You might think that with the wealth of information available on the internet through the likes of popular media, fitness influencers, trainers and ‘gurus’, finding credible health and fitness advice would be easy. Think again…
With more access to information, we’re now at the mercy of an over-saturated (and under-regulated) online market of misinformation and frequently conflicting suggestions or opinions mislabelled as ‘facts’. So as we attempt to tackle our fitness goals and arm ourselves with the right information, we may end up spending far more time than expected simply sifting through sources and articles, hoping to land on something that makes the most sense.
This can be dangerous territory (and a rightfully frustrating experience) so I’ve done the research for you, while talking with some local trainers and fitness experts, to break down the most common misconceptions we frequently face:
1. Using Running to Get Back Into Shape
Within the world of high-intensity work out regimes, gyms and class structures, running may seem like the lesser of all evils when ‘easing back into’ the realm of fitness, right? Wrong. Believe it or not, running actually has one of the highest rates of injury.
Ideally, people should be in shape to run, not use running to get into shape.
Matthew Pasquale, Strength and Conditioning Coach and owner of Apex Training Centre explains, “Here you’ll have a client who hasn’t been active in 3-5 years, suddenly decide to get up and start running for 20+ minutes at a time. This is a recipe for disaster. When a person decides to run, there is stress placed on the ankle, knee and hip joint with every stride they take. Multiply this risk over thousands of strides, and you’re asking for trouble. In my opinion, low-impact, basic movement such as walking and a very general strength training component (bodyweight) should be the first thing in any ’newbie’s’ program. Remember: Start slow to build confidence and a general foundation of fitness before you decide to increase your training intensity.”
2. Women will ‘Bulk Up’ from Weight Training
Listen up, ladies. Lifting heavy weights will not turn you into the Hulk. Not only do we not (naturally) have the testosterone levels required to support the kind of ‘bulk’ so many women are afraid of, but lifting weights will help you to build a more lean, efficient body. When you increase your lean body mass, you increase the number of overall calories you burn during the day (far beyond the confines of your workout) because your muscles continue to consume additional oxygen, effectively ramping up your resting metabolism.
Not only that, but core, compound lift movements will also help to improve your natural athleticism, coordination and mobility which translates into improvements in every day, functional movements. The increase in energy expenditure that continues to occur hours after you perform resistance training also results in increased energy levels for your day-to-day life and helps to decrease the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.
Being strong and healthy is something to strive for and be proud of, not something to fear.
3. What Cardio is the Best Cardio?
As an extension to the point above, let’s clarify that traditional cardio is not the only way to lose weight, and not necessarily the best way, either.
Remember that LISS (low intensity steady state) cardio such as running on the treadmill doesn’t offer the same boost to your resting metabolism and muscle hypertrophy that weight and resistance training provides. Since HIIT (high intensity interval training) increases your resting oxidative capacity (the amount of oxygen your muscles are absorbing), you will prime your body for effective fat loss. LISS, on the other hand, only helps your body to burn calories at the precise moment that you are performing that activity — there is no 24 hour energy expenditure (boost in metabolism). It’s also suggested that LISS focused training can potentially hurt you down the line, as your metabolism will continuously adjust and adapt to low intensity exercise, meaning you will constantly require more to continue losing fat.
Eddy Bucardo, Exercise Physiology/Training Specialist and owner of Unchained Athletics explains, “Mixing weights and resistance training with short bursts of high intensity movement patterns is hands down the best way to build muscle and burn fat.” Between strength training and high intensity interval conditioning with athletic movements and plyometrics, kickboxing, rowing and spin or bootcamp classes (just to name a few), there is no shortage of great, comprehensive cardio options other than just pounding away on a treadmill for an hour at a time.
4. More is Always Better
“Anything worth doing, is worth over-doing. Moderation is for cowards.”
Contrary to what some people may think, this ideology should not apply to your training regime. There is such a thing as training too much. When people set out to reach lofty health and fitness goals in a short period of time, you’ll often see them grinding through multiple training sessions per day, 6-7 times per week while adhering to strict diets. “No days off” becomes the ruling mindset.
Guess what? Your recovery time is just as important as the time you spend training. Your efforts in the gym directly impact your central nervous system which, when chronically overstressed, can experience overtraining symptoms due to the weakening of nerve impulses. These symptoms can include a lack of motivation, severe DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) or symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, loss in grip strength, restlessness and a lack of focus due to your sympathetic nervous system going into constant overdrive, chronic fatigue and a weakened immune system.
Cassie Day, Toronto trainer and founder of All Day Fit, explains “Although you might see some initial results from training excessively, you likely won’t be able to maintain that intensity for more than a few months. You will over train and exhaust yourself. You won’t allow the time for your body to recover and grow. Eventually your willpower and motivation will plummet because you’re investing all of this time, but slowly your results with start to decrease. It’s important to train smarter, not harder.”
5. Crunches = Abs
There are a lot of points to argue within the health/fitness realm, but this is not one of them: Abs are made in the kitchen. You could crunch your way into next year while working to strengthen your abdominal wall, but if you haven’t aligned your diet to compliment your training efforts and support fat-loss, those defined abs will remain in hiding (unless you are unusually genetically blessed, of course).
“Make sure you are eating the proper amount of food to truly fuel your body. Personally, I focus on eating whole, real foods while keeping my protein high, eating lots of vegetables, healthy fats and carbohydrates and constantly drinking water throughout the day”, explains Cassie.
Further, remember that crunches (while a ‘classic’ movement) are not necessarily the best way to a strong core. For one, crunches can be relatively tough on your body due to the pressure they put on your back at its weakest point — the section with the most nerves is in the back of the spine, which is where you bend/strain during a sit-up. Also, traditional crunches specifically target the rectus abdominus (the very outer layer of your core), while other movements such as the plank, dead bugs, inch worms, hanging leg raises, ab roll-outs (and many more), simultaneously work your external abs, transverse abdominis, and internal and external obliques.