6 common exercise tips you just shouldn't listen to
Call me a freak, but I like exercising. I’ve been into it since I was a teenager and my mom dragged me to my first morning yoga class. I’m now one of those people who regularly works out, whether it’s playing a sport, getting into CrossFit, or just being active outside for a while when the sun is out. In addition to just enjoying it, I find countless benefits from being active because of my struggles with acute anxiety and binge eating disorder. Regular physical movement is one of those few things that keeps me feeling sane, so I don’t think I could give it up at this point in my life.
And throughout my life as an active human being, I’ve received a solid amount of sound advice about exercise. And I’ve also heard some not-so solid advice that’s just plain LOL-worthy.
Ok, let the games begin! Here are six of the worst pieces of advice I’ve received in my lifetime about working out.
1. You should work out almost every day.
I could take you out for endless cocktails if I had a quarter for every time I heard this one. It has come from the mouth of ripped personal trainers and yoga teachers alike. First of all, not many people like working out every day (and if you do, more power to you!). Also, your body (generally) needs a rest in order for it to gain the benefits of the exercising you’re doing (this also does depend on what kind of exercise you’re doing).
2. Don’t lift weights, or you’ll get too big.
Because I’m short with naturally broad shoulders, I’ve had many people — even boyfriends — tell me that I should put the weights down, unless I want to turn into a mini version of Arnold Schwarzeneggar. It’s always been infuriating to hear, especially because I feel strong and accomplished after I play around with weights. Well, now I know that I should’ve listened to my instincts before.
Science proved me right! Muscles aren’t only sexy (um, have you seen Cameron Diaz?), but having more of them means you have a faster metabolism, and your body is able to process food more efficiently. You need to nurture your muscles in order to have a healthy, well-balanced body. Cardio isn’t enough.
3. Do more crunches if you want a flat tummy.
I went through this phase where I was obsessed with ab routines. I was convinced that doing an ab workout a day would give me a six-pack within a month, so I did that and nothing else. You’re probably smarter than me, so you’ve probably worked out by now that I didn’t wake up with washboard abs at the end of the month.
If one of your fitness goals is to slim down along the waist — and, remember, this doesn’t have to be one of your goals — incorporate cardio and strength training into your workout too. Those silly ab exercises will only do so much if you’re not paying attention to the rest of that glorious bod of yours.
4. The longer you exercise, the better.
Let’s get into the scientific argument first. Studies show that the body responds best to high intensity interval training (HIIT), which basically means you do a really hard, cardio-like exercise for about 30 seconds, then either rest or do low-intensity strength training for the next 30 seconds. There are countless variations of HIIT exercises, and you can tailor them to fit whatever fitness level you’re at.
Now, let’s talk about the reality of living in this world. We don’t all have an hour to devote to exercising every time we want to get sweaty, which is why HIIT or other similar routines are so great. They can take as little as four minutes to complete. If I had known this years ago, it would have freed up a lot of time to do other more important things, like master the art of beetroot chocolate brownies.
5. Don’t eat anything before a workout to burn more calories and fat.
Most advice I’ve received on eating habits throughout my life have been ridiculous, but this is up there for one of the most outrageous. The body needs something to burn when it’s all revved up, and if you don’t give it proper food, like, at the very least, a protein bar, it will start eating away the protein in your muscles. And, no, that’s not a good thing .
If someone suggests you put down your pre-workout snack, kindly tell them to bugger off and enjoy the rest of it guilt-free. Your body will thank you for it later.
6. Don’t eat bread after a workout — it cancels out all your hard work!
This sounds just as absurd as it actually is. Nothing is wrong with eating some carbs (or any food, for that matter). Absolutely nothing! And there’s definitely nothing wrong with eating to refuel after a tough workout. That might mean some whole-grain bread and peanut-butter for you, and that’s perfectly OK. The more you deprive yourself of what you really want anyway, the quicker you will find yourself unhappily bingeing on everything in sight. I should know. I’ve been there many, many times.
At the end of the day, there are two things to always remember when you’ve got people preaching at you about exercising: Exercise should be about what makes you feel good, and you should only do physical activity that has been proven effective by science, as well as approved by your doctor.