Some workout rules are made to be broken. We reveal the ones you should ignore.
No pain, no gain
Sure, there are times when you should push yourself during your workout. But, this should be to a point of discomfort, not pain. The idea that a decent workout should hurt is wrong. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. It’s not a sign that you’ve just pushed yourself through your best workout. When it comes to a good workout, discomfort is natural and some muscle soreness is likely, but pain is definitely not a good sign and you should stop your workout immediately.
Stretch before a workout
For years, many scientists, PE teachers and exercise specialists have encouraged us to perform static stretches (holding a pose without moving until it felt uncomfortable) in order to lengthen muscles and increase flexibility. But, research in the early 2000s challenged this belief when it found static stretching before exercise actually interfered with an athlete’s performance. Many of the athletes couldn’t jump as high, sprint as fast or swing a racquet or bat as powerfully after completing static stretching before their workout. Static stretching appeared to trigger the nervous system to react and tighten the stretched muscle, not relax it.
After this study, a review of the literature revealed that the negative effect of static stretching might only happen when poses are held for long durations, while holding stretches for less than 30 seconds might not have the same negative effects. Shorter stretches may in fact increase the range of motion around a joint and reduce stiffness in the muscle, thereby reducing the risk of muscle strain. They won’t however, reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
So should you stretch before exercise or not? Seeing most of us are time-poor and the advantages of stretching before a workout minimal, save stretching for after your workout. Instead, use the time before a workout to include a decent warm-up that will get your body ready for the main event.
Only cardio workouts are needed for weight loss
While cardio workouts will burn more energy than other forms of exercise like strength training, it’s not the only workout you should be doing. Lifting weights is recommended as part of your fitness program in order to increase muscle mass, which leads to an increase in the amount of energy burnt when you’re not exercising. In other words, strength training helps you lose weight by boosting your metabolism. So, for the best weight loss results you need to include at least 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week (or 150 minutes of vigorous intensity) and at least two strength-training sessions.
Push yourself to the max in every workout
When it comes to exercise, more isn’t always better. Irrespective of how fit you are, if you push yourself too hard, too often during your workouts, you can sap yourself of strength and increase the risk of injury. Exercise is a stressor that can cause the body to breakdown if excessive amounts are done. This is known as overtraining and signs can include extreme fatigue, irritability, moodiness, an elevated resting heart rate and diminished performance. When it comes to an optimal exercise level, intense workouts should be combined with lower intensity sessions throughout a week. The best advice is to listen to your body though – it will tell you when it needs a rest.
You need to exercise for 60 minutes a day or it’s not worth it
Sure, a 60-minute workout each day would be awesome, but if you don’t have it, you just need to work with the time you do have. With less time, why not up the intensity of your workout instead? A high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session, which incorporates intense periods of work with short recovery periods, is perfect for providing health and fitness benefits. According to the Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines doing two and a half hours of vigorous intensity exercise each week is equivalent to five hours of moderate intensity exercise. Just like longer sessions at lower intensities, short, hard sessions will still benefit your heart, strengthen your muscles and bones, help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing cancer. Remember, less time just means you should work harder, not skip your workout completely.
Women shouldn’t lift weights
Ladies, step into the free weights section of the gym and start lifting. If you’ve been avoiding weight training for fear of ending up looking like the Incredible Hulk, the good news is you don’t need to worry. When it comes to bulking up, you need testosterone and you need lots of it. Women just don’t have the same level of testosterone as men do to gain large amounts of muscle mass. Lifting weights will help boost your strength and provide the strong, toned look that so many of us women are after.
About the author
Caitlin Reid is a unique health professional with qualifications as an accredited nutritionist, accredited exercise physiologist and yoga teacher. Caitlin is passionate about all things health and wellness, and keeps up-to-date with the latest health research, which she uses when contributing expert advice to health, fitness, lifestyle and food companies. She is also the nutrition expert for the Women’s Fitness magazine, the dietitian for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and ambassador for Papaya Australia. Follow Caitlin on Instagram @caitlinareid or visit her website.