Coach Melissa's take on three common fitness myths
Melissa Thomas, NASM-CPT, CES, PES; STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor; Pn1
“I have to do tons of cardio to lose body fat.”
At some point, the health and fitness industry shortened “cardiorespiratory training” to simply “cardio.” And I think calling it "cardio" may have taken away from the full scope of the term.
Cardiorespiratory fitness is so named because it primarily works the heart (the “cardio” part) and the lungs (the “respiratory” part). And while we know that there are many benefits to cardiorespiratory fitness (decreased risk of some chronic diseases, etc.), you should never feel the need to crush yourself on the treadmill, the stationary bike, or in your favorite dance class. In fact, studies show that a combination of resistance training and cardiorespiratory training yield the greatest results at reducing weight and body fat, so it’s much more beneficial (and fun!) to combine the two modalities.
If you feel less confident lifting weights, consult a fitness professional at your local gym to help you put together a total body plan you can complete 2-3 times per week. Trainers love to teach and help people—they’ll be thrilled to help you put something together that will get you results.
“Lifting weights will make me bulky.”
If I had a nickel for every time a new client told me that they want to “tone up but not get bulky," I would be rich!
But “toning up” is the process of strengthening muscle through resistance training, and there are so many great benefits for women who do it! And as a sub-point to this myth, you also can’t build “long, lean muscles” (Pilates and barre often make these claims) by performing certain types of exercise; it is physically impossible to change the length of your muscles. Despite the current social media obsession with HIIT and booty bands, lean and toned physiques are built in the weight room.
So what does work if you want more definition? Lifting weights. You will not accidentally get “bulky” without meaning to—it simply won’t happen. Muscular hypertrophy (i.e., increasing muscle size) requires consistent, intentional, and repeated effort.
“Exercise is my therapy.”
As someone who over-exercised in college to try to manage stress and regularly parroted this tired phrase, I really want to impress that only therapy is therapy. Exercise should be incorporated in its correct context; here is a great resource on the scope of exercise’s impact on your mind and body.
While it’s true that exercise can improve your mood and increase your feelings of well-being, it’s not advisable to use exercise as your only means to manage stress. Doing so can lead to issues when you encounter a situation where you're unable to exercise (e.g., injury, vacation, etc.). If you feel that you need to go to the gym or go for a run whenever a stressful situation arises, it might be time to self-reflect.
Have you been leaning too hard on exercise for stress management, and do you need to develop additional tools to help manage it? Would you benefit from seeking professional help? Whatever direction you take, remember that being at your best for yourself first is how you're at your best for others.
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