Working in the industry for a many of years now, it always amazes me how much misinformation is logged in people’s minds when it comes to fitness and health. Whether its magazine covers promising six pack abs in 6 weeks, infomercials claiming their exercise machine will get you a sexy butt in just minutes a day, or TV shows depicting individuals losing 30 lbs in one week, its not difficult to see why people are often confused. Below are some of the most common misconceptions I see and the truths behind them, in hopes you can use this information to achieve more effective, longer lasting results.
Myth #1: Spot Toning Works
This is one of the most common things I hear when working with new clients. They all want to do stomach exercises to shrink their waistline and arm exercises to decrease the dreaded underarm flab, but I’m afraid the body just doesn’t work this way.
Exercises geared towards a specific muscle group can certainly build some muscle and burn a few calories, but body fat is the real issue when it comes to looking leaner and more toned. Think of it this way, you can put a corvette engine in a beat up station wagon, and, while it may go faster, in the end it still looks like a beat up old station wagon. It’s the same thing when we increase strength without addressing body fat. With proper programming, and nutrition, fat mass can begin to decline and the muscles underneath will actually begin to show a bit more.
It should also be noted that everyone stores and loses fat a little differently. During a short, frustrating stint working for a weight-loss clinic, I can’t tell you how many clients would come up and ask me why they lost inches in their arms, but not their waist, or why their neck became smaller, while their hips remained the same. This would be a long and scientific discussion as to why this happens, but for the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the simple fact that everyone is a little different. The best advice I can give is to avoid jumping from fad to fad, find a good trainer or program, and stay the course. Regardless the order, the inches will come off!
Myth #2: More is Better
Everyone thinks that if a little is good, then more must be better. This is a very dangerous way of thinking in the world of fitness and has much to blame for lack of success. It’s important to start slow and gradually build up. I experienced first hand, at the weight loss clinic I previously worked, that people that were essentially forced to work out for 7 or more hours a day still thought if they did more, their results would be better. In the end, this much training ended in one, or all, of three things. Worse results (many would actually gain weight during overtraining), injury, and, in extreme cases, serious sickness.
As one in charge of trying to address injury, you can imagine how frustrating this was. People would lose weight over their time there and then limp out of the gym. When they finally stopped to treat their injury, many would gain all the weight back. The real kicker is that the weight they lost never justified the means. My clients now, reach similar long term results working out 90% less than those in the old clinic. I recommend everyone work with a good trainer when they first start out to teach proper form, address any muscle imbalance that may set them up for pain/injury down the road, and establish a solid program. Regardless, you must know that more is certainly not better. Start small and gradually work your way up and your body will thank you for it.
Myth #3: Weight-loss Should Happen Fast
We can thank the Biggest Loser for this one. Losing 30 lbs in a week is not healthy. Losing 10 lbs in a week is not healthy. Losing 5 lbs is not healthy long term. Some exceptions can be made depending on your weight, but patience is key when you embark on a journey to lose weight.
Diets do not work…there I said it. There is absolutely no way around this one. I’ll say it again. Diets do not work. The National Health Institute released studies a number of years ago laying claim that 90% of those who lost weight fast while dieting regained more than 2/3 back within the next year and all of it (and often more) in the next 5 years. The other side of rapid weight-loss is the health effects. Losing weight fast requires significant calorie reduction and puts the body in a state of starvation. Recent research suggests that major hormonal changes take place during such time and these changes can actually make it much harder to keep the weight off down the road. If you are patient, have a solid, progressive, and adaptable exercise program combined with proper nutrition, you will be much, much more successful.
As a rule of thumb, National Academy of Sports Medicine and most governing agencies in health and fitness make the claim 2 lbs per weeks is the threshold between safe and unsafe weight-loss. There is a little wiggle room here and things may be different for the more severely obese, but this is a good number to go by. Another way to look at things is to look at how most people land at this point. It takes most, years to put weight on and get to a point where they consider themselves out of shape, right? Then, how does it make any sense to think that we can reverse it in a matter of weeks, or months? Don’t let wishful thinking sabotage common sense, or you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Myth #4: Cardio is King
I really used to strongly oppose this one, but over the years I’ve lightened up on my a stance a little. We’ve all seen or even been the person that comes in to the gym and spends over an hour on the elliptical machine. Every person I’ve ever seen go after fitness solely on a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, or other machine always ends up with the same result. Plateau.
The truth is, cardio reaches a point of diminishing returns. Even elite endurance athletes have to add significant mileage each year to maintain the same level of “fitness.” I’ve seen people achieve good results early in their quest to lose weight and get in shape with this approach, but they always hit a wall. I used to condemn cardio completely and vouch instead for more interval and more strategic forms of exercise, but I can’t deny that you can get some results with cardio early on and it can serve as a good jump start for those new to fitness.
The thing I want people to know is that strength training is vital to being truly healthy and that an hour on the cardio machine is vastly inferior to things like intervals. If proper strength, interval, and circuit training are implemented early and properly, then many plateaus can be avoided. Simply know that if you have a lot to lose, you will have to change things up at some point if you want the best results.
How do you know when to change? When the results start to slow down, or if you’re spending inordinate amounts of time at the gym, its time to look at other options. You can obtain much better results in some 30 min workouts than you can in an hour on the elliptical.
It should also be noted that excessive amount of time on cardio machines can add to already existing muscle imbalances and lead to common overuse injuries such as tendonitis and plantar fascitis. I focus on addressing these imbalances and progressing you more effectively to not only yield better results, but keep you from pain and injury.
If you are interested in a free personal training consultation with Eric Leesberg, call 310-316-3577 or visit http://www.rivierasportspt.com