Debunking Five Workout Myths

By TJ Watkins

The following are some of the most popular questions I get from my mostly female clientele. Some of the questions are set in mythology – while others are set in the behavioral condition space – but all of them provide a clear understanding of what is required to build a strong body and mind.

1. Training with weights will make me too big and muscular.

This is the number one myth among females who want to get toned, but choose to do only cardio, Pilates, or other group aerobic activities. The fact is that it is impossible for anyone to get bigger unless they put in many hours of intense resistance training and follow a very regimented eating strategy. The people who actually do this without gaining fat mass account for less a fraction of the world population, so unless you are an absolute anomaly, we encourage you to do resistance training, resting assured that you won’t bulk up.

The fact is that the muscles underneath the fat develop and are getting bigger because they are getting stimulated. The good news is that this process lasts only a few weeks, provided you follow an eating strategy and a cardio program to reduce the fat covering the muscle. If you keep eating foods that do not support weight loss, then you are not getting big and muscular, but more accurately, the assessment would be that you are just getting fat.

2. Training with weights will make me slow and less agile.

It is a big myth among women and men that if they start resistance training, they will look like a bodybuilder who has limited movement. Fact: Certain resistance training methods increase the explosive capacity of the muscle, so make sure you know what and why you are doing certain exercises. Fact: If you believe that resistance training is going to limit your agility, then it will, and all your actions will support that belief. However, if you believe that it will improve your agility, then all your actions will be directed to becoming more agile while doing resistance training.

3. High amounts of protein are not necessary because that’s a bodybuilding thing.

People who claim to be fitness experts tend to believe that there is only one prescription or solution that will fit every human being. Fact: If you are the average person who has a low level of activity in your life, then eating medium to low amounts of protein is probably serving your needs. However, if you are a highly active person who does four to five sessions at the gym per week, then medium to low protein consumption is not going to support your goals.

Let me explain. Protein is used by the muscles in an almost exclusive manner to repair, restore, and grow muscle tissue. If you are training four times per week doing resistance training and there is not enough protein in the body, the body will start breaking down muscle to help it repair and restore itself. Note that when muscle starts breaking down, it does not grow – muscle cannot grow. In this scenario, the body is actually moving backwards, or going into a catabolic state. If you continue this process for months, you will start looking stringy and fleshy, far from the toned and athletic shape you had in mind.

4. Perfectionism does not lead to perfection.

Perfectionism is among the biggest illusions that influence human behaviors. Striving toward excellence is a great attribute, as is working as hard as possible to create, build, and perform to your potential. These attributes demonstrate an individual’s capacity to bring into reality the pictures that live in our mind. What you may not realize is that trying to be perfect can actually hinder your chances of being excellent. The pursuit of perfection is always driven by a fear-based feeling; a fear of failure, a fear of making a mistake, and a fear of being judged as not being good enough. This fear keeps people from trying something different, learning a new skill, or stepping into the unknown. They’d rather not try than go through the anguish of not doing it perfectly. The perfectionist always seeks to control, thus sticking with things they know. The irony is, in order to succeed, it is required that you step outside your personal comfort zone to grow, learn, and expand your world. Perfectionism appears at the beginning to help you, but it ends up limiting your growth. It limits your ability to live and create your ideal life.

5. Focusing on only one area can hurt your progress in all the areas of your life.

This is more of a paradox than a myth. We recognize that building a healthy lifestyle while concentrating on a key aspect of your life is important. However, that foundation is just the beginning, and can’t happen by itself. Your healthy habits can work together to take your life to another level. Improvement in one area helps —and depends on— all the other areas of your life. You need the support and nurturing from relationships, the security of financial abundance, the challenge of professional and career development, and a spiritual practice that keeps you grounded and inspired. Attention to each of these components has a synergistic effect: individually they work great, but together, they create enormous value in an individual’s quality of life that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Final Thoughts

The goal in life is to live out the dreams we carry in our mind every day. The dreams and pictures that stay with us through the years are part of our life’s vision. Each day that we do not move in the direction of that vision, the little intuitive voice gets more and more muted, until one day, life wakes you up to your dreams, and the pain and intensity with which the awakening is accompanied becomes unbearable. This is a critical juncture in any person’s life because this calls for a decision to pursue the dream regardless of how impossible it may seem at that particular time, or to engage in self-destructive behavior that will act as a postponement. The irony is that you will end up at the exact same place at yet another crossroads, but this time with more life and learning behind you to choose to follow your dreams or to create another procrastination strategy through some of your choices.

Let me explain with a hypothetical situation. The dream you carry with you is to become a 100 meter track champion. You start doing track at the ages of 13-18. A few weeks after you turn 18, you line up for a 100 meter race with really good athletes. This particular day you come in last, and you are emotionally shattered, and you find yourself questioning whether you want to continue because you don’t ever want to feel this way again. You decide to stop running and 10 years later, you’ve gained about 30 pounds of fat, have a job you hate, and just cannot identify with the person you see in the mirror. At age 30, your company has a track meet, and one of the events is a 60 meter dash. Your friends talk you into doing it and you win it: the fastest time ever in the company. Some people start telling you about getting into a late starters program. You get scared and decide not to do it. Yet all this time the dream of becoming a champion 100 meter athlete never goes away. Another 20 years pass, and one day you see a 70 year old woman finishing an iron man triathlon race, and something within you just snaps. A week later, you join a track team and start training. A year later, you are one of the top three runners in your state; five years later, you become the Masters National Champion for the 100 meter dash and you’re invited to all the competitive events in your state.

The moral of this story is that life will not deny you your dreams. They may not always come dressed in fancy wrapping, but the essence of what you desire always shows up. The question is, will you recognize it when it does?

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