Muscle building is an important component of any exercise routine, but are you strength training the right way? Here are five common myths about muscles, and why they aren’t true.
1. Heavy weights make you bulk up: It’s a common belief: lifting heavy weights will have you looking more bodybuilder than long and lean. But in reality, your muscles won’t get Ms. Olympia-sized from lifting a 20-pound kettlebell; the size of your muscles is related to your genes and strength-training routine, not the size of your weights. Using heavier weights actually saves you time — studies show that you will get the same results when lifting heavier weights for fewer reps as you do with lifting lighter weights for longer. But no matter what size weight you use, make sure you choose one that is challenging your body the right way. The American Council on Exercise recommends that you choose a weight that fatigues your muscles within 90 seconds (aka makes you unable to perform another rep correctly), since that’s within the limit of your muscles’ supply of anaerobic energy.
2. Soreness comes from lactic acid buildup: It’s an often-quoted principle that the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) you feel in the days after your workout is from lactic acid in your body. In fact, DOMS is a symptom of micro tears in the muscles that happen when you work out. Lactic acid does play a part in your workout, however, since it is the cause of that burning sensation you feel when working your muscles. It actually fuels muscles to help you work out longer, so pushing past that burning sensation will help you increase your strength and endurance.
3. If you stop exercising, your muscle turns into fat: Once you’ve got your workout routine down, you’ll be surprised at how toned you feel. But something like a vacation or sickness can set your regimen back, sometimes leading to weight gain. While many people believe the weight gain is from muscles turning into fat, both tissues are completely different and can’t convert from one to the other (similarly, there’s no way to make muscles leaner, since they are already fat-free). Instead, building muscle helps burn fat, so when you have less of it, your metabolism rate will be lower.
Keep reading for two more muscle myths.
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Just as you can have a bad day at the gym, you can also have a rotten time at the yoga studio. To make sure you always have an awesome experience on your mat, make sure to avoid the following mistakes in your next class.
- Excuse me, I think your boob fell out of your shirt: No one is paying much attention to your outfit, but it will cause a scene if a too-loose shirt causes a bit of indecent exposure. Make sure your outfit is made of fabric that fits well, offers coverage, and doesn’t have annoying tassels, seams, or extra material to get in the way of your movements. Futzing with your outfit when you’re trying to focus on your breath (while also trying to hold intricate positions with your body) is sure to get in the way of a blissful experience.
- Puddles on your mat: Sweating in a hot yoga class is all part of the fun, but if you sweat too much on your mat, it’s a fall waiting to happen. When wet, some mats are slicker than others, so if you tend to sweat a lot, choose a mat with a grippy surface or place a yoga towel on top. Also bring along a hand towel so you can quickly wipe off your face and get back to your practice. Here are a few of our favorite slipless yoga towels.
- That burrito you ate for lunch: Eating right before class means your gurgling stomach may be louder than your breath. Avoid pains and bloating by finishing meals at least two hours before heading to the studio, and if you need a pre-workout snack, choose something light, easy to digest, and low in fiber such as a banana. Check out these tips for choosing the right pre-workout snack.
Keep reading to find out other things that can ruin your yoga class.
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Exercising regularly means going through lots of fitness gear. Instead of just tossing out old kicks or a worn-out yoga mat, do something good for the Earth. Here are ways to recycle or reuse old workout gear.
- Donate: You can toss them in a Goodwill bin, or send them to an organization that’ll put them to good use. Soles4Souls‘s tag line is “Saving the world — one pair at a time.” This organization takes your tired, but “gently worn,” sneakers and finds needy feet to fill them. They strongly suggest organizing shoe drives and mailing all the pairs to one of their three warehouse locations. Another organization, One World Running, has been serving runners around the world since 1986. Through collection programs, they are able to provide shoes for needy runners across the world. Check here for drop-off locations.
- Recycle: Turn your old shoes into something new. Nike Reuse-A-Shoe takes all brands of sneakers that are beyond “gently worn” and turns them into a recycled product known as Nike Grind, which is used to make tracks, indoor basketball courts, fields, and playgrounds. Just drop off your retired sneakers at any Nike store, or check here for drop-off locations.
- Reuse: Keep an old pair of sneakers around for days when you’re running or walking in the rain or on muddy trails. Some people even use old shoes as plant potters. Fill a disinfected shoe with soil and grow some basil or cilantro on your deck or windowsill.
- Donate: When you buy newer gear, pass on your old gear to friends or siblings, or donate them to Goodwill, a homeless shelter, or other charity store.
- Recycle: Patagonia accepts all its products back for recycling. Either mail them to Patagonia or drop them off at a retail store.
- Reuse: Used fitness clothes make excellent old rags for cleaning. Cut them up and store them in a bag under the kitchen sink.
Keep reading to find out what you can do with your old fitness equipment and yoga mats.
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The constant cycling of gaining and losing weight is a heavy load on your mind, but it also has very real repercussions on your body’s ability to metabolize what you eat. With a new season upon us, there’s no better time to set some healthy intentions and get the yo-yo out of your diet — we are exhausted just thinking about it! Here are five tips to take to heart if you’re ready to stop the cycle.
1. Losing weight doesn’t happen overnight. For those of us who have become accustomed to years of yo-yo dieting, it’s time to change our perception of weight loss. Healthy weight loss does not happen overnight, or right before your best friend’s wedding, or two weeks before you want to wear a killer party dress. While it’s tempting to restrict heavily before a big event, just say no. The weight will come back on your bod and only get harder to take off with time. The slower you lose weight, the longer you will keep it off.
2. Time to retrain that brain. Food can become quite a security blanket. Instead of finding stimulation or solace by chowing down, it’s time to start thinking differently. Take this tip from food journalist and professor Michael Pollan: “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re probably not hungry.” When you go to grab a big bag of chips or check out what fun things are happening in the fridge, honestly ask yourself: “Am I hungry? Or am I just bored?” The more self-awareness you gain, and the less likely you are to mindlessly eat, the more stability you’ll bring to your diet.
3. Recognize that it’s a lifestyle change. The good news is your old days of going from binging to harsh diets are over. The other news is that if you want to lose weight and keep it off in a healthy way, your relationship with food is about to change in a big way. If you’re guilty of the yo-yo cycle, you may be surprised to learn that this constant crash dieting only makes your body cling to the calories you eat more. The reason? It’s not sure when you’re going to feed it next.
Keep reading for more ways to kick the yo-yo from your diet vocabulary.
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Most days we fit our workout in whenever we can, so we tend to sweat it out alone. But we love the days when we can meet up with our running buddies and we hit the trail together — we tend to run a lot longer when chatting it up with a friend. There are definitely some dos and dont’s when it comes to running with another friend, so keep these in mind the next time you head out with a partner.
- DO call if you’re going to be late: It’s hard enough to find an hour in your busy schedules that you’re both free, so when you do, make every effort to show up on time. If you’re running late, be sure to text or call to let her know — you don’t want to keep her waiting, or worse, worrying that something is wrong.
- DON’T bring your headphones: Unless you both prefer listening to your personal tunes and not conversing, save the headphones for when you’re running solo. Or if you both want to listen to the same running playlist, put your iPhone on speaker so you can enjoy the music but still hear each other. Read more
We love the gym for many reasons: it adds structure to our workouts and helps motivate us, the class selection is amazing, and the people — both trainers and members — can be very inspiring. But we also know that many times a gym membership isn’t the most cost-effective solution for getting fit, and going isn’t for everyone. Are you wasting your money? Here are five signs it may be time to cancel your gym membership.
- You’d rather be outdoors: The thought of being cooped up indoors has you dreading — and then skipping — your workout, but you continue to hold onto that gym membership “just in case.” Some people find gym workouts boring, so if you’re one of them, start getting creative outdoors. Even if you’re not a runner, you can still have an effective workout outside; find an open space where you can do your circuit workout, invest in a bike, or grab your yoga mat and seek out an inspiring place to stretch
- You only use one piece of equipment: Take a look at your gym workout. Do you just make a beeline for the treadmill and leave? If you’re not utilizing your gym’s classes or equipment or asking trainers for help, you may be wasting your money. Instead of paying $50 a month just to use a treadmill, save the money to buy a piece of gym equipment for your home or just go for a run or walk outside.
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A runner’s feet take quite the beating with all the repetitive pounding, sweating, and muscle exertion. Here are five ways to help ease soreness and prevent foot injuries that could sideline your running routine.
- Grab a tennis ball: If you have a loving friend who’s offering to rub your feet regularly, that’s great, but most of us don’t have that luxury. Instead, perform a little self-massage with a tennis ball or racquetball. Sit or stand and place the ball under the arch of your foot, roll it along your arch, and shift to whatever part of your foot needs attention. You’ll be surprised at how sore your feet really are.
- Trim your toenails: Seems like a simple task that doesn’t need mentioning, but since feet are covered most of the time, you may not pay as much attention to your toenails as you do your fingernails. Long toenails can rub against the inside of your shoe or cut the adjacent toes, making it painful to run. When giving yourself a minipedicure, cut or file nails straight since rounded edges can cause ingrown toenails.
- Stretch: To prevent injury and ease soreness, stretching after a run is essential. Here’s a sequence of stretches to target the muscles in the soles of your feet (and is also perfect if you wear high heels).
- Ease inflammation: If feet are swollen after a run, get icy relief with this trick. Fill a water bottle halfway with ice cubes and fill the rest with cold water. Place the bottle on a towel to collect condensation and rest the arch of your bare foot on the middle of the bottle. Rock your foot forward and back, rolling the bottle underneath. Apply as much pressure as you want, continuing for a few minutes.
Keep reading for more ways ease your sore runner’s feet.
You slip under the covers, turn off the light, and rest your head on your pillow. Seems simple and perfect, but here are some things you could be doing in bed that harm your health.
- Grinding your teeth: Formally called sleep bruxism, many people unknowingly clench their jaw or grind their teeth at night, which can lead to tension headaches, earaches, irritated tissue on the inside of your cheeks, jaw pain, and permanent damage to your teeth in the form of chips and worn-down enamel that cause sensitivity or cracks. Stress can be a factor, so reducing the amount of worry in your life can help. If it doesn’t, see your dentist about designing your own personal mouth guard to sleep with. Not exactly the sexiest thing to wear to bed, it’s sure to offer you a more restful and less painful night of sleep.
- Sucking on a cough drop: If you suffer from a chronic cough, cold or sinus infection, or postnasal drip, sucking on a cough drop every night may be the only way you can get some sleep without coughing keeping you up. Although soothing to your throat, exposure to a bath of sugar all night long is sure to lead to tooth decay and cavities. Here are other natural remedies for your nighttime coughs. If the cough persists, it’s time to see your doc.
- Sleeping on an old pillow: Aside from being unsupportive and leading to neck or back pain, dust mites love hanging out in old pillows. Even if you don’t suffer from allergies, it’s not healthy to breathe in dust mites all night long. Some sleep experts recommend replacing bed pillows every few years, but if you find they’re lumpy, need to be fluffed up often, or have an interesting odor, you’ll want to splurge on new ones more often. Zip an allergy cover over your new pillow to protect dust mites from moving in.
- Tossing and turning: If you’re not getting enough quality sleep, you’re at a greater risk of sickness, weight gain, impaired memory, increased blood pressure, moodiness, and skipped workouts from lack of energy. All of these contribute to poor health, so it’s important to figure out what’s preventing your insomnia in order to get a solid amount of z’s.
A bowl of cereal makes the perfect breakfast. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive, and the right bowl of cereal is a good source of fiber, calcium, and protein. But if you make the wrong choices, your cereal may actually be contributing to weight gain. Avoid these mistakes when it comes to your morning bowl of cereal.
- Your bowl is too big: Depending on the box of cereal you choose, a serving size is about three-quarters to one-and-a-quarter cups. If you use the biggest bowl you have and just mindlessly pour, you could be devouring over 400 calories instead of the usual 120 to 200 — and this is just the cereal alone!
- You’re a little nuts: Sliced almonds, pecans, and walnuts offer healthy fats and protein, but they’re also pretty high in calories. Two tablespoons of walnuts is almost 100, so be mindful about how nutty you get.
- You’re using a bottomless bowl: You measure out a serving of cereal, pour in the milk, and spoon away. But when you get to the bottom of the bowl, you have so much milk left, you have to add a little more cereal. But you add too much, so you need to pour in a little more milk. It’s a vicious cycle. Just drink the last of the milk and call it a day.
- You load up on dried fruit to up the fiber: Raisins, dates, banana chips, and dried cherries do offer a little bit of fiber, but because they contain little water, dried fruits are super calorie dense. A quarter cup of dried cranberries is over 100 calories. You’re better off using fresh fruit since it’s lower in calories and higher in fiber, and the high water content will fill your belly up, so you actually end up eating less.
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Spring is around the corner, which means warmer weather and shedding clothes. But you don’t have to panic if the workout clothes you got for Christmas haven’t exactly been worn out. If you’ve been on a Winter hiatus, start anew with these tips for getting back into a healthy routine.
It’s common sense: The thing about living healthfully is that a lot of it is just common sense, says celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak (he’s responsible for Rihanna’s amazing Grammy body). When you can make a few healthy changes, do it. It doesn’t take much thought to know that moving around more burns more calories than sitting all day, or that you can get your exercise for the day by walking to the store instead of driving.
Every little bit counts: Harley also says that remembering this can also help you make the common sense decision. Instead of thinking of exercise as a huge daunting, boring task, think of your goals in smaller increments. When you walk around, every step or healthy food choice helps you to your goal.
Don’t overdo it: Going all out for it after not exercising for awhile can take its toll on your mind as well as your body. To prevent injury and a discouraged feeling, start small and work your way up slowly when you’re ready. “Take it slowly, bite off sizable aspects of your fitness routine that you can complete, don’t underdo but don’t overdo,” celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson recently told us. “Overdoing it is going to kill it. You can’t overhaul your entire fitness and health regimen in one day.”
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