Fitness Myths – Busted!

Everyone seems to be an “expert” these days – people who have worked in the industry for all of about 5 minutes claim to be “fat loss experts” or “high performance training pro” (bro). In reality, none of us are experts. And those who are truly top of their field acknowledge this. Research is always changing and updating. People find new ways of training, eating and sleeping that bring about huge differences for some, but not necessarily for others.

Fitness Myths – Busted!

What doesn’t help, though, is all the conflicting, confusing, and sometimes just downright incorrect information floating about – it doesn’t help anybody! So, after reading Zanna’s brilliant nutrition myths post, I thought I’d do one busting common fitness myths.

You have to work flat out all the time

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This is synonymous with the “go hard or go home” mentality and it drives me mad. Working at maximum effort all the time, every time, is only sustainable for so long and will, yes WILL, lead to burnout, or worse… injury. Working at different intensities and durations, on the other hand, will allow you to work on different areas of fitness (cardiovascular, anaerobic, endurance, power, etc.), helping you to get fitter and stronger.

Ideally, every training programme would follow cycles – each with an intended purpose, which dictate the volume and intensity of the session. Each cycle should have rest, or de-load sessions, scheduled within the cycle, and between cycles too. If you programme your own training, look up “periodisation” to learn more about cyclical training, or speak to a Personal Trainer who should be able to help advise you.

X exercise is better than Y exercise

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I hear this all the time. When it comes to general fitness, lifestyle, or even (to a certain extent) aesthetics, there is no such thing as one form of exercise being “better” than another. Everyone is different, physiologically, anatomically, and psychologically – and, yes, all three of these matter! There could be a number of different exercises, sports, training methods that suit you and get you to your goals. The most important things are:

  1. Do you enjoy it?
  2. Is it making you fitter/improving your health/getting you active?
  3. Can you keep it up?

If the answer to all three is “yes” then you’re onto a winner. Don’t let anyone tell you that ballet is better than Zumba, or that a split body training programme is better than CrossFit. YOU decide what works for YOU!

Muscle and fat weigh the same

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Let me just get this straight… muscle DOES, well and truly, weigh more than fat. People who say “but 1kg of muscle and 1kg of fat weigh the same, it just takes up less room” are being too smart (read = idiotic) for their own good. I think you’ll agree that saying 1lb of anything and 1lb of anything else both weigh the same! Of course they do… they’re both 1lb! The point is, that for its size, muscle weighs more than fat.

When people start weight training and their weight is going up, it’s most likely because they’ve gained muscle… the overall effect on size, though, is typically a reduction. Because muscle weighs more than fat. Trainers come up with the 1lb = 1lb argument all the time to try and sound clever and it just confuses people. KISS.

You must train in the fat-burning zone to burn fat

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Ever since those HR training zones first came out people have believed that they must be working within that magical fat-burning zone to lose weight (fat mass). There are plenty of arguments as to why this is inaccurate and misleading, including things like the post-training metabolism boost you get from higher intensity exercise, but I’m just going to give you the simple calorie burn per exercise, which should help to show you why this is a myth.

70kg woman, exercising for 30 minutes:

  • Fat-burning zone (low intensity) ~60% max HR = 170 calories, 85% from fat (145 calories)
  • Anaerobic zone (high intensity) ~80% max HR = 290 calories, 50% from fat (145 calories)

At both intensities, our woman is burning the same amount of “fat calories”, but those other calories from the anaerobic zone come from sugars stored within your muscles. Which means that sugar from food you eat after training is likely to go straight back into replacing those sugar stores… and not be turned into fat! You’re creating more of a calorie deficit, meaning you burn more fat overall.

Sure, there is a place for low intensity exercise – it’s great for general fitness – and if you prefer it, then great! But if you want to lose fat, consider adding high intensity exercise, or training that averages out at high intensity (e.g. interval training), to your programme.

If you don’t see results you haven’t trained hard enough

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This is another of those myths that I hear a lot, especially when it comes to testing week at CrossFit. Our training cycles are usually around 12 weeks, followed by a week of testing our maximum lifts. We’re always told not to expect personal bests – there are too many variables to maximal lifting, and to any performance or result for that matter. You can train “perfectly” for the entire 12 weeks, but a lack of sleep, varying hydration levels, not enough food, etc. could throw your performance off on the day. The same applies to racing, diets, even exams!

The other thing people are often tempted to do is give up on a specific programme or protocol if they don’t see results right away. The grass is always greener on the other side and a friend who’s getting results on x, y or z programme might tempt you to try that instead – but the reason your friend is getting results is probably more to do with consistency than it is with the programme itself. Stick with what you’re doing and really try at something before you expect results.

You must have at least two rest days per week

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I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating – everyone is different! I had a genetics test recently and one of the markers it tested was recovery from exercise and, much to my surprise, my recovery rate is pretty high. This means I can take less rest, both within exercise sessions, and between them. I’ve found my ideal rate of training is 3 days on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off, so I tend to do CrossFit on Monday, Tuesday Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and I can (but don’t often) quite easily handle two workouts in a day. Others may find this level of training too high, or too little!

Elite athletes often take little to no full rest, instead taking active recovery with activities like rowing, swimming, cycling, etc. often for durations that the rest of us would treat as a full-on workout! The point is, there is no set rule of how much rest or recovery you need – you simply need to find what works for you. If you start to pick up colds easily, have trouble sleeping, are struggling to finish workouts, etc. these are signs that you’re overtraining.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes you’ve got to filter through the crap to get to the information that’s really going to help you in your training. This can be really hard, especially with so many conflicting points of view out there. The key points to remember are that what works for you is all that matters, and that consistency is key. But on the flip side, nothing is permanent – you can always change what you do if you truly feel as though something isn’t working for you anymore!

So those are the most common fitness myths I could think of to tackle in this post. Are there any others that you can think of, or that you want busting?! Comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Photos by Will Patrick.

4 Comments

  1. 27th April 2016 / 3:45 pm

    Brilliant post! 🙂

    • Georgina Spenceley
      11th May 2016 / 4:25 pm

      Thanks Emma!

    • Georgina Spenceley
      14th June 2016 / 5:15 pm

      Thank you! Glad you found it interesting!

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