All of us have preconceived notions about how the world works. For most topics we feel that we have a general understanding of what make sense to us, and we consider those opinions to be our truth. Unfortunately, exercise is one of those tricky subjects that seems simple to understand; but there is a lot more happening behind the scenes than most people realise. As a result, there are actually a lot of myths and half-truths in the fitness industry. Today we will be discussing four of the most common myths and their truths.
Myth 1: The only way to know you that you had an effective workout, is to be sore and sweaty
This myth is a popular one – it also happens to be false. You do not have to be drenched in sweat and struggling to walk the next day as proof of an effective work out. By way of explanation, sweat is the body’s way of cooling itself. So, while you exercise, your heart rate and body temperatures increase, and your body produces sweat to prevent overheating. This means that if you are exercising in a cooler environment or wearing moisture-wicking clothing, you won’t “glow” as much.
We can also reverse-engineer this situation: standing in the summer sun, waving your arms about for an hour will work up a good sweat – but you won’t be any fitter, or stronger, just because of it. Similarly, muscle soreness (or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, for the posh name) is caused by little tears in the muscle due to stress – which is what a workout out does. As the body fixes these tears, more muscle is also added (which is how you build muscle).
This doesn’t mean you always have to be sore after exercise though – some people are genetically more inclined to soreness than others, and overall, soreness is just a more accurate indicator of the following:
• A new type of exercise or movement that your body is not used to yet
• Increasing weight, volume or time spent in a workout
• Prolonged or eccentric movements in a specific exercise (such as slowly lowering a dumbbell)
• Not allowing yourself proper recovery after your last session.
Basically, not being sore doesn’t mean you didn’t work out.
Myth 2: More exercise = More Results
As with most things in life, less is sometimes more – such is the case with exercise. Overdoing your exercise routines will only result in sore muscles, increased hunger and even some hormonal issues (poor sleep, lack of energy) instead of getting better, or faster results.
This is known as over training. Instead, aim for effective exercise – in other words: quality not quantity. When you are following a well-designed exercise program, your muscles should be challenged without relying on excessively high volumes of exercise to achieve results. You will be able to hit that sweet spot where the muscles are taxed before entering the realm of over training.
Myth 3: You can eat what you want, and
work it off in the gym
This is something I often say to clients: You cannot outrun a muffin. I repeat: You cannot outrun a muffin. If you believe that you can train off your bad eating habits, your results are going nowhere. This type of thinking usually leads to overeating and turns exercise into penance for the food sins we’ve committed (which it is not). In order to maintain a healthy relationship with exercise and food, we need to know the balance.
Simply put: There are about 1000 kj in a certain 25-hour-day chocolate. If you want to “train it off” that means you would have to run at 10km/h for 30 minutes or cycle at 19 km/h for 45 minutes, just to burn that one small chocolate… So, with that being said, I will repeat again: You cannot outrun a muffin
Myth 4: Better results = stricter diet
Most people still seem to think that following a diet means eating as little food as possible. When we combine this trend with exercise, we end up with someone who is increasing the nutritional needs of their body, while minimising the nutrition given to it. This pattern results in starvation and is not a sustainable or healthy pattern to follow at all. Choosing a healthy diet has less to do with how much you eat, and more with what you eat. You might have heard of the saying “calories in, calories out”.
This refers to the amount of energy we get from our food (measured in Kilojoule or Calories), compared to how much of this energy is used by the body. In short: how much petrol you are putting in your tank? We burn energy through daily metabolic functions like breathing, through movement (exercise included, but also any movement performed in general), heat production, and digestion. If we equate this to the fuel tank example, let’s say these activities will require 5 litres of petrol in your tank, but you’re only putting in 3 litres (because you are eating less).
The result is that you will be running on fumes, and not have enough energy to perform these tasks in the way that you are supposed to. This means that undereating can actually hinder your progress instead of aiding it.
So now that we’ve debunked a couple of fitness myths, there is no reason not to be in the know anymore!