It's that time of year... Everywhere you look you're being sold a "New Year, New You" program full of quick fixes, gimmicks and empty promises that won't last past January. It's not all bad out there, but it can be hard to sift through the ads, articles and well-meaning "expert" friends to decipher the truth.
We've got 5 Fitness Myths we start to hear more of as the New Year kicks off that we'd like to bust for you!
MYTH 1 - “It’s only a good workout if you feel sore the next day” - Wrong. When you start a new training plan, or have built up to a day on your program that you are challenging yourself, you will probably feel some soreness the next couple days. Your muscles basically go through micro-trauma when adapting to new training stimulus, and the process of repairing and rebuilding these tissues even stronger is what causes soreness. As your body adapts to your new program, the feelings of soreness should decrease, but that doesn’t mean the training isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do for you. If you constantly chase that sore feeling it’s likely you are overtraining and not giving your body enough time to adapt and repair itself, and you risk possible injuries.
If you are someone who worries that soreness means you overdid it, that’s not necessarily true either. It’s totally normal to have soreness whether you are a seasoned athlete, or just getting started on your fitness journey - especially when starting something new as we mentioned. The best thing you can do is to keep moving! Take a walk, do a lighter training session, or just stretch and rollout. If you try to “rest” until you feel no soreness, you are likely to be in an endless loop where you always feel sore after training because you’ve waited too long and now your body has to adapt all over again. As a word of extra caution - if you do experience extreme muscle pain that lasts longer than a few days without decreasing, or you feel other symptoms aside from muscle soreness, you should contact your doctor.
Bonus myth busting - people often attribute delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) to lactic acid build up, but scientists have debunked that theory. We still don’t know all the details of why we get sore following more intense or new training. Our bodies are magical and mysterious!
MYTH 2 - “Cardio is the best exercise for fat loss.” Cardiovascular exercise is important, but your top priority for a fat loss goal should be strength training. Resistance training builds muscle tissue, with is more metabolically active than fatty tissue. This means that your body burns more calories maintaining and building muscle than maintaining adipose tissue. Not only does strength training super-charge your metabolism to help with fat loss, it also helps prevent the inevitable slow down of the metabolism as we get older - one of the main reasons this slow down occurs is loss or muscle mass as we age. And of course training with weights also helps build bone density, so there’s another great reason to keep strength training at the top of your list!
MYTH 3 - “Lifting weights will make me bulky.” Not unless you want to have that happen and are willing to work really hard! Ladies, this myth busting is mostly for you. There are different ways to train with weights depending on what your goals are. The hard earned physique of a body builder or professional athlete doesn’t happen by spending a few hours a week lifting in the gym. It takes specialized programming and daily dedication in the gym (and the kitchen) to get those kinds of results. The irony of this particular myth is that most ladies who are worried about getting “too big” would prefer to lift light/medium weights and do more reps. But the truth is that lifting heavier and doing fewer reps typically builds muscle in a way that doesn’t get a “bulky” appearance. This has to do with the different ways muscles grow - higher rep/lower weight encourages the development of sarcoplasm in the muscle, which is a fluid that makes them appear bigger and “puffier”; whereas lower rep/higher weight encourages the development of myofibrils, so you get stronger and show muscle “tone” but do not gain much in size. So, don’t be afraid to pick up something heavy ladies!
MYTH 4 - “In order to make progress you need constant variety.” Maybe you’ve heard of the myth of “muscle confusion”? The idea that you need to switch up your training every week or few days to be different so your body has to keep working hard to adapt to new stimulus… There is some truth in that you can’t do the same training plan forever and expect to keep getting results. But if you never stick with a plan, or do “random acts of variety” instead following a program, you also won’t see any real results. You need to stick with a program long enough to make progress and see your strength and skills improve, but switch it up before you completely plateau. The sweet spot is somewhere between 4 to 6 weeks. Even then, you might not necessarily benefit from changing the exercises you are focusing on, but rather continue making progress by adjusting the loads, reps and sets somehow.
MYTH 5 - “If I workout hard enough, I can eat whatever I want.” Well… You CAN, you’re an adult so, you do you. But there is no such thing as workout that will allow you to eat whatever you want and be healthy - whether you want to lose weight or not. Even if you know this myth to be busted already, you might still benefit from a mindset shift on this topic. Too often we’ve heard people say they need a killer workout because they had a nutrition "cheat day" the day before. Or that after a hard workout they are going to reward themselves with a nutrition splurge. Food isn’t a reward for torturing yourself, and training isn’t a punishment for eating.
We sure hope you are able to break free from the fear, confusion and guilt associated with these myths as you enjoy wherever your fitness journey takes you this year!