5 Fitness Myths You Can Forget
If you're working on getting beach-body fit, don't believe the hype...
Summer is around the corner. Every magazine at the checkout counters at Vons, Whole Foods, Trader Joes and 7-11 have SCREAMING headlines about how to get your “beach body” going. And every one of these articles contains their version of how to get perfectly fit. But can they all be right, especially when they’ve never seen your pre-beach body? There are many myths about what it means to be (and get) fit.
Here are the top five fitness myths I found this weekend:
1. You have to feel pain to gain—no sweat means you aren’t working out hard enough
2. Swimming is the best weight loss exercise
3. Crunches and “ab machines” get rid of belly fat
4. Looking fit means being fit
5. If you can’t work out frequently, it doesn’t pay to even start
The most widely accepted definition of fitness comes from the world’s dominant (and San Diego-based) fitness expert, the American Council on Exercise:
“Optimum physical fitness is a condition resulting from a lifestyle that leads to the development of an optimal level of cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility, as well as the achievement and maintenance of ideal body weight.”
Here’s what you need to be specifically working on according to Bill Tancred, author of a clear explanation of sports conditioning:
• Strength - the extent to which your muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance
• Power - the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements (e.g. jumping)
• Agility - the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (e.g. zigzag running movements)
• Balance - the ability to control your body's position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt)
• Flexibility - the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (e.g. executing the splits)
• Muscle Endurance - a single muscle's ability to perform sustained work (e.g. running or cycling)
• Cardiovascular Endurance - the heart's ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (e.g. running long distances)—arguably the most important factor in enhancing all of these factors
• Strength Endurance - a muscle's ability to perform a maximum contraction time after time (e.g. continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game)
• Co-ordination- the ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved.
It would take serious participation in functional movement and resistance training, as well as cardiorespiratory aerobic and anaerobic exercise to accomplish beach body fitness by the time summer rolls around, but you can do it no matter where you are starting.
If overall fitness is your goal and you’re just getting going, take it slow. Begin with core stability and mobility (healthy posture) exercises, then move on to movement training including squats, lunges, then pushing, pulling and spiraling movements. Then you'll be ready for more traditional resistance exercises (e.g., dumbells, kettlebells, resistance machines) before turning yourself into a complete power performing human machine.
Above all, “strive for progress, not perfection.” I’m off to the gym.