5 Fitness Myths that are Ruining Your Progress
I’ll level with you…I’ve probably made every mistake in the book when it comes to my own training.And I don’t mind admitting it.
When I first became interested in exercise, I joined an online fitness community. Between thinking I needed to be eating under 1,500 calories, running 3-5 miles per day *and* doing light strength training workouts, I quickly became exhausted and burnt out. Not to mention how frustrated I was when I felt like I was fighting tooth and nail to get leaned. I figured that doing more was the best and quickest way to accomplish that.
Oddly, despite all that exercise, my body wasn’t changing as I expected it to. As a matter of fact, when I had my body composition tested at one point, my body fat had increased and my muscle mass had decreased!
I was so frustrated. Why wasn’t I getting leaner?
To add insult to injury, I wasn’t getting stronger, either. What was holding me back?
Turns out I’d been subscribing to some myths that are so pervasive in the fitness world that most of us (no matter how much education we have!) think they’re true — until we learn (and implement) differently.
In addition to my personal experience, as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach for almost 6 years now, I’ve encountered hundreds of women who’ve made these same mistakes.
If you’re working hard and struggling to get the results you want, could one of these myths be derailing your progress?
Let’s find out. In my latest blog article, I go over five common fitness myths and reveal the truths, so you can finally get the results you’ve been working so hard for.
Myth 1: Sweat and Soreness Are Signs of a Good Workout
As a CPT, I sometimes hear things like “I’m so sore from my workout! But that’s a good thing, right? It means it’s working, isn’t it?” or even the opposite – “I’m not sore though, so I feel like I didn’t workout hard enough.”
I admit that for a while I, too, believed the quality of a workout could be measured in sweat and soreness. I get it, dripping in sweat and feeling too sore to walk the next day can be tempting because it’s concrete evidence that we did something. But that just isn’t the case. The truth of the matter is, the amount of sweat or soreness you feel are not indicators of an effective workout. It feels good when you do, of course. But if you felt like you should have sweated more, or like you should have been more sore the next day, that doesn’t mean your workout wasn’t affective. This is especially true the longer you’ve been consistently exercising. I’ve been lifting weights for the past 4 years consistently, and it’s very rare I get sore anymore; but that doesn’t mean my workouts have been a waste all this time.
It’s not necessary to sweat to make progress and it’s certainly not always a direct cause and affect-type relationship. Think about it – you could be sweating up a storm sitting in a room full of people if the AC isn’t cranked up high enough…or you’re arms are sore from doing a couple hours of yard work…you wouldn’t confuse that with a hard workout, would you?
OK So, What about muscle soreness?
We can challenge or “stress” our muscles in different ways (like by lifting weights); this physical stress creates small tears in our muscle fibers. With proper nutrition and rest, our body repairs those small tears and rebuilds your muscles bigger and with the capability to be stronger than they were before. It’s normal to experience something called DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness), especially if you’re new to lifting weights. DOMS usually occurs one or two days after a strength training session, and feeling this a little is normal for most people, to a certain extent. That said, it’s possible to make great progress without ever being sore, especially if you recover properly from your workouts — and being sore doesn’t mean you’ve made progress.
Myth 2: More Exercise Is Always Better
As I mentioned before, I admit I was a “move more, eat less” type of gal (cringe). But hey, we’re all here to learn right?! I did this for a couple years. Many women are taught that more is better. More exercise, more discipline, more calories burned, more results, right?
Sadly, no. Not only is this an ineffective training approach, it seldom leads to sustainable results – and if you’ve been following me for a while you know this is my main mission – SUSTAINABILITY. Rather, the solution is to do less exercise, as counterintuitive as that may seem. The truth of the matter is, optimal exercise is better. And sometimes doing less exercise turns out to be exactly what you need.
My coaching and training philosophy is this: I firmly believe that the key to getting the most out of your training is to keep your hunger and appetite in balance, train at an intensity that allows you to make progress without running you into the ground, severely restricting your calories and making plenty of time for rest, relaxation, and living a normal, fun social life. All of these factors are crucial to both your progress and your overall enjoyment of life.
Myth 3: No Matter What You Eat, You Can Work It Off at the Gym
Friday night, at last — time to unwind! Glass of wine? Don’t mind if I do! What about some pizza? Sure! Let’s get ice cream, after, obviously! I mean, I’ll work it off at the gym tomorrow morning and do some extra cardio anyway.
You’ve probably heard someone say, “You can’t out-train a bad diet!” What does that even mean? It means is that it’s always going to be more difficult to reach our goals when we don’t align our exercise and nutrition efforts. Now I’m not saying you “shouldn’t” be eating these foods, no way Jose! What I’m saying is that turning around and running yourself into the ground at the gym, and beating yourself the next day in an attempt to compensate for the food you ate isn’t an effective response to a surplus of calories, which is easy to do with high calorie foods like pizza, alcohol and ice cream. Exercise should not be a penalty for the food you’ve eaten; overeating, only to think you can simply “work it off” later, won’t get you closer to your goals. The truth of the matter is, it can be pretty difficult to out-exercise your nutrition (depending on what your goals are, I suppose). High calorie dense foods are more easily consumable, meaning we’re more likely to overeat those kinds of foods. A night out for pizza and wine can easily rack up to be ~1,000 calories or more. An average training session may yield 300-600 calories burned in an hour, depending on the style of training, intensity, and several others factors of course. But you get the idea of how long you’d have to exercise to burn the calories you easily consumed in less than 30 minutes. Again, not a sufficient or effective way to approach your fitness and lifestyle.
Myth 4: You Just Need to Diet Harder
By far the most common scenario as a CPT and nutrition coach is this: women eating a 1,200 calorie diet wanting to lose weight. But they can’t lose weight any more, so they diet longer, on less and less calories…because the fewer calories we eat, the better right? There’s this persistent myth out there that women should not eat more than 1200 calories a day – where and who that number came from, I have yet to find out.
Maybe you’ve also heard of the law of thermodynamics or, as it’s often described, “calories in, calories out or CICO.” Our bodies obtain energy from food and burn those calories through:
- Basic metabolic functions (breathing, bodily functions, etc.)
- Movement (like purposeful exercise, but also every activity of daily life)
- Heat production
- Digestion and excretion
The mistake we often make is believing that it’s a simple equation to calculate both the calories we ingest and the calories we expend. We’ll say to ourselves, “If I burn all these extra calories working out, and eat much less, I’ll easily burn fat.” However, eating too little can actually hinder fat loss, strength gain, and muscle gain, and can affect energy levels and overall health. Plus, calculating exactly the amount of energy we take in and expend isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. The truth of the matter is, under-eating may be hindering your progress. When energy (calories) are scarce, the body prioritizes essential functions such as regulating body temperature and blood pressure over other functions, like rebuilding muscle tissue. Inadequate food intake makes it nearly impossible to increase muscle strength or size, and it can also sabotage recovery from training sessions as well. If you’re goal is fat loss, but you’ve found it harder and harder to lose weight, you may need to push the pause button on dieting, and focus on reverse dieting for a while to focus on rebuilding and repairing your metabolism.
Myth 5: If You’re Not Exhausted, You’re Not Working Hard Enough
You want to know a secret? You don’t have to exhaust yourself to reach your fitness goals, no matter what they are. In fact, exhausting yourself too much, too often can actually hinder your progress and put a halt to continuing to make progress in the gym. You don’t have to be exhausted from your training to see results. You do need to challenge your body in a way that allows you to come back strong the next time around; that is how progress happens afterall. Training is a form of stress, and the body reacts to it the same way that it reacts to anything else that’s stressful — stress from work, home life stress, you name it. Training to exhaustion can sometimes feel good emotionally, but stress is stress is stress, and that constant stress impedes recovery. If you’re not able to recover adequately from your workouts, your progress is likely to slow down. Plus, the more exhausted you feel, the less likely you are to stay consistent with your workouts, your effort and your overall energy, making it more likely for you to skip sessions altogether.
It’s really important to take adequate rest days; an appropriate amount of rest can actually help you train harder because you’re giving your muscles adequate time to recover between sets and between workouts. Remember that the keys to progress are consistency and sustainability.
- Get stronger
- Gain muscle
- Lose body fat
- Heal your relationship with food
- Increase your confidence
… or anything else, I’ll help you achieve them. You can experience life-changing results while eating and exercising in a way that actually fits into your life — instead of controlling it.