The health and fitness world is full of myths and misconceptions. We’re constantly bombarded with ads and articles about new diets, workout plans, and conflicting studies about what we should and shouldn’t do.
As a personal trainer for over 12 years, I find myself having the same conversations with people around a few recurring themes. To help answer some of those questions once and for all, here are a few things I’ve learned that should clear up some of the confusion and help you be a healthier, fitter human.
1. There are no quick fixes, shortcuts or magic pills when it comes to weight loss, health or fitness
Sorry to burst your bubble right off the bat, but it’s true. You can certainly speed up the process, avoid mistakes and maximise your efforts with tried-and-tested methods, but the key words here are your efforts. Working hard and being disciplined is a prerequisite. The trick is knowing and putting into practice the advice and methods that are more effective than others, so you’re able to maximise your time.
2. The scales aren't a good way to track fat loss
Unless you have over 10-15kg to lose, the scales aren’t going to give you a great deal of useful feedback. The issue with scale weight is it doesn't distinguish between muscle and fat, and most people know by now that increasing muscle will help you lose body fat and make you look better. Losing muscle is bad, increasing muscle is good, but the scales won’t tell you that!
3. Soreness is OK, but it’s not a marker of a good workout
Just because you aren’t sore the next day, don’t think that you didn’t train effectively. Some people tend to get quite sore and some don’t, it’s quite an individual thing based on your body's own inflammatory response to training.
4. Stacking fitness on top of dysfunction will only lead to injury or plateau
This fact is greatly overlooked in much of the fitness industry. While movement quality and training technique isn't ‘the sexy stuff’ which is going to motivate you and make for an inspirational marketing campaign, it’s often the difference between progress and results, or spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. Even worse, training with poor technique can lead to acute or long-term chronic injury.
5. Attitude is the number-one thing when it comes to your results
If you have a positive, can-do attitude with a genuine desire to improve and progress – you will get results. A bad attitude will hold you back significantly. There's a direct correlation between attitude and success, regardless of genetics and natural abilities.
6. Don't buy into the idea that just getting older will lead to a decline in your physical performance
None of us are going to live forever, but the more time you spend keeping unhealthy habits, the worse you'll get over time. The cause isn't your age, but the amount of time spent living a lifestyle which is detrimental to your body.
Is smoking for 10 years worse than smoking for five years? Is banging your head against a brick wall for 10 minutes worse for you than doing it for five minutes? Of course the answer is yes, and it has nothing to do with being older.
7. Exercise is just like brushing your teeth
No one gets excited about brushing their teeth, but you know it needs to be done, and you just do it. And you wouldn’t clean your teeth five times one week and only once the next. By the same token, exercise shouldn’t happen in just eight-week or 12-week blocks, it should be a normal part of your routine.
8. There are many variables that have contributed to your current level of health and fitness
Some people are genetically predisposed to being leaner, stronger and fitter. Some people started exercising later on in life, so have less training experience and are playing ‘catch up’. Some people grew up eating poorly and are now trying to change deeply ingrained habits and reverse the consequences. Some people just need to work harder than others to get the results they want. We're all different. It’s important to understand where you are along the spectrum and where you want to be, and match your dietary efforts and exercise output accordingly.
9. Recovery from exercise is just as important as the workout itself
A healthy post workout meal, seven to nine hours of sleep, stress reduction and some downtime are essential to a balanced program and optimal results. You don’t get results from the workout; you get results by recovering from the workout.
10. You are what you eat
What you eat (or don’t eat) might have the single biggest impact on your health and lay the framework for your physical fitness and body composition potential.
But also think about the quality of the food you eat. If it’s a fruit or vegetable, how was it grown? If it’s an animal, how was it raised? Did it live in a cage or roam free? Was it given a natural grass-fed diet or an unnatural grain fed diet? Was it pumped full of hormones and antibiotics? Your food is only as good as the health of the plant or animal it came from. You are what you eat.
11. If you go looking for an excuse, you’ll always find one
But just remember than somewhere in the world there's someone else, in worse circumstances than you, still reaching their goals.
12. Results don’t happen in a linear fashion
Your body doesn’t work like that. Sometimes you just have to embrace the grind and deal with the monotony of eating well and training and have faith in the process. Don’t expect consistent progress every week. Sometimes things just have to come together to hit a critical mass or a tipping point and, all of a sudden, you’ll notice a big increase in fat loss, or a breakthrough in strength. Embrace the grind.
13. There are plenty of ways to improve your diet – not a one-size-fits-all approach
Not everyone has to follow the same eating plan as long as the fundamental principles stay the same – eat natural whole foods, remove processed foods, provide your body with sufficient nutrients to maintain health, fitness, muscle and strength, and create an energy or calorie deficit to lose unwanted body fat.
14. What you look like now, and how fit and capable you are, is largely the result of how you eat and move every single day
This will also be the case in one, five, or 10 years from now. How do you currently eat and move every day? And what adjustments can you make to help you reach your health and fitness goals?
About Ben Longley
Ben Longley has been a personal trainer for over 12 years and is the owner of The Fit Stop, a personal training and group training facility in Melbourne, Australia, specialising in strength training, functional movement and fat loss. Visit their website for more info about their services.