though they are already exercising. They’ve simply stopped seeing results. The good news is that small adjustments can often jump-start your system into a state of change.
- (Bonus tip) A poor diet beats a great exercise program. General Rule No. 1: If it tastes really good, it’s on the naughty list. General Rule No. 2: Regularly eating from the naughty list makes you kinda chubby.