One of my favorite things to do is break down the myths behind diet and exercise. We are told so many lies based on “broscience” and marketing schemes that it’s easy to get caught up in a false reality when it comes to your health and fitness. It’s not until you start to question these things, analyze them, compare them with actual science that you learn how to really optimize your body…both for ballet and your overall health and well-being.
So, let’s get down & dirty with some of the more common myths circling out there…and give you better tools for accomplishing your goals while we're at it:
Myth: “I’m so out of breath running this variation…I need to do more cardio!”
You probably go to the easy answer when struggling with stamina – up the cardio. So, you jump on the treadmill or bike and push yourself longer and harder than ever before. And sure, after consistently doing that for a period of time, you’ll notice improvements in your cardio capacity with that specific activity - whether it’s cycling or running or whatever. But when you go back to do your variation, you very well may still struggle with the same stamina issues. So, what gives?
Sometimes what you need is not cardio…but strength. If your body is not strong enough to handle the demands of the variation you’re working on, it’s going to gas you out every time as your muscles are required to use 100% of their capacity to get the job done, leaving you spent and gasping for air. But, if you were to focus on making improvements to your strength instead of cardio, your body will be better equipped to handle the job at hand. Instead of requiring 100% muscle effort, stronger muscles can be more efficient at doing the work, meaning you’ll have energy and oxygen left to spare at the end of your variation.
Myth: “I want to get rid of my belly flab…so I need to do a bunch of ab work to burn off the fat!”
Everybody loves this one – the myth of spot reduction. And boy, do we wish it were true! It would sure make things a lot easier! But if we want to be real here, we have to accept that spot reduction in terms of body fat is absolutely not possible (unless you are talking about liposuction or cool-sculpting…but that’s a whole other issue).
First of all, working out doesn’t have as much to do with fat loss as you might think. Secondly, your hormones and genetics mainly determine where your unique body stores its fat. Working out like a maniac on your midsection (aka doing 1000 crunches every day) is not going to burn belly fat.
The best strategy is to focus on your diet - eating the right kinds of foods that encourage your body to burn its fat stores for energy. You will eventually lose overall body fat. However, your “problem areas” (the areas that you carry the most body fat) are probably going to be the last places you lose excess fat. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the picture you see in your mind of how you want to look might be impossible for your unique body. Sometimes the lesson is that that’s something you have to accept and appreciate…rather than fight against.
Myth: “I need to work out every day to be fit & healthy…exercise is good for me.”
Well in a way, yes it is. But it’s not the workout itself that is good for you. How your body responds to the exercise is where the health benefits lie. It’s what your body does in the 48-72 hours afterwards as a result of the challenge you put your body through that matters. Creating the desired response requires not just a strategy behind the workout. Proper nourishment & recovery time are also essential components that factor into the equation when it comes to leveling up in the health & fitness department.
But the actual workout itself is a stress on your body. And if you do too much of it, you wear out your parts that much faster. Just like an expensive sports car, you only get so much allotted mileage out of your body before something breaks or gets worn down. The more you run it, the more you risk damaging it. The best kind of workout creates just enough positive stress to stimulate an adaptive response from your body….while minimizing unnecessary wear and tear that just burns through your mileage faster. This is what makes you better – fitter, stronger, healthier - while preserving you for the long game.
Myth: “I have a problem with this area…therefore that’s what I need to obsess over and constantly work on.”
Sometimes the area you have a problem with is not the problem. Often, the issue is due to a seemingly unrelated area being weak. Let me give you my favorite example. I always thought I had to strengthen my hip flexors in order to get my extensions up. But, I had chronic pain in that area and always felt super tight as is. It wasn’t until I started working on the glutes and hamstrings of my supporting leg that my extensions improved. Not only that, but my chronic hip flexor pain went away!!! Now I can focus on my extensions coming from my supporting leg and core while relaxing the front of my hip.
Sometimes it just takes a subtle shift in focus to figure things out on your body and optimize your machine to the best of your ability. So don't get stuck obsessing over what you assume the problem is. Let yourself dig a little deeper and take a full body scan to see if there are other areas that need your attention.
Photo credit: Estilo Antunes