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Fitness myths

We ask Rude Health's panel of fitness experts to reveal the truth about the most common fitness myths we have all heard

Alan Williams of Alan Williams Training

Myth: Eating after 6pm will make you fat
If somebody is overweight, it's because they are taking in more calories than they are expending, assuming there are no underlying medical conditions. For those that say they lost weight when they stopped eating after 6pm, it's simply because they took in less calories over the course of the day. It's not because something in your body magically changes once the clock strikes 6! If a tub of ice cream is 1,000 calories at 3pm, it's still 1,000 calories at 6pm. Overall calories is much more relevant than timing. Having said that, I wouldn't recommend eating large meals at night as it can keep the digestive system working overtime, and impact sleep.

Myth: You don't have time to train
This myth is more of a psychological myth, a story we tell ourselves. We have this idea in our head that we need an hour to train, or it's not worth doing. Just do whatever you can fit in. A 20 minute HIIT session can get a real sweat worked up. If you don't have 20 minutes, here's another idea – do 10 press ups every time you go upstairs at home. This is one I started doing myself during a really busy period with work. It took me no more than 10-15 seconds to do 10 press ups. But I actually found myself doing 70-100 press ups per day. Of course, you can change the exercise to squats, or burpees, if you want some variety!

Myth: Ab workouts will give you a flat stomach
They won't! If the goal is get rid of fat from the stomach area, spending your 30 minutes of training time doing ab workouts is a dreadful waste of training time. It will certainly strengthen the ab muscles, but if there's a layer of fat covering those abs, we'll never see them anyway! So the more relevant goal is to remove the layer of fat? How do we that? We can't spot reduce, so we need to focus on reducing the overall body fat percentage. Here are a few things to focus on:

  • Create a calorie deficit.
  • Train all muscle groups, not just abs. And work up a sweat!
  • Manage sleep and stress.

Sandra Dunne of Gym Plus

Myth: Weight training gives you bulky muscles
This is one we hear a lot, especially from our female members. To put on serious muscle mass, you have to train with very heavy weights, in a specific way and change your diet. Simply following a basic program tailored for your needs, on a consistent basis will give you the toning and strengthening results you're after, even in a relatively short time. Just make sure you get someone who knows what they're doing to teach you the technique, so you avoid injury.

Myth: You have to do loads of exercise to change your body
Many people get put off starting a fitness routine because they think they have to train for hours at a time to see any change in their body. Talk to an expert, such as a trainer at your gym, and get a proper plan in place. Then you can see results in sessions as short as 20 minutes, a few times a week.

Myth: Everyone who goes to the gym is already fit and healthy
This is another big one that puts people off joining the gym. Sure, there are some gyms that are wall to wall muscle men or super toned folks in scraps of Lycra, but that isn't the norm. Our community at Gym Plus is so diverse, we have members of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and abilities, so don't be scared, everyone's welcome and we all support each other.

Grainne O'Driscoll runs Gra For Fitness offering public, private and corporate Pilates, yoga and fitness classes

Myth: Strength training will make me bulky
I'm hearing this a lot less these days from clients. Packing on serious muscle requires specific training for hypertrophy (muscle growth) and really powering up your diet to fuel that growth. Happily there are far more people of all ages these days for whom strength training is contributing to muscle and bone health.

Myth: No pain no gain
To improve our fitness, whatever our specific goal, we do need to challenge ourselves. However if we train through pain, instead of leading to gains, it can lead to injury, potentially ending in being sidelined for an extended period and leading to loss of gains. Listen to your body.

Myth: I only need to exercise to get in shape
If you're working hard on your physical fitness you need to support it with a healthy diet. I'm not talking about restrictive diets, just limiting the stuff we know is not good for us – sugar, alcohol, processed food and as much as possible fuelling our bodies with healthy wholefoods.

Myth: The longer my workout is the better
Well, not necessarily so. Short bursts of moderate intensity exercise or 'fitness snacks' throughout our day can actually produce similar benefits and in some cases more effective benefits than longer bouts as they allow us to crank up our metabolism a few times a day. Not only are they convenient, walking quickly up and down the stairs a few times counts, but they can also help improve our energy and productivity each time we perform them.

Sylvia Diaz, founder of Fit with Sylvia, works as a fitness and health coach

The reality is that everyone is different, genetically and with different interests. We need different fitness routines and different eating habits to cover our needs. Comparisons and standard fitness rules only create fitness myths.

Myth: To be in shape you need to train every day
Rest days are needed, our muscles need to recover and be ready for the next workout. Rest days are not a waste of time, because muscles need to replenish their glycogen stores and reduce muscle fatigue.

Myth: Mornings are the best time to work out
For some people working out in the morning gives them the energy to have a better day, and for others working out at lunch is a good distraction to keep going. Whether you're an early bird or a night owl, you are the one who needs to find a schedule that suits your individual needs. The important thing is that you get it done, not when you do it!

Myth: No pain, no gain
This is a bit of a dangerous statement. Since when do we need to feel pain when we work out? We should focus on doing a workout that we enjoy and helps us in other areas of our life, like being stronger to carry the shopping bags, more agile in our day-to-day lives and happy through the endorphins we get from exercising.

Feeling the burn of your muscles when working out can be normal, but not a sharp pain which might end up becoming an injury.

Myth: Stretch before you work out
Never do static stretching before a workout because the muscles need to be warm enough first. Dynamic stretching is better as a warm-up before a workout.

Myth: Crunches are the best exercises for your core/abs
No! By doing crunches, we put our back at risk. Apart from that, it is an isolated movement which means it only targets a specific part of our abs, instead do compound movements, exercises where the whole core is involved along with other muscles, like doing a plank followed by push-ups.

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