Friday, January 31, 2014

14 Fitness Myths for 2014

New Year, new you? Maybe. But here are some of the more common fitness myths that I've encountered that could be holding you back. Apologies for delaying this to February, but I'm sure you're all still riding the New Year's high when you think about those resolutions anyway.

1. Crunches = Six Pack Abs

When did this misconception come around? And why do people still believe that simply doing crunches is the best way to go about getting a six pack. To be brutally honest, no exercise you do will get you a six pack. The best way to go about getting the tone and definition is by changing your diet first. The average guy needs to drop to below 8% body fat to see at least the outline of their abdominal muscles. Until then, it doesn't matter how many crunches you do or how strong your abdominals are, they're not going to show up. Which brings me to number two...

2. Abs = Core

No, no, and no. The abdomen is part of the core, however the core is actually comprised of the abdominals, abductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and most importantly, back.

Simply working the abdominals by doing crunches is the reason so many people get hurt. They believe that they're working their core, but in reality, they're creating imbalances. Focusing solely on the abdominals is the reason many people suffer from poor posture and back pain because the abdominals draw the gut in and the push the back out, creating a slouch and leading to all sorts of troubles.

3. Minimalism is the (only) Way

When Born to Run was published in 2009, it suddenly became this gospel of truth for runners. Now, five years later, sales of minimal footwear have tapered off, but the movement has cemented itself in the running world. And there are still those who drink the Kool-Aid and tell every person that they know that minimalism is the best and only way to run.
What they don't tell you is that minimal running doesn't decrease the impact your body takes, it merely shifts where that shock goes. Those running in traditional, high drop running shoes typically see more knee issues. Minimal runners shouted from the rooftops that they had finally found the solution to knee injury, only to discover later that they were having an increasing number of metatarsal injuries such as stress fractures. Do some research, test the waters, and decide for yourself.

4. Cardio = Lean and Ripped

For Joe Average, cardio is awfully appealing. It's not as painful as weight training and it offers a way to slim down and get in shape over the winter to present a lean and toned body for the summer beaches. But while Joe or Jane initially sees good results, they start to taper off, and eventually, even thought Joe or Jane are in great condition, that stubborn belly fat won't disappear, no matter how far they go. Their weight loss goes from a pound a week to nearly nothing, the minor fluctuations are easily explained by water weight.
See number one for the solution (kidding), in the mean time, let's get on to number five...

5. Intervals are for Serious Runners

This always astounds me. People are afraid to run fast. They think that long and slow is the best way to lose weight. And up to a point, it's great to be burning calories that way. But the thing about humans is, we're remarkably efficient runners. We have a number of physiological advantages that make it possible for us to theoretically run a hundred miles on our fat reserves at that long and slow pace. As a coach of mine once put it, "The point isn't to run slow. Hell, with two bad knees I could still shuffle my way to Estes Park going slow." Running over our aerobic threshold ignites our metabolism. This means that even after we stop running, our body burns more calories at rest, which in turn means that with the proper diet, you can burn that extra fat. Try adding some striders to the end of your long, slow runs.
6. Breads and Pastas are (still) Necessary

Yes, carbohydrates are necessary. But looking at new research, we've discovered that the best way to get the majority of our energy is through healthy fats. In fact, recent research has suggested that carbohydrates that are derived from grains and simple sugars are the leading cause of inflammation, i.e.: the reason our blood vessels constrict. While they are necessary, the best way to them is through fruits and some veggies, such as sweet potatoes, with the occasional bowl of rice thrown in. You wonder why the Japanese are living so long? Look no further than rice and fish, the healthy carb and the healthy fats.
Yeah, the USDA can flip the pyramid on its side, but the fundamentals remained the same, even though we do not need 6-11 servings of carbs.

7. No Carbs Are Better

Recently, we've seen a big surge in the paleo diet. In fact, that was the most searched diet term in 2013. Having had personal experience with the paleo, I can tell you that to the average person, the paleo is great (after the first two weeks). Let me give you a run down: No grains, basically no carbs what so ever. No legumes (including peanuts). No simple sugars. Fish, lean meats, chicken, limited dairy, lots of healthy fats and veggies. The idea here is that those grains and legumes are poisonous to us in their raw form and that we should only eat things that our ancestors would eat.
However, the paleo deprives you of carbohydrates. That's why it's rough for the first couple weeks, because your body is used to fueling itself from the carbohydrates and simple sugars. After that, it's pretty nice. In fact, I broke the 5% body fat barrier while on the paleo. However, as my mileage ramped up, I found that I kept bonking. See, we need some carbs. Certainly not the 300+ that we're told. What I didn't know at the time is that rice and sweet potatoes are allowed for endurance athletes. But if you're not doing crazy miles and want to lose some of that body fat, the paleo can be great.

8. We Need Stuff

We're told today that we need a lot of stuff. Particularly for a sport like triathlon. We need a special watch, a bike computer, aerodynamic hydration options, a fuel belt! Good Lord. In all honesty, we don't need any of that. The average triathlete is being bombarded by advertisements. If the pros use it, the age groupers should too. However, the vast majority of age groupers don't need that stuff. If you're just out to finish a triathlon, you don't need to save 20 seconds on a 40km course. Marginal gains are just that. Save hundreds, you'll swim/bike/run faster just knowing that in the back of your head.

9. To Do Something Well, Do It A Lot

Refer to my post regarding endurance here for more on this. The mentality needs to change here. Yes, there are certain people that can ramp up the mileage incessantly and not end up in the doctor's office, but for the most part, the mentality of doing a lot of miles is rarely scientific. Were it, we'd see a lot less injuries, but too often, we instead see people ramping up the miles too quickly and/or doing far too many at one time. The rule of thumb is: No more than 10% increase per week. Let's keep it that way.

10. Triathlons Are Hard/Scary

Triathlon is emerging as a new sport for people to try. I love nothing more than watching the kids' race before my wave because it's inspiring to see how excited these kids get over doing something they love. But when I talk to older folks, they're put off by it. "Oh, you do triathlons?" I can see what they're actually thinking is "You're insane."
That's sad to me. In all honesty, triathlons are no harder than sprinting the 400m. But for some reason, I know a lot of people who are perfectly willing to run a marathon, but not try a triathlon. They're very different, but they're both challenging in their own way. In fact, I would encourage everyone to try a sprint distance triathlon at least once. You'll learn some new things, become fit, and meet some awesome people. Let's make 2014 the year of the triathlon.

11. The Elliptical Is (still) Awesome
Anyone here watch Jimmy Tatro on YouTube? His videos are sort of niche videos, they're usually watched by the 16-25 male demographic, but I think quite a few of them are pretty hilarious even though I usually eschew that sort of humor. An excerpt from his video "Gym Etiquette" goes something like this: "I look at the ellipticals and I see girl, girl, girl, girl...and then that one guy."
Now, this isn't necessarily true, at least the part about just girls on the elliptical. I see plenty of guys at my college gym on them. But while the elliptical can be a great cross training tool (see: zero impact), I feel like a lot of people rely on it. Why? Simple, the elliptical is self regulating. You choose the pace. At least on a treadmill, you're urged along by the fact that your feet come precariously close to the edge if you slow down or start to doze off. I see girls at the gym all the time. They start out at a frenetic pace, and ten minute later, they're done. That's not cardio, that's not interval training, that's dumb. If you really want zero impact, go to the pool. Get a full body workout in.

12. Leg Day is Overrated
Clearly I spend too much time on YouTube. You're going: Really, mentioning two YouTube channels in one post? Yes, yes I am. BroScienceLife is run by a meat head named Dom, who makes all sorts of satirical videos regarding the gym life of a bro. And there's one dedicated to skipping leg day.
It's hilarious, at least to me. But I would never skip leg day. I'll be the first to tell you, I do next to zero weight training. As an endurance athlete, I find some beneficial, but 98% of my time is spent swimming, biking, or running. But fitness can be attained multiple ways. Why would you take away the biggest muscle groups, with the biggest potential and largest calorie burn by only working your upper half? Simple...

13. I Can Get This in 10 Minutes

If there's one thing that has stuck with me from the coaches I've had over the years, it's the mentality that you can't just sit around and expect results. You have to want to be better, faster, stronger. But look no further than Pinterest to see a million and one "Get this body in 20 minutes" workouts.
While these workouts may burn a quick hundred calories, what people need to know is that getting that body isn't about the workout itself, it's about the lifestyle. Are you cutting out the simple sugars, the salts, and the breads? Do you get 8 hours of sleep a night? Are you monitoring your calorie intake and adjusting it to your daily needs? Too often, I see people who these workouts and use them as an excuse to indulge.
Let me set something straight: I have nothing against these short, sweet workouts. A twenty minute workout is better than no workout but people need to be realistic when it comes to their goals. Want to drop 10 lbs. Probably not going to happen if you're just doing this workout without changing other aspects of your lifestyle.

14. Diets = Bland, Gross Foods

And finally, diets. People hear the word "diet" and immediately think "Ugh, SlimFast for breakfast again." No, no, no. A diet is way of eating, and the diets the industry is selling your are wrong. There are other diets besides the turn-breakfast-into-a-bland-shake diet. Try the paleo for a week. But regardless of what diet you choose, it should be filled with whole, natural foods, not those from a plant that were made by some machine.

 Guys, let's make 2014 our year. Let's get fitter, faster, and run longer, harder. Cheers, Logan

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