We have another guest post I couldn’t be more thrilled to have our first “Trainer Talk” here on Muscles & Munchkins. Sara is a former teacher turned personal trainer. She is extremely knowledgeable and our February FitParent Heather has gained a lot strength and knowledge from working with Sara once a week. Sara is a book of health and fitness knowledge and I am so glad she agreed to share some of that with us!
I’m so excited to share with all of Hollie’s readers! Hollie is a great example of a fit mom and someone who seems to always be striving to be her best so I was thrilled that she asked me to share!
So many of us have decided to make fitness a part of our lives which is great! There are so many things we can do to move our bodies and be healthy and ultimately that is what really matters! However, if we are really trying to improve and be the best we can be we should address some very common fitness myths. I want to shed some light on the truths behind these myths.
Myth # 1) I can “spot reduce” to get nice arms, a flat belly, or shrink a certain area of my body. For example, someone saying “I need to do more crunches so I can have nice abs”.
There is nothing wrong with doing crunches or doing arm specific training but we can be more effective if we know that we don’t have to spend hours doing hundreds of those things. Let’s try not to think of it as having a “6 pack” but instead think of how a strong core improves posture, prevents back injury, stabilizes the truck, and helps with good form on almost all other exercises. Training in a functional way will do all of those things. The same is true for arms and other areas of the body…we need to rethink our WHY.
Bottom line, selectively removing inches from a certain area of the body won’t happen. Let’s be intentional about what we are eating, get a good mix of cardio and strength, and retraining our brains not to think about which area of our bodies we want to “reduce”.
Myth #2) Stay only in your “fat burning” heart rate zone if you want to lose weight. This means I need to do mostly long duration cardio.
The metabolism of fat is a complicated process. It has been proven that low-intensity exercise will burn more fat but the total number of calories burned is actually lower compared to higher intensities.
In order to improve the muscles ability to burn more fat at rest, we need to enhance mitochondrial density and function which is best achieved through interval training. Interval training is so effective for so many reason but we cannot interval train if we are stuck in one heart rate intensity.
Additionally, we need to understand Excess Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC. EPOC is what happens to your metabolism after your workout. Your metabolism is still burning calories at a high rate even though your body is resting (love that!). In order to achieve this, we need to enter a higher heart rate zone during parts of our workouts and we can’t do this by long duration low intensity cardio.
Let’s again retrain our brains. Let’s not get so caught up in whether we are burning carbs or fat as we are in being healthy and moving our bodies in a way we enjoy! If we mix it up and enter all different heart rate intensities our body will not become complacent and will have to work hard to keep up.
Myth #3) The longer my workout the better.
Not necessarily. Muscle fibers begin to break down after about an hour workout. We also tend to have form breakdown and risk injury if we are doing longer duration workouts. And chances are we are using our aerobic pathways during longer duration cardio so that EPOC (see #2) won’t kick in after the workout. We may burn many calories during the workout but not as many at rest afterward. Shorter workouts that are more intense (and intentional) could burn just as many calories overall as those long workouts.
Myth #4) Muscle weighs more than fat.
Muscle does not weigh more than fat but is more dense (has more mass/volume). As we lose fat and gain muscle, weight may change very little but we become leaner. The more lean muscle mass we have, the more calories we burn at rest, the better our clothes fit, etc. This is why I rarely weigh myself and just don’t get caught up in that number on the scale. The best way to evaluate is check to see how you feel, how your clothes fit, and what your measurements are.
Myth #5) I can “tone” my body.
A lot of us have the goal to “tone” not “bulk” our bodies. In reality, toning does not exist as a means to make muscle look more “taut”. If your muscle is flexed and you can still poke and feel softness this is not “untoned” muscle it is fat. In addition, sometimes women are nervous about lifting weights because they think they may bulk (trust me, I’ve had those fears. I have to remind myself that tight muscles are not bulky muscles). Bulking can happen for women but it would take a mix of hours in the gym lifting heavy weights (like 2 hours a day or more), male levels of testosterone, good genetics, extreme nutrition, and often performance enhancing drugs. Most of us are not doing all of those things.
So what are our options to make muscle stand out and look defined? We either make muscle bigger or we shrink fat. To make muscle bigger you should be choosing a weight that you are unable to lift again at the end of your set (Don’t be scared of that…do you lift a child around all day long? Does that make you bulky? Think about it!) And if you want to shrink fat you need a good mix of cardio, strength, and good eating!
I could really go on and on. I hope some of these truths educated you and empowered you to try something that may be scaring you. Again, my goal is always to help others find what they love and to just move your body in some way! I’d love to connect if you have more questions or want to chat. You can find me at the Fishers Y! Thanks again, Hollie!