January is typically a time when we set goals to commit to fitness. However, as we reach the end of the month, many of us may be ready to throw our New Year's resolutions out the window. Why is that? Resolutions can fail if we don’t get the fitness results we want fast enough, we get injured or life gets hectic. Often times, misconceptions about fitness can also prevent us from achieving the results we want.
To clear things up, Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare, debunks four common fitness myths you may hear while taking up a new workout routine or expanding an existing one.
Myth #1: You should always stretch before exercising.
Studies show that contrary to popular belief, stretching before working out is unlikely to protect you from injury, boost your performance or prevent sore muscles. Static stretching before exercise can actually hinder your performance (strength endurance, speed, force production) because holding the stretch tires out your muscles.
To prepare your body for action before your workout, you should warm up with dynamic stretches, such as jogging in place, walking lunges, arms circles or side-to-side legs swings.
Static stretching after a workout, on the other hand, is a good idea because it can help reduce your risk of injury next time.
Myth #2: Your workout can target fat in certain areas.
Contrary to what the late-night infomercials suggest, there is no such thing as spot reduction. Doing thousands of crunches will strengthen your abdominal muscles, but it will not reduce fat in that problem area. In order to get rid of fat in the abs (or any particular area), you need to reduce overall body fat. Create a workout routine that features both cardiovascular and strength training elements, and follow a healthy diet to decrease overall body fat, including the area around the midsection.
Myth #3: The more you sweat, the better your workout.
Sweating is not indicative of how intense you work out or how many calories you burn. Sweating is a mechanism our body uses to cool itself down when our body temperature gets too high. Our body does it by releasing the heat through your pores in the form of moisture (sweat). How much you sweat is determined by quite a few factors such as the temperature of the workout environment, the type of clothing you wear and your hydration level. Some people sweat even when they are not very physically active, and others may work out for an hour and look like they’ve been sitting on the couch all day.
The best way to determine if you are exercising hard enough is to measure your heart rate during your workout and then exercise at your target heart rate.
Myth #4: If there is no pain, then there is no gain.
The “no pain, no gain” approach is another common myth. Of course your workouts need to be challenging, but they don’t need to leave you feeling horrible, in pain and nauseated. Some sort of discomfort during a workout and soreness the next day is often unavoidable, especially if you are new to exercising. But pain is not required for a successful workout. Judging your progress by a pain threshold is not a motto you should be following. In fact, pain during a workout is often a symptom of more than a hard workout—it can be an indication of injury.
“With the plethora of fitness and workout information on the internet, it’s hard to separate facts from fiction,” says Hays. “It can become overwhelming and make you to want to give up before you even get started.”
Don’t let the confusing information keep you from meeting your goals. Look for reliable sources of information or talk to a trainer to get your facts straight, suggests Hays. “Your health is worth it.”