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There are in all walks of life myths, old wives tales and beliefs. Health and fitness is no exception, so in the next series of blogs, I, the personal trainer and your expert, will look at some of the most common myths in fitness. Questions like “is running bad for my knees?”, “Will yoga give me a perfect figure?” and “exercising on an empty stomach, will it make me thinner?” will all be answered.
False. You can do 1000 sit ups a day and if you are still eating more energy than you are putting out then you will keep your fat tummy. This myth is closely connected to the “spot toning” theory that says you can exercise a particular area and lose fat in that area alone. This is not the case. Although you can tone your arms, for instance, and they may begin to look slightly better, the muscle tone is only beginning to show despite the layer of fat on top that will remain. The body takes fat when needed from all over, all at once, and contrary to belief will do so fairly evenly. Some things seem to get thinner before others during weight loss, but this is simply because some areas are less fatty than others, the areas that are fattest will take longer to appear toned, and areas that were not holding much fat will be revealed sooner.
If you want to have a flat tummy then you need to burn fat. The best way of doing this is to eat slightly less energy then you expend. One of the best ways of doing this is to increase the metabolic rate by building muscle tone. The bigger the muscle group the more effect it will have on this rate, so clients need to do “big bang” exercises. Crunches and sit ups only work the abdominals, a small muscle group, so their effect will be limited. Lunges, squats, push ups and bent over rows however work lots of things at once and toning this way will make you burn fat thus gaining a flat tummy. Out tutor at Premier Global Windsor (the guy who trains personal trainers) would frown (a lot) on crunches given to clients in a programme. They only work a small area and take up time in which you could be doing more effective things. We get lots of personal trainer clients coming to us from all parts of Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead who have been doing lots of gym work and not really getting there. Many times this is because they are not doing the right things in the gym and are doing too many CRUNCHES!!
Like many fitness statements/myths this one is a bit true and a bit false all at once. Running TOO much, or while you are really overweight, or on a very hard surface, with poor footwear, and poor technique can indeed be bad for the knees in the long term. Running under these conditions can cause degenerative wear and tear in the knee joint, and can also lead to the production of cortisol, a stress related hormone that can encourage fat around the waist.
Having said that, running the right way, for the right duration, with good footwear (we recommend Asics), possibly with some walking intervals if you are a beginner and are overweight is one of the cheapest, most effective and enjoyable ways of getting fitter, burning fat and getting smaller. The weight bearing nature of running can encourage good bone density, strong connective tissue and strong synergists and fixators: these are the muscles that help you balance and that support the joints. Running also has the benefits of being cheap (no gym membership needed) and also gets participants outdoors into the world which adds to the enjoyment. Our personal trainers in the Windsor and Maidenhead areas are also spoilt for choice with lots of scenic runs along the Thames, Windsor Great Park and other green spaces. It also releases LOTS of endorphins, the feel good natural hormones that we make during vigorous exercise.
As with so many things, there are pluses and minuses, but done the correct way the benefits of running, in our opinion, far outweigh the disadvantages, it’s just a matter of doing it the right way. Start at your own level; 1 minute running followed by 1 minute walking might be all you can manage for now, but progress will come and soon you will be able to move up to a 2 minute run and a 1 minute walk and so on. If in any doubt you could always have a session or two with one of our personal trainers who can advise how much and what sort of running will be best for you. Remember also the importance of keeping any training programme varied, and always include some strength training in addition to running. And don’t forget to stretch!!
Today we look at fitness fact/fiction number 4: it is impossible to improve droopy busts in the gym? Unlike some fitness myths that are slightly conflicting this one is a bit more straight forward as the answer is false! We can get rid of man boobs easily with good nutrition (omit all processed carbohydrates, flour and processed sugars) and some cadio-vascular exercise coupled with weight training. This will typically take 3 months or so, possibly a bit faster with the help of a Diets Don’t Work personal trainer!! Even for female clients we can get improvements by strengthening and toning surrounding musculature (toning the pectoral muscles under the breasts will help to lift them). The strengthening and toning of key postural muscles not traditionally associated with the breasts will also help to lift and perk them; by strengthening postural muscles of the upper back including the rhomboids, trapezius, levator scapulae and erector spinae we can pull the shoulders back, not only making your chest sit up but also making you taller and straighter. Many people have been saved the surgeons knife this way!
The next fitness topic to explore is the warm up; is this as vital as we are led to believe? The answer is yes, but not for too long. Basic movement preparation is the best way of warming up, and is practiced by many top athletes. This switches on the muscle groups that you will be using during exercise. A few repetitions of the exercises that you will be doing, done with a slow steady tempo at first and then gradually increasing the pace is enough to warm up the muscles and joints. There is usually an inverse ratio of warm up to duration and intensity of exercise. So if you are doing a maximum effort for a short time, like a 100m sprint, then the warm up will need to be a lot longer than the actual event, half an hour or so. Or longer. Conversely if you are running a marathon then the warm up needs to be shorter, as the event is so long. Also to be noted is that stretching before exercise is a contentious issue; the latest research says that static stretching before a race or event can actualy decrease performance in the muscles, and it’s much more beneficial doing this sort of stretching AFTER a race when the muscles are totaly warmed up. I recently did the cancer research 10k at Dorney lake with a personal trainer cilent from Windsor, and the warm up was both long and vigorous, not the best way to prepare for a midle distance event! Many of the runners looked worn out ater the warm up!! So use common sense, and do the right amount for the particular thing that you are doing, keeping in mind the inverse ratio. A good guide if you are using a heart rate monitor is to warm up to twice resting heart rate. This level can also be a good area for recovery between intervals if you are doing that sort of training.
Today it’s myth number 5-you can eat as much as you want as long as you exercise.
This one in most certainly false. Your weight is a two sided equation, energy in versus energy out. Even if you are exercising lots, a surplus in energy will always be stored as fat. The only way to maintain a healthy weight is to match what you expend with what you take in. If you need to lose weight than you will have to take in less than you put in! Quite simple really. Yes exercise will help tremendously in increasing the output, so that if you can exercise AND eat well then you will get smaller. But even if you burn 1000 calories a day and eat 1200 calories a day extra then you will get fatter. Many personal trainers in London preach the importance of reducing fat, but this is a generalisation. We NEED good fats (vegetable oils and fish oils) but it’s the man made and animal fats that are bad for us and will make US fat. It’s just as important to avoid processed carbohydrates and refined sugars. No mater how much exercise you do you still need good varied and natural foods. Have a look at out personal trainer guide to nutrition on the Knowledge page of this site.