Stop Lying to Yourself: Fitness Edition

Stop it, ladies. I mean it. Seriously.

1) Spot Reduction

crunches

Every time you see one of those cute little lists on Pinterest or in Cosmo magazine entitled “8 Simple Moves for a Perky Butt” or “Six-Pack Abs Workout!” you are looking at a complete lie. You can do crunches until your spine breaks in half. (Not that I think that is a possible outcome of doing too many crunches. OK, moving on.) It will strengthen your stomach muscles, absolutely. But exercising your muscles will not get rid of the fat sitting on top of those muscles. The ONLY way to get a six-pack is to have a nigh perfect diet. The more muscle you have, the easier it will be for you to burn fat, but being in a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories per day than you are burning during the day) is what gets rid of fat, not building bigger muscles. This is especially true for the abdominal region. Most people will never achieve a six-pack in their lives, because it requires such a specific and dedicated diet. And most people have fat on their glutes for a reason: it makes sitting more comfortable. You are never going to get rid of all of it with a few arabesques. Which leads me to my second point…

2) Gaining Muscle/ Burning Fat

woman with dumbbells

Advertisements for diet products or exercise programs always advocate that their product “burns fat and builds muscle!” That would be an extraordinary claim indeed, because doing both at the same time is basically a physical impossibility. (There is not much research on this, because different things are going to work differently for everybody, so this is just my observation, informed by lots of reading.) In the bodybuilding world, the process is known adorably as “bulking and cutting.” Bulking is the process of eating slightly more so that one can build muscle, and cutting is the process of eating slightly less so one can lose fat without losing lean muscle mass. One must be eating least at maintenance calorie levels, if not a slight caloric surplus, to build muscle. You’re not going to add mass to your body, muscle or otherwise, without consuming more fuel. If you pay very close attention to the advertisements for workout products such as the Ab Rocket, you’ll notice that they almost always come with a pamphlet containing a strict meal plan. That pamphlet is really what your money is going toward, since the diet is going to take you way further down the road to a six-pack than the Ab Rocket itself ever will.

Sometimes, when someone is very out of shape and gets very in shape, the way only people in P90X commercials seem to, it may appear as though they have both lost fat and gained muscle at the same time. Really it is an illusion caused by the fact that before, their muscles were completely hidden under a thick layer of bodyfat, and now they are not. The muscles are not BIGGER, because the person has been at a caloric deficit. They simply appear bigger because they are no longer hidden by fat. If the person was incredibly unfit, to the point where they had almost no muscle at all, even getting up from their chair will be more of a workout than they ever got before. That is the only circumstance in which someone can do both at once, because their body is practically begging for it.

3) Celebrity Trainers

ashleyborden

You’ve seen them on Youtube. You’ve seen them on TV. People like Tracy Anderson and Andrea Orbeck. They have cute little blonde ponytails and they never seem to sweat when they work out and they have perfectly toned triceps. And they train celebrities – models, actresses, musicians. All of whom have to look their best to be photographed in tight clothing. These trainers market their workout videos under their own names as “celebrity trainers.” They like to brag about their clients – “Gwyneth Paltrow’s belly buster!” – “Sweat like Lady Gaga!” – “The Victoria’s Secret tone-up!” – in order to reel you in.

These workouts are often quite informative and effective, but the use of the celebrity image is deceptive. Ten minutes of bodyweight squats is not going to make you Heidi Klum. Four minutes of Tabata training will not make your ass look like Gisele’s. What you have to understand is that these workouts are not the ONLY workouts that these women are doing. Celebrities with fantastic bodies get them by spending hours in the gym every day – and sticking to a healthy diet. Don’t blame Youtube when you do six months of Kate Beckinsale’s Booty Blast and you still don’t look like Kate Beckinsale.

4) Bulking Up

female-bodybuilding-image

I have mentioned this in a past post, but it bears repeating. Some women have a petrifying fear of becoming huge, Hulk-like organisms should they attempt to lift anything heavier than a Chiclet. So, so, so not true. You would have to be pumping yourself full of massive amounts of testosterone and other hormones and chemicals for you to suddenly swell up like Jay Cutler overnight. Let me set your mind at ease: have you injected yourself with any unknown substances lately? No? Then don’t worry about it.

5) Yoga

yoga

Also been mentioned, but let’s beat a dead horse for the fun of it; yoga was not designed to make you skinny. In fact, the chances that you will get a slammin’ body just from doing a half hour of yoga every day are slim to none, unless you are very overweight to begin with. There are many types of yoga that were all developed for different purposes, but very few of them have weight loss or calorie burning as their number one goal. Yoga is about meditation, flexibility, and breath. Doing yoga to get a tight ass would be like going to church for the free wine – possibly pointless and a little bit irreverent.

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