I remember trying to explain the so-called “fat burning zone” back in my aerobics days, when the cardio machines debuted with new labeling and turned thousands of exercisers into long, lower-intensity-cardio-session freaks. Throughout my years of teaching and training, this myth along with many others are some of the BFL’s (big fat lies) that are still perpetuated. The truth will set you free and so will these 7 fitness myths debunked.

  • Myth #1: Exercising in the fat-burning zone burns more fat. Truth: We use several different fuels when we exercise and yes, the harder you train, the more fat you use as fuel. But, that’s not the same as physical fat burning off your body. If you’re concerned about burning fat to shed fat, work as hard as you can with interval-based exercise so you boost your metabolism and burn more calories overall. It’s about calorie deficit.
  • Myth #2: Crunches create flat stomachs. Truth: To see a six-pack or to have less fat around your torso, you must have a healthy to low body fat percentage; probably good genetics, meaning you don’t carry excess weight in that area; consistently clean eating; you don’t have diastasis recti or stomach muscle damage from pregnancy; you have a strong core, especially the transverse abdominis (lower area that holds your tummy in); you have good posture (which makes you look leaner); and you probably move your body almost every day and most likely do pretty intense exercise – from yoga to weight training to dance and everything in between. We all have “abs” but not all of us have low enough body fat and nice musculature to see them.
  • Myth #3: It’s not working if the scale doesn’t go down. Truth: The scale can be quite helpful in monitoring your progress and maintaining your ideal shape but during a weight loss effort, the numbers can be utterly deceiving. Did you gain a pound of fat, some water weight or actual muscle? A pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat so you could add scale weight but shrink in size. My scale weight fluctuates up to four pounds and my husband’s can change by seven – in one day! Watch for a trend. Don’t let the scale derail your momentum and be careful how you use it. Use an outfit or a pair of jeans as your measurement. When you get to the shape you want, keep the scale within 2-3 pounds of the number that corresponds with that shape.
  • Myth #4: You can spot-reduce certain areas on your body. Truth: You are genetically designed to lose and gain in a certain way and typically the first place to gain is the last place to lose. Bummer. I’ve read hundreds of studies and a lot of research on losing weight/fat. We know how it’s supposed to happen, but we are unique individuals with unique circumstances. Between stress, our emotional state, our genetics, injuries, previous/current health conditions and how our bodies handle exercise and nutrition, outcomes are not that easily predicted. Hang in there. Consistency is key. If you have a body that is out of proportion, go to weight training to even it out. Bodybuilding is all about symmetry and it works.
  • Myth #5: Weight training makes women bulk up. Truth: Most women do not have high enough testosterone levels to truly bulk up (without drugs). More muscle, in fact, is almost always a good thing. Muscle requires more energy to “live” so you get a nice boost in your metabolism and that translates into more calorie burn. Muscle also supports your joints in addition to many other advantages, including giving you an awesome looking bod. However, if you start a heavy duty pyramid-style lifting program with extra calorie consumption, you might get bigger. Typically, women add a little muscle and look bad-ass, sexy.  Love your muscles, gals.
  • Myth #6: Stretching before your workout is advantageous. Truth: Studies do not support that hypothesis. In fact, you can even injure yourself. Think of it in terms of a really cold rubber band. Stretching it without warming it up might result in a tear or break. Or, maybe it’s already flexible and can be used as is. Some of us don’t need to stretch much at all and others desperately need it. For the average exerciser, stretch after workouts, when muscles are warm and more receptive to lengthening. My husband never, as in never, stretches and he’s flexible as well as a former high school national champion and scholarship athlete in track and field.
  • Myth #7: Muscle turns to fat. Truth: They are not the same “matter” in your body and thus cannot turn into each other. Muscle shrinks when not used. Less muscle slows your metabolism. Slower metabolisms burn less calories. Overall, a recipe for weight gain (or, increased fat percentages on your body) and/or a less fit, toned physique. Thus, the appearance that your muscle converted to fat.
  • Your Myth? Do you have a question or wonder if something you’ve believed or heard is true? Let’s tackle it!