10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself

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Have you been lying to yourself? What you believe about exercise and the way your body responds to it can sabotage your results. For example, if you think you need to feel sore to prove you had a good workout, you can end up injured. Or maybe you justify chowing down on that monster, post-workout burger because the treadmill display registers a high-calorie expenditure. Check out these common beliefs and the truth behind them.

1. "I know how hard I’m working by how much I sweat"

sweating young man with a towel
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Sweating isn't necessarily a marker of working harder, says Irv Rubenstein, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and co-founder of STEPS, a personal training facility in Nashville, TN. “Ambient temperature and humidity, and their combined heat index, demand more perspiration and higher heart rates. But they do not, of themselves, lead to more calories burned, let alone more cardio or muscle benefits.” In fact, it’s harder to exercise in a hot room, due to the body’s need to regulate its internal temperature. Plus, some people simply sweat more, says Rubenstein. Use perceived exertion (measuring intensity on a scale of one to 10) and/or heart rate to gauge intensity instead.

Related: The 20 Most Intense Workout Songs (You Might Not Know)

2. "The more I work out, the faster I’ll see results"

Young female taking a break from workout at gym
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In general, working out harder will produce better results, says exercise physiologist Irv Rubenstein. However, lifting weights on consecutive days without rest takes you further from your goals by not allowing muscles to recover. Overtraining results in muscle breakdown and damage. Symptoms of overtraining include a change in resting heart rate, insomnia and, in some cases, increased illness and infection due to a weakened immune system. Allow one to two days (for high-intensity training) between workouts using the same muscle group.

Related: 3 Signs You're Overexercising and 3 Ways to Avoid It

3. "I only do yoga to detoxify my organs"

Morning Meditation
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Yoga does a body good in many ways, increasing balance and flexibility and, for some, easing back pain. But claims of yoga “detoxifying” the body are exaggerations, says exercise physiologist Irv Rubenstein. “Detoxification is done via the kidneys and liver, so yoga probably does not have any special powers to support or reinforce or facilitate their functions.” One caveat may be yoga’s benefits as a “spiritual cleanser,” although other activities, such as gardening, have similar benefits, says Rubenstein. That doesn’t mean you should quit your weekly Vinyasa class, just be aware that no one exercise is a cure-all.

Related: 11 Yoga Poses to Eliminate Stress from Your Day

4. "I’ll start working out as soon as I lose weight"

Female feet on a bathroom scale
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“This kind of thinking is self-defeating," says exercise physiologist Irv Rubenstein Losing weight shouldn't be a prerequisite to getting in shape. Exercise provides a ton of benefits outside of aesthetic changes. Start the exercise program first, and then work on incorporating better dietary habits into your daily life. “A well-planned dietary regimen is the best way to lose weight, after all,” says Rubenstein. “Plus, exercise along with a weight-loss program ensures you’ll retain as much muscle mass as possible and maintain your desired weight.”

Related: The Best Exercises for Fat Loss

5. "I can eat whatever I want after a hard workout"

Friends in the diner
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Many people overestimate the calories they burn and vastly underestimate how much they eat, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness. “It’s way too easy to ‘out-eat’ a workout,” says Amy Goodson, RD, certified specialist in sport dietetics and co-author of “Swim, Bike, Run -- Eat.” “For instance, you do a 45-minute treadmill workout then swing by your favorite coffee shop and get a bran muffin and skinny latte. You likely just ate the whole workout back, if not more.” Instead, think high-fiber, high-protein and nutrient-rich foods most of the time and allow yourself to splurge 20 percent of the time.

Related: Does the 80/20 Rule Work for Everyone?

6. "If I’m not sore the day after a workout, I didn’t train hard enough"

Strong sporty man breakdown
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Muscle soreness the day after a workout isn't necessary for results. In fact, it could indicate something is amiss, says Justin Price, co-founder of The BioMechanics Method in San Diego, CA, and author of “The Amazing Tennis Ball Back Pain Cure.” “Muscle soreness can be caused by an improper or inadequate warm-up or cool-down, an existing musculoskeletal injury or imbalance, insufficient hydration and inappropriate pre- and post-workout nutrition,” he says. Better ways to gauge workout efficiency after the fact include sleeping better and a drop in resting heart rate on following days, says Price.

Related: How to Ease Muscle Soreness After a Workout

7. "Even though I'm sore, I'll work through the pain"

Man Grimacing while Lifting Weights
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“No pain, no gain” sounds like a good mantra, but working out when you’re in pain can set you up to worsen the injury or trigger another one. “If parts of your body are not moving well due to excessive muscle soreness, you can end up moving incorrectly and hurting other areas,” says Justin Price, co-founder of The BioMechanics Method. If you're still sore the day after a workout, try some simple self-massage exercises using a tennis ball on your sore muscles. “This rejuvenates and regenerates those muscles, which helps them recover quicker and enables you to resume or maintain your high-intensity workout regimen without running the risk of injury,” Price says.

Related: Top 10 Moves to Help You Recover From Your Workout

8. "I’m doing 100 crunches a day to flatten my abs"

Man Doing Sit-Ups On Exercise Mat
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Striving to perform 100 crunches a day sounds like an admirable goal, but it does little to burn fat in that area. “No amount of crunches will flatten the abdominal region,” says Tom Holland, CSCS, author of “Beat the Gym.” “This subcutaneous body fat (fat immediately below the skin) must be burned through exercise and decreased caloric intake.” Holland recommends spending no more than 10 percent of your workout time devoted to abs and instead focusing on getting your diet under control.

Related: These 12 Moves Will Get You Washboard Abs -- We Show You How!

9. "I jump right back into my workout after taking time off"

Exhausted female runner overtraining
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When you’ve been on vacation for a few weeks, diving right back into your old workout routine instead of easing into it slowly can lead to injury, says strength and conditioning coach Tom Holland. “Gradually easing back into your routine helps prevent you from having to take time off once again, allowing you to reach your fitness goals without interruption.” A general rule of thumb: Decrease the amount of weight you lift a bit (10 to 20 percent) for the first few workouts after your return and ease into your cardio by working at approximately 75 percent.

Related: 9 Unexpected Things That Happen When You Abandon Your Workout Routine

10. "I stick with machines to avoid injury"

Sportive woman using weights press machine for legs. Gym.
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If you’re new to weightlifting, machines can be helpful in providing stabilization. And a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found 90 percent of weight-training-related injuries occurred during free-weight use. However, most of the injuries (65 percent) resulted from dropping weights on a person, followed by strains and sprains. You can minimize the chance of injury by practicing proper form and only lifting weight according to your current level of strength. Then you’ll reap the benefits of free weights, which include increased functional strength (ease in performing everyday activities), preventing plateaus and adding mental variety and motivation, says strength and conditioning coach Tom Holland.

Related: 10 Machine-to-Free-Weight Swaps

What Do YOU Think?

Resting time.
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Have you told yourself any of these fitness fibs? Are there other little white lies you’ve believed about exercise? Or maybe you’ve heard some other untruths from friends and family. Let us know what they were in the comments and what you learned.

Related: The 12 Biggest Myths About Personal Training

Intense Lower Back Pain From a Workout a Couple of Days Ago

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Have you been lying to yourself? What you believe about exercise and the way your body responds to it can sabotage your results. For example, if you think you need to feel sore to prove you had a good workout, you can end up injured. Or maybe you justify chowing down on that monster, post-workout burger because the treadmill display registers a high-calorie expenditure. Check out these common beliefs and the truth behind them.


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