Falling victim to fitness myths is an inevitable part of the process, especially when you first start out.
Unless of course, you do your research. Or you have a knowledgable helper.
Either way, mistakes are a part of life. We do all we can to make sure we don’t fall victim to the fallacies. So, to help guide us in the right direction, here is a list of four common mistakes people make when trying to get fit.
If you want a flat tummy, you need to work out just your stomach right?
Doing hundreds of crunches every day will not do anything for that waist line. Just like all other muscles, abs need a rest and recovery period.
Doing them every day fatigues the muscle, yes, but it doesn’t give the necessary time for the muscle fibers to heal before hitting them again. This equates to zero growth.
Abs are the hardest to make show, not only because they are difficult to target, but because abs and waist lines are 90% diet. Your body fat percentage determines the visibility of your abs and the size of your waist.You’re much better off focusing on cardio and weight loss methods like circuits and interval training in order to drop the pounds, rather than continuously breaking and re-breaking down your abs and obliques. The more you engage your core during your workouts, the better.
Endless crunches are actually one of the least effective ab targeting methods out there. De-conditioned bodies call upon surrounding muscles to complete the sit-up, meaning your lower back and obliques will be hurting far before your abdominals.
If you’re going to build your abs, start with seated cable crunches where you have control over the weight, or leg raises where the need for you back and obliques is virtually eliminated.
NOT CHANGING THE WAY YOU EAT
As mentioned previously, half of living a fit and healthy lifestyle is adapting to a healthier diet. People who are new to fitness always make one of two diet mistakes:
1. They Don’t Change a Thing
This is typically a sign of laziness or an incomplete understanding of healthy living. Part of feeling better every day and healthy weight loss is replacing the trans fats, sugars, and preservatives your body is used to with good sugars (fruits), good carbs (like veggies and nuts), and protein-packed foods.
Instead, they do their endless crunches and then go home and eat their large pizza because they ‘deserve it’ after working so hard at the gym!
That is a recipe for stagnancy. You can’t reinvent yourself by hanging on to old habits.
Go to the grocery store, grab some celery, and munch on that instead of a Big Mac and fries.
2. They Starve Themselves
It’s called a caloric deficit. Burn more calories at the gym than you ingest during the day. That’s the plan.
The issue is, people take it too far. Going to the gym on an empty stomach feeds empty blood to your muscles. By ’empty blood’ I mean nutrient and amino acid (the building blocks of proteins) free.
Starving your body is one of the worst things you can do. You may lose weight, but your body feeds off stored energy when operating without fuel. And that stored energy can come in the form of fat AND muscle.
This means that ‘fasted cardio’ and lifting on an empty stomach can actually decrease your muscle mass more rapidly than decreasing your body fat. Muscle is always the first to go.
In the long run, it’s better to eat or be eaten – literally.
TOO MUCH, TOO SOON
That kind of says it all. Don’t do too much, too soon. This message is especially for the people who used to be gym rats, took a 20 year break, and then decide they can get back into it at the same level they dropped off at.
The key when getting back into the swing of things (or when you’re first starting out) is learning proper form and technique.
Just because you can push 200lbs on the benchpress without crapping your pants doesn’t mean you should. If you’re doing it with rotten form, then you’re getting little to no benefit from it. Your muscles are not learning or developing properly, you’re increasing your risk of injury, and above all you probably look like an idiot.
You need to start small. Don’t worry about what the other gym goers think, half of them probably have have horrible form anyway. Find a solid coach who can walk you through proper form, flexion and extension, and assess your strength levels. And practice practice practice!
Doing a light weight with perfect form is 10 times more beneficial than doing a super heavy weight with horrible form. Remember that.
YOU GAVE UP
“I went to the gym for like a month and saw zero change, so I stopped. It wasn’t helping me anyway!”
If there was ever a face-palm moment – this is it.
Simply put: It takes longer than a month to show signs of progress.
A fit and healthy lifestyle is just that… a lifestyle. It’s not a quick fix.
If you want good health and the energy to go out and live your life, you need to stay committed to it! A month is nothing. You won’t start seeing definition or growth until around two months in.
Stick to your routine, if you get stuck find a way to motivate yourself. That can be as easy as getting a gym buddy to yell at you when you slack.
No matter what you do, quitting should never be an option. Push yourself and have fun testing your limits. No one said it had to be a chore.
Fitness is a garden – dig it, make it work for you
Michael Wood, CSCS
Chief Fitness Officer, Koko FitClub
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About Michael Wood, Chief Fitness Officer
Michael Wood, CSCS, is Chief Fitness Officer at Koko FitClub, driving the development of integrated strength and cardio training and nutrition programs for Koko members nationwide. A nationally acclaimed fitness expert, Michael has conducted research as a Senior Exercise Physiologist at the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and has lectured at Boston University and the University of Connecticut. He has been named Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” Personal Trainer, and made the Men’s Journal “Dream Team” list of the nine best trainers in the U.S. Michael and his family live in North Attleboro, MA.