by Emma Inkester
When it comes to workout tips, for every valid piece of advice there is an old wives’ tale ready to send you in the wrong direction. Sure, our bodies are complicated organisms, and what works for one person might not work for another. But there are some workout myths, often bandied around like gospel truth, that really are just incorrect. Here are five of the most common delusions straight from a gym near you.
1. Girls who lift weights will become the Incredible Hulk by next Tuesday
Really? You know those toned models on the front of Women’s Health and the other women’s magazines you love? They lift weights, lots of weights. And they’re more Angelina Jolie than Rocky. I know you don’t want to bulk up, girls, but trust us, women just don’t have the hormonal makeup (i.e. testosterone levels) to magically transform themselves into she-hes. For a long, lean silhouette pick up those weights – you won’t regret it.
2. If you do 1000 crunches every day you WILL get a six pack
WRONG. Sorry, but abs are made in the kitchen. Until you decrease your overall body fat, you will never see those babies as much as they are itching to get out. That means a clean diet filled with lean protein, fresh veggies and other unrefined carbohydrates such as brown rice, oatmeal and whole grains. Plus lots of lovely cardio and resistance training to burn off the extra inches. What it does not mean is starving yourself, also known as having no energy to train. It’s a lifestyle change not a quick fix.
3. Maximum pain = maximum gain
Some soreness the day after a workout is completely natural, and arguably a good thing – it shows you that you’ve pushed yourself and your muscles are strengthening and changing. But there’s a difference between soreness and sharp pain or prolonged stiffness lasting for longer than about 48 hours. Listen to your body, and if it feels like too much it probably is. If you feel a sharp pain while you’re exercising, stop; that’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. [Editor’s note: Conversely, having no muscle soreness does NOT mean you didn’t work hard enough. Everyone’s body is different, and so is everyone’s tendency for soreness. Soreness most often comes from doing something that your body doesn’t normally do.]
4. Rest days are for wimps. Go hard 7 days a week or go home
This one goes hand in hand with number 3. We’re super impressed by your dedication and everything, but you might be doing yourself more harm than good. Recovery is just as important as the workout itself. If you don’t give your muscles the chance to heal themselves, then they will not be able to strengthen. You’ve put the stress on them to make a change, now allow your body to work with that and bring you back fitter the next time. Put your feet up, have a cuppa. Then sleep; 8 hours if possible – while you dream your body is replenishing and reinvigorating itself and your new physique is getting that bit closer.
5. Stretching is an optional extra
We know you’re in a hurry, we know you don’t want to queue for the shower after class, the hard work is done so you think you might as well leave five minutes early before the stretching. But those long lean muscles we talked about in 1 above? They’re far more likely to appear if you stretch out after you tighten and shorten your muscles during a workout. Not to mention the need for stretching to avoid injury and prevent excessive soreness. You will thank yourself the next day for taking five minutes to cool down properly. And if you can mix some yoga into your routine for a full all-over stretch then even better.
So spread the word, fight the good fight, and bust those myths next time you hear the person next to you telling someone not to lift weights or bragging about their 24/7 exercise routine!
Emma Inkester is a full-time lawyer, part-time fitness junkie and blogger. She is passionate about sharing the journey to a healthy and happy lifestyle with others, and would love to hear from you with comments, questions and article requests. She can also be found on Twitter: @emmaink