I wish I had a nickel for all the pieces of bogus advice I’ve heard. Wait an hour after eating before going into the water. Never wear white past Labor Day. Feed a cold, starve a fever.
I’d be a millionaire.
Fitness is like that, too. There’s no shortage of things we’re told that are supposed to be true, but are way off in La-La Land. The hard part is trying to separate what’s real from what’s absolute bunk.
So helpful soul that I am, I’m about to save you a whole lotta trouble. Here are eight common fitness myths, busted. Think about them while you’re getting getting in shape for next ski season:
Don’t eat before a workout.
Think about it this way: Would you drive a car without gas? No. Your body needs fuel to power through a workout. Contrary to what some people believe, forgoing food before exercise will not force your body into burning more fat; instead, you’ll end up burning protein (muscle mass), and that won’t do you any good. I’m not saying you should eat a big meal and then immediately run a marathon, but have a snack about 45 minutes to an hour before you start. Best thing to eat: something with carbohydrates and protein.
Stretching is a great warm up.
Experts say this can actually be harmful. Why? Stretching a cold muscle is like stretching a rubber band to its limit. When you stretch to the maximum, your body may think it’s at risk of being overstretched, so it compensates by contracting and becoming more tense. That means you’re not able to move as fast or as freely, so you’re more likely to get hurt. Instead of stretching, many experts recommend warming up with a light jog or sport-specific exercise, like a few serves for tennis. That type of light movement increases your heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, warming up your body temperature.
Walking isn’t as effective as running.
Simply not true. Walking and running target the same muscle groups and offer similar health benefits: a reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes, and better cardiovascular health. Sure, you’ll have to walk twice as long to use up the same amount of energy as you would running. But a runner and a walker will burn about the same number of calories over the same distance. So don’t worry about taking the slow lane. Just get out there and move!
Weight training makes women bulk up.
This is only true if the woman is on steroids. To be truly bulky, you need a lot of testosterone. That’s why it’s so easy for men to bulk up — the average man produces 10 times the amount of testosterone as the average woman. Weight training, though, has a lot of great benefits: it burns fat, improves your athletic performance, and reduces your risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. So don’t stay away from weights because you’re afraid you’ll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You won’t.
The only reason to wear a sports bra is to keep the girls from bouncing.
There’s more to it than that. Sports bras also help prevent breast sag. High-impact activities, like jogging or aerobics, can stress the connective tissue that keeps breasts firm, causing them to sag more quickly. According to the American Council on Exercise, compression bras work best for smaller-busted women; the more well-endowed (typically a C cup or larger) should opt for an “encapsulation” bra that supports each breast separately. Replace workout bras every six months to a year.
The more time you spend in the gym, the better.
Did you know that lifting weights creates tiny muscle tears? You need to rest to help them repair (this is when they get stronger). Overtraining can also mess with your menstrual cycle. And thanks to your body’s built-in protective mechanisms, it can also cause a plateau in your weight loss. So take some time off to recover. I’m on a three-day on, one day off workout schedule.
Crunches can give you six-pack abs.
Losing weight in a targeted area won’t work. The body just isn’t built that way. Oh, exercise may strengthen the muscular groups in a specific area, but no matter how many crunches you do, you ain’t going to have six-pack abs. Why? Fat can only be lost from the body as a whole in an order that is predetermined by your genetics. So if you have a high percentage of body fat, your abs will be covered with — you guessed it — fat. In order to get visibly toned abs, you have to first reduce your overall body fat, which means plenty of cardio, coupled with strength training for faster results.
No pain, no gain.
This is just plain silly. If it hurts while you’re doing it, STOP. Your body is trying to tell you something. Pain is an indicator that you either have an injury or you’re doing something wrong. (Of course, this doesn’t include the mild muscle soreness you may feel for a day or two after a workout.) If something really hurts, stop, rest, and see if it goes away. If it doesn’t, or if it starts again or increases after you begin to work out, see a doctor.