Some things never change, and some fitness myths never seem to fade away. If you believe some of these misconceptions, you could be undermining your fitness efforts.
As we start the New Year, many of you will be embarking on yet another new exercise programme. If you are working with a personal trainer, it is likely that your programme will include the best of what modern sports science recommends, but if you are devising your own programme, it is worth checking that you have not been following instructions and programmes that have now been proven to be untrue or unhelpful.
Facts will always bust fitness myths
Here are some facts to help you get the most out of your fitness regime.
Myth 1 – Burn More Fat on an Empty Stomach First Thing in the Morning
Myth: Exercising on an empty stomach will force the body to use fat as a fuel. Sleeping places the body in a fasting state depleting all carbohydrates and leaving only fat to burn for energy.
Fact: It’s true that the stored carbs will run down overnight BUT only those in the liver not in the muscles. So when you exercise first thing in the morning, you are using primarily the energy stored in your muscles not in your fat stores.
You will burn fat no matter what time of the day you exercise.
However there are some benefits of exercising early morning, such as that it’s mentally refreshing, and frees up your day for other activities. If early morning exercise feels good to you and fits in with your lifestyle then go for it, but don’t worry if your routine means that it is more sensible to exercise at a different time of day.
Myth 2 – Lifting Heavy Weights Will Bulk Up A Woman
Myth: Many women shirk away from lifting heavy weights in the belief they will end up looking too muscular and losing their feminine shape.
Fact: Nothing could be further from the truth. Women cannot build a body similar to a muscle-bound male for one simple reason – females have too much oestrogen and low levels of testosterone, the hormone that helps muscles grow. Moreover, women who are aged 40+ naturally will be experiencing even levels of testosterone.
Women need to lift heavy weights to promote strong healthy bones, strong muscles and joints, to improve posture, and for effective weight management. The most likely effect of a weight training programme on a woman’s body is that she will look more toned and strong, and less flabby. Another effect is that her body will naturally burn more calories each day, making wieght loss easier.
Thankfully, more and more women are now realising the amazing benefits weight training – not in only in weight management, but also in promoting better posture, stronger bones, joints and muscles, improved sleep patterns, and improved self-confidence.
Many of these benefits are hard to measure, but for women these well-being issues can be as important as weight loss alone. Our self-image plays a part in helping us lead a healthy, happy lifestyle.
One kilo of muscle takes up less space than one kilo of fat in the body. When you start a weight training programme your body weight may increase but your dress size will drop by 1 or more sizes.
Myth 3 – Cardio is the Only Way To Lose Weight
Myth: this is one of the most popular fitness myths which refuses to go away. Cardio, even walking or jogging, is all you need to lose weight and get fit.
Fact: Women who only do cardio exercise are missing out on many benefits. If you are pounding the pavement hard and fast each time you go running you are more likely to burn up muscle not fat.
You may be putting yourself at risk of becoming a “skinny fat” (someone described as having a slim shape but with no muscle tone).
Cardio primarily exercises the cardio-pulmonary system – your heart and lungs. It is good for you, but it is only one part of the picture to achieve overall fitness. Cardio should be mixed with weight training and also flexibility and stretching exercises. Cardio exercise itself also comes in many forms, distance training for stamina, fast training for speed, and interval training. Mix up your cardio workouts for the best improvements in fitness.
Mix in some weight training 2-3 times a week with the cardio exercise and you have an effective system for melting away the body fat, developing a toned physique, and improving your overall fitness.
Myth 4 – Crunches get rid of the belly fat.
Fact: Crunches can have the opposite effect if you have a diastasis (gap in the ab muscles post pregnancy). If this is you, get some specialist help before you start exercising your abdominals. See my article on this subject.
Even if your abdominal muscles are healthy, the most effective way to lose belly fat is a combination of regular exercise (cardio and weight lifting) and a healthy diet. When you exercise the body burns fat everywhere not just from the area you are working.
Ab crunches will help strengthen the abdominals and improve your posture, but if they are covered by belly fat this may not be immediately obvious. To build a strong flat tummy you need to work a variety of muscles from your hips to your shoulders, and also uncover the muscles by burning off the fat.
Myth 5 – No Pain No Gain
Myth: You need to “feel the pain” to make any headway with your fitness.
Fact: While it’s perfectly natural to experience muscle soreness a day or two following a workout, it is not good for your body to exercise when movement is severely restricted because of pain.
Exercise should not hurt. If it does then you are either doing it incorrectly or you have an injury such as a muscle tear.
If you feel pain of any type while exercising, the best action to take is to stop, rest and seek advice from a professional if the pain does not ease within 24 hours.
I hope that this clears up the confusion surrounding some of the popular fitness myths. If you would like a session with me to make sure that your workout is working for you then you can book one here.
Rachel Law is a personal fitness trainer based in New Malden, Surrey. Qualifications: ActivIQ Level 3 Personal Training; Burrell Education Pregnancy Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education Advanced Pregnancy Wellness Practitioner; Burrell Education Advanced Post Natal Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education 3rd Age Women Optimal Health and Nutrition; Burrell Education Peri Natal Athlete; Burrell Education Pelvic Flow and Freedom; Olympic Weight Lifting; Premier Global Kettlebells; FIE Level Assessment and Mentoring