Do you use exercise as a way “to burn off” stress?
Are you afraid you’ll bulk up if you pick up anything heavier than 5lb dumbbells?
Do you feel like your workout wasn’t as good if you aren’t sore or super sweaty afterwards?
Do you do multiple sets of sit ups each day in the hopes of seeing abs?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. For years we’ve been carrying around certain fitness “beliefs”, that even if we’ve since learned otherwise, are hard to shake.
However, it’s nothing to stress over, I’m here to explain why it’s time to let these outdated beliefs go. Keep reading, I’m guessing these will sound familiar. Or maybe you’ve even said them yourself?
“I want abs, so I do 100 sit ups everyday. My arms are so flabby so I’m going to do jut focus on triceps kickbacks. I always use the inner (adductors)/outer thigh (abductors) machine at the gym to tone my legs.”
Most important thing here is this, you can’t spot reduce fat from certain areas. You can focus on muscle growth in those areas, but fat may still exist on top of those newly formed muscles. Our bodies are genetically pre disposed to store and lose fat in a certain way. When we change how we eat and exercise, our bodies will automatically lose fat in a particular (and unique to us) order. And yes, that could mean fat loss in your breasts before your hips. #sigh
What can you do instead? Focus on compound exercises (more than 1 muscle group at a time working), like a squat to overhead press, or a reverse lunge to row. Add in some cardio intervals for fat loss, IF you’re not already overly stressed. Chill out as much as possible...women tend to show their stress as belly fat. And of course, watch those portion sizes.
“I don’t want to bulk up, so I don’t pick up any weight heavier than 5lbs.”
I’m happy to say I don’t hear this as much as I used to. I think women are finally catching on to this myth. Thank goodness! Ladies, put down the lighter weights (all they do is build endurance, not muscle) and pick up heavy shit. You will not bulk up, UNLESS you eat, train, and take supplements (testosterone) specifically for body building. If you use heavier weights, your muscles will get stronger, you’ll burn more fat, and be toned (what most women say they want to be). Muscles need to be challenged to grow. Those light dumbbells aren’t going to cut it.
“It was a good workout because I was so sweaty/sore afterwards!”
Let’s address the sweaty part first. Women are all unique. Some sweat more than others. Our monthly hormonal fluctuations can cause changes in body temperatures, making us feel more sweaty at those times of the month. Lastly, perhaps the gym temp was warmer than normal? There are lots of variables here, so it’s not an indicator of whether a workout was “good” or “bad”, or how hard you worked.
So what about muscle soreness being an indicator of an effective workout? You may have noticed that when you first started working out you were sore all the time, but lately...not so much. It’s not a sign that your current workouts are lame, but rather a signal that your body has become better at adapting to the stress (workout, weight, intensity) being placed on it. Our bodies were built to adapt, and that’s exactly what she’s doing!
Muscle soreness is simply our bodies way of telling us that we did something different, made a change to our regular routine, or performed an exercise/s that just happened to target a weaker muscle/muscle group.
“I need to hit the gym after work to burn off this stress.”
Okay, I totally get the sentiment behind this phrase. And yes, sprints, boxing, rope slams, and other aggressive shit sounds like the perfect activity for relieving stress, however it actually may not be the best choice for you in that moment.
We’re all familiar with the “stress response”. The feeling of your body being flooded with chemicals that prepare you to either fight or flee. We tense up, our heart races, and we start breathing more quickly. It’s now time we become better acquainted with the “relaxation response”. Slowing your heart rate, relaxing the muscles, and increasing the blood flow to the brain. In other words, “the real way to burn off some stress”.
We all respond to stress differently. Some of us get keyed up, others can feel depressed or withdrawn, while some people just freeze up. What about you? I ask because depending on how you react to stress, will determine which type of relaxation technique (a.k.a. “your workout”) will work the best.
So if you’re like me and tend to get agitated or keyed up while stressed, you need to work on “quieting” down. Meditation, deep breathing, or imagery.
Ever try imagery? It’s really just sitting quietly and imagining your happy, chill place. Recalling every sensory detail about that place that you can. The sounds, smells, sights, and tastes.
If you tend to feel depressed or withdrawn when stressed, then practice some techniques that both calm and energize your nervous system. Things like a massage or a flow-y yoga class.
If stress tends to make you freeze or feel paralyzed, the best technique for you is to awaken the nervous system. Any activity that involves moving the arms and legs, like running or dancing.
“Go hard or go home!”
GAHHH, my least favorite fitness phrase ever! I like to say go hard when the energy is there OR go home to stretch, walk, chill out when it’s not. I get it, it’s a fine line between “not feeling like it” and feeling tired or rundown. And it’s not always easy to listen or interpret what our bodies are asking for. Or maybe it is...and we just allow all the “shoulds” to take over.
If you’re just mentally not feeling like working out or tired after a long day at work, I like to encourage my clients to start with some light movement. Walking or some stretching for 5 minutes. They usually find that once they start, they’re good to go.
If however, you’re just getting over being sick, about to get your period, super sore from a previous workout, then time to rethink your “workout”. You don’t necessarily need to crawl under a blanket on the couch (which would be an acceptable choice too), but instead try taking a 10 minute leisure walk, do a yoga flow, or a 5 minute meditation.
Your reminder, exercise is stress, a good stress, but stress nonetheless. And sometimes it’s just not what our bodies need at that time.
I’m curious, do you have any fitness “beliefs” that you’ve been holding on to for awhile? Let me know in the comments below!