By Keith Glines
Greetings, and welcome to Every Body! This is my opportunity to share some of the information I’ve gathered over my twenty-year career in the fitness industry. I’ve studied and worked in areas from cardiac rehab, strength and conditioning, to weight loss and improving muscle function. I’ve been exposed to many theories, approaches, techniques, and thought processes. Some of them are great and I still use them as tools in my toolbox. Some of them aren’t so great, which is why I want to share some of the information I’ve gathered so that you might be able to make some wise decisions regarding your fitness, muscular system, and health!
I’m going to tackle to common myths and misconceptions in this article. This might ruffle some feathers and make you shake your head, but hopefully because this is different than what you thought or what you’ve been told. Any irritation you have should be pointed in the direction of those who’ve misled, misinformed, and misguided you on your journey to improved health. With that said (don’t shoot the messenger), let’s see how different my viewpoint is from yours!
MYTH #1: EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR YOU
This is a myth . . . sort of. It’s kind of weird to start with this one, right? Seriously?! Why would I say that’s a myth?! This is in a magazine at a health club, after all! I’m sure I’ve lost a few people already, but bear with me. Exercise can be good for you, but it also can be bad for you. Most people don’t think of it that way, but if you adopt the “if some is good, more is better” mentality, it’s going to catch up with you. There is a famous quote by Paracelsus, the father of toxicology, who says “the dose determines the poison.” What might be an appropriate amount of exercise for one person might be a very destructive amount for another. Running 26 miles would be a bad idea for my feet, calves, knees, thighs, etc, but for those who have trained and prepared their body to run a marathon (by gradually increasing their dose of exercise), their bodies would be better equipped to handle it.
So, even though exercise has a multitude of benefits, we all have to work within the confines of our capabilities (how we’ve prepared ourselves), or we’ll get hurt. When we have an injury (overdose), our health status has decreased. This isn’t good! Avoiding injury by maintaining an appropriate intensity level when exercising, appropriate exercise selection, and getting an appropriate amount of rest (rest is an important part of any exercise program, as it is your chance to recover from the exercise you’ve done) is how we improve our status of health. So, some exercise is good, but too much can lead to injury, and injuries aren’t healthy.
MYTH #2: LIFTING WEIGHTS IS GOING TO MAKE ME BIG AND BULKY
This one is a particular concern trainers hear mostly from women. The truth is that women don’t naturally produce enough testosterone to increase their muscle mass enough to appear big and bulky. Getting big and bulky doesn’t happen without the proper genetics, a large volume of exercise that far exceeds what most people are willing to do, and very careful dieting and precision with the amount of protein/fat/carb intake. This can be a science in and of itself, so without putting in a ton of effort, you’re not going to get big and bulky.
MYTH #3: I NEED TO STRETCH PRIOR TO WORKING OUT
I might lose some people here, too. Without getting too far into the physiology of stretching (look for that article later!), I’m going to say that an even better way to get your body ready for exercise is to go through some easy motions that mimic the activities you’re going to be doing. Start with small motions and gradually increase the size of the moves. We call this a dynamic warm-up. It increases blood flow and body temperature, helps activate the nervous system, and prepares the tissues you’re going to be challenging for your activity.
There’s been plenty of research over the past 10-15 years that has concluded that static stretching prior to exercise or an athletic event does not decrease the incidence of injury and doesn’t improve your performance. There are theories that it can actually impede performance, but that’s beyond the scope of this article, so check back in later editions to get the scoop on that! Never hesitate to ask a trainer if you need help figuring out what to do for your dynamic warm-up.
MYTH #4: THESE ACHES AND PAINS I HAVE ARE DUE TO OLD AGE
This might be a bit of semantics, but the act of getting older doesn’t inherently mean you’re going to have aches and pains. Aches and pains are usually a sign of some type of dysfunction, and it’s our body’s defense / alert mechanism letting us know that something isn’t right. As we age, we might accumulate dysfunctional patterns that lead to these aches and pains. It’s a very common phenomenon, but that doesn’t make it normal. Some of these dysfunctions can come from previous injuries (car accidents, ankle sprains, lower-back injuries, etc.), improper exercise form/technique, inappropriate applications of force (too much weight), repetitive motions (sitting hunched over a computer), emotional stress, and a whole lot of other possibilities! Life can beat us up physically and take its toll on our bodies, so taking steps to correct those issues as they pop up can be the difference between being 80 and feeling 80.
If you’re concerned about your aches and pains, seek guidance from a medical professional to find if there’s a pathological state that needs to be addressed. Your personal physician is a great place to start. Schedule a consultation with one of the Physical Therapists from Elite PT for further advice. We also offer a service called Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT), which is designed to help identify and correct muscle imbalances. If your medical appointment shows no sign of pathology, schedule your free consultation with a MAT Specialist and see if they can help.
MYTH #5: I’M GOING TO LOSE WEIGHT BY GOING TO THE GYM
I touched on this a little earlier in the section on lifting weights, but I think it’s really important to dive into this a little further. The reality of weight loss lies in creating some type of caloric deficit. The goal is to burn more calories than you take in. It’s a simple energy equation, but it’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes it feels like our body is out to sabotage us because we start to exercise, and we get even hungrier than we were before we were exercising. That doesn’t seem fair! But, if we consider that our body’s number one goal is self-preservation, then we can realize that our brain recognizes the deficit and wants to make sure we’ll hang on to our energy needs in case of an emergency (illness, sickness, etc.). So, it might trigger your appetite to tell you to eat a little more, getting rid of the deficit.
There are people in the industry that believe that weight loss consists of about 80% of effort on your diet and 20% exercise. The exercise component is there to help maintain muscle mass and your metabolism, but changes in your diets are what will really make the big leap for your weight loss. Most people (including me!) need some help and guidance with their diet plan, so don’t hesitate to ask for some. Knowing what to eat, when to eat, portions, replacement options, etc. takes a lot of knowledge. There are professionals that study this and are here to help, so use them as a resource and don’t try to tackle this yourself. We have some very knowledgeable people on staff that would love to assist you with your diet plan. Look for our Registered Dietitian, Jeannie Versagli.
MYTH #6: EXERCISE ISN’T FUN
The reality is that exercise does include challenging yourself on some level. For some, the resistance that we push against presents our challenge. For others, the resistance we present ourselves in even coming to the gym presents quite an obstacle. If we change our perspective and think about exercise as something that we “get” to do instead of something we feel we “have” to do, it can change our mindset about coming in the first place. Once we make it to HAC, then we can look for ways to make it more enjoyable.
Have you ever tried a group fitness class? Exercising with others can be really enjoyable. We encourage the “buddy system.” Find someone you can encourage to come workout with you. There will be days that you don’t feel like getting here, but a buddy might give you just enough reason to make it happen. If large groups aren’t your thing, how about a Small Group Personal Training class? The camaraderie in those classes can be amazing! Have you ever worked with a personal trainer? Our jobs are to select the appropriate exercises for you, which includes some things you may not like, but also to find some things you do like. So, if you’re not enjoying anything about your trips to HAC because it feels too much like work, change things up and look for something you haven’t tried yet. We have so many options, and if you need help selecting one, just ask!
This wraps up this edition of EveryBody. I encourage everyone to think about these topics and seek some answers of your own. Question me on these and other topics as well. I love to be challenged and to learn. Also, please ask a trainer for help if you need it. We are here to help, but don’t know you need help unless you ask! Thanks for reading!