Rules are made to be broken, especially if they lend credibility to myths that are flat out false. In the fitness world, there are several widely held beliefs that may do you more harm than good. We asked real women to share the fitness rules they live by and boiled down the list to our top five picks. What you thought you knew might be completely wrong.
Rule #1: Stretch before you exercise to prevent injuries. The real deal: Holding stretches on cold muscles may actually make them more prone to sprains and tears.Muscles lengthen best when there’s heat and motion involved.Therefore,the most important thing you should do before a workout is warm up. March in place—walk—jog slowly. Move dynamically to increase your body temperature and stimulate blood flow to the muscles and connective tissues. You’ll feel looser afterward.
Rule #2: Do crunches daily to flatten your abs. The real deal: Unfortunately, no matter how many crunches you do on Saturday, your tummy will not be thinner on Sunday. You can’t spot reduce fat. The most effective way to shrink your pot belly is to lose body fat everywhere. How? Eat a healthy diet and follow a regular exercise regimen that includes cardio and strength-training.
Rule #3: Swimming is the best exercise for weight-loss.The real deal: Although swimming is easy on the joints and burns calories, the water allows your body to remain buoyant, which is not a boon for weight-loss. Gravity works as an ally, when it comes to losing weight—the heavier an object is the more calories it burns. The best weight-loss programs include 60 minutes of weight-bearing cardio.
Rule #4: If you’re not sweating, you’re slacking! The real deal: Actually, your heart rate is the primary indicator of how hard you’re working. Sweat is the body’s natural cooling mechanism. As you become fitter, you will sweat more and with less effort. Still, everyone’s different, and climate factors can easily skew your wetness assessment. Utilize a heart rate monitor to help you honestly gauge the intensity of your training sessions.
Rule #5: Exercise until you’re sore. The real deal: People think pain should be synonymous with exercise—and that’s not true. You may experience some moderate soreness if you work your muscles in a new way, or engage muscles you don’t normally use. However, it shouldn’t be your goal to ache after every workout. If you feel discomfort in your joints, or persistent pain that a day or two of rest and ice can’t remedy, see your doctor.