Resolved to get fit this year? High five! Before you lace up the sneakers and strap on the heart monitor, make sure you're savvy to these common exercise misconceptions. After all -- working out smarter is far better than a hard slog for fewer results.
Lifting weights will make females bulky
"I hear this from my female clients more than anything else. “I want to lean and tone up but I don’t want to bulk up!”," Kirsty McLean, Personal Trainer and Founder of Body Clarity told The Huffington Post Australia.
"How your body responds to different training depends on your body type and genetic make-up. Consider this -- what do body-envy-inducing celebrities like Jessica Biel, Millie Mackintosh, Cameron Diaz and Izabel Goulart all have in common? Apart from being incredibly lean, strong and toned -- they all swear by a weight training program designed for their specific body compositions, goals and lifestyles," said McLean.
McLean admits that your body composition will change when you introduce it to a weight-training program, but you won't bulk up overnight.
"When you gain muscle you also naturally burn body fat, which should see you become leaner, stronger, lose centimetres, boost your metabolism and promote fat loss. Added bonuses is that strength training supports healthy bone density, boosts confidence levels and burns a significant amount of calories not just while you’re training, but also after you’ve finished your session (yes, even hours later when you’re back at your desk!)"
Many people don't realise that weight training takes many forms. It's not just about picking up and pushing barbells -- weight training anything is anything that involves resistance in order to get muscles firing.
"I’m a huge fan and trainer of reformer pilates, and I always recommend it to my clients who are looking to increase strength and lean up. I find women really respond to this type of training -- the dynamic exercises recruit numerous smaller muscle groups, rather than just one, while relying on your body strength and core stability," said McLean.
It’s worth remembering that no matter what your program, the muscles need to be challenged in order to change, gain strength and get toned.
Running is the only real way to lose weight
It is commonly thought that if you want to drop the kilos you need to get running. While hitting the pavement (or treadmill) does work, it comes down to exactly how you run.
"I often see people jogging on the treadmill at the same incline and pace for what seems like hours. While it’s great to get moving, if the goal is weight-loss, busting a move is what torches calories quicker," McLean said.
"Speed increases aerobic fitness, blasts fat and boosts muscular endurance -- just think of your metabolism purring after a run. Keep your run short and fast, or if you love a longer run, throw in a few interval sprints to get your heart pumping."
While your regular morning run routine might be scenic, it's important to mix it up.
"If you’re bored, your muscles are too -- and could be the culprit for those lingering last kilos. Throw in some sprints, pulsate your pace, set time targets, become friends with steps and never skip the hills. The key is to keep your muscles guessing so they are continuously working," said McLean.
Lastly, if you're running like Forrest Gump but not seeing the expected results, take a look at your diet.
"Not seeing results or hitting a plateau? Take a peek at your plate. Following up your run with an iced coffee and muffin combo probably won’t be the winning ticket to torching kilos. Instead, opt for a muscle-recovering protein like eggs, or a leafy green smoothie."
"The great thing about running is that it’s a very accessible form of exercise -- it can be done anywhere, at anytime and it’s free!," said McLean.
Exercising in the morning gets better results
There’s no hard and fast rule on the best time to train -- it comes down to when you’re going to get the most quality workout.
"If you’re always dragging yourself half-asleep to the gym before work, you might find an evening workout more beneficial. On the other hand, if you find yourself already dreading your 6pm session by your 10am coffee break, then perhaps try a workout first thing," said McLean.
If you’re a morning person, exercising first thing when your energy levels are higher is perfect for you.
"Many early morning exercisers also prefer A.M sessions to aid weight loss, as exercising on an empty stomach can help turn any food not processed yet into energy, instead of fat," said McLean.
"Many of my clients who have families or long working hours find that scheduling in a lunchtime sessions allows them to take time out just for themselves, helping them physically as well as mentally and emotionally."
Alternatively, a lot of people love training after work for the stress release factor and find it’s a great way to unwind and keep their energy levels up in the evening.
"Just be mindful as to how late you are training right before bed, as it might mess with your sleep patterns -- remember evenings are a perfect time to wind down," said McLean.
Fasted exercise will render better results
This is dependent on what your goals are, and your individual composition.
"If your goal is weight loss, I am a fan of working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach when I have naturally fasted overnight. Working out on an empty stomach can promote weight loss, just be sure you have sufficient energy to get a quality session otherwise it’s counterproductive," said McLean.
"If building muscle mass is your goal, a simple protein shake or some complex carbohydrates such as a banana prior to your workout is recommended. Following up with a high protein meal will also aid muscle repair and recovery."
"If it’s about increasing your sporting performance, a light snack such as a protein shake may be beneficial to boost energy sources and give you a great workout," said McLean.
The longer the workout, the better
This comes down to your fitness levels, age and stage of life -- but as a rule, this isn't true. It should be about the intensity of the workout as opposed to its length. It also depends on your aim.
"If you workout to relax and unwind, then a longer yoga class or slow stretching session might help clear and calm your mind much better than a fast, 45-minute cardio blast," said McLean.
"If you’re time poor and want a fast blast, opt for a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session, which takes less time (approximately 20-30 minutes) and can sometimes lead to twice the amount of fat loss."
It comes back to mind over matter, too.
"If you know you only need to get through a 45-minute session, you might find yourself smashing it out and sweating through to the end, as opposed to lazing through the final 15 minutes of a longer session," said McLean.
Stretching before exercise is a must
While warming up is important, putting hard strain on cold muscles by firmly stretching them can actually cause damage.
"It is very important to warm up and cool down your muscles to avoid injuries. A warm up and cool down should be around the five minute mark," said McLean.
Go for a jog around the block, or start out on the bike to get muscles moving.
The more sessions, the faster the results
Overtraining can in fact be detrimental.
"You need rest days. Not only do rest days ward off injuries, but they also allow you to return to your sessions stronger. Use rest days to stretch or take a light walk. Getting quality exercise is key, and allowing your body to rest in between sessions is essential for this," said McLean.