No pain, no gain? More like no pain, most gains.
If there were a book of fitness myths, it would be longer than the Encyclopedia Britannica. As a personal trainer and health coach, I’ve heard them all. Clients want to know why they can’t get six-pack abs or why they aren’t seeing results despite crushing workouts left and right.
I tell them it’s probably because they read, heard, or saw something that stipulated they must do this or that to reach their goal. I tell them they took bad advice — they believed a lie created by a marketing think tank somewhere.
With that, I’ll leave you with five (more) fitness myths that need to be cleared up right now, since our first post on fitness myths was evidently eye-opening for many.
1. No pain, no gain.
The truth: Your workouts shouldn’t leave you in pain.
If you dread every workout because you know you’re about to endure pain, you’re not doing the right type of workout. The famous “no pain, no gain” saying is part of the harmful “no excuses” fitness narrative that tells us we should all be left in searing pain every time we work out.
That is not the case.
Let me clarify: It is absolutely okay to do tough workouts sometimes. Every so often, it’s nice to just put your head down, work hard, and work up a nice sweat and a muscle burn. But you shouldn’t be working out that hard every time you hit the gym.
Restorative exercise, like walking, cycling, and yoga, are just as valuable as running, circuit training, and weight lifting. Your body needs breaks to recover, and crushing your body during every session will eventually backfire in the form of an injury or burnout.
2. Women get bulky from lifting weights.
The truth: NOPE!
Smarter Sweat co-founder and coach Ashley Pfantz covered this myth in detail, but I’ll give you the short story here: Women will not get “bulky” from lifting weights because most women do not lift heavy enough or often enough; most women do not eat enough calories or protein to bulk up; and most women do not have enough testosterone to build massive muscles.
So, nope, lifting weights doesn’t make women bulky, but what lifting weights does do for women is help them earn the “toned” or “lean” physique they want, give them more energy and strength, and boost their confidence.
3. Early morning is the best time to work out.
The truth: The best time to work out is the time that works best for you.
There’s just something about an Instagram feed that curates 6 a.m. workouts, morning green juices, and coffee with a side of gratitude journaling — and I’m totally one to post the first two, because that’s what works for me. I absolutely love moving my body first thing in the morning and drinking a “morning cocktail” that makes me feel good.
But, you’re not obligated to enjoy the same things and you shouldn’t feel like you are. Early morning is not the best time to work out. The best time to work out is a time that you can meet consistently. If you just can’t stand the idea of waking up before the sun, lacing up your sneaks, and hitting a workout, then don’t do that. You won’t ever find consistency doing something you hate.
Instead, experiment with times of day and choose a time frame for your workout that A) you can stick to three to five days a week, and B) makes you feel good.
4. Having visible abs means you’re healthy.
The truth: Visible abs are the biggest scam of our generation.
Having a six-pack does not mean you’re healthy. It means you have a low enough body fat percentage that your abdominal muscles are visible. For some people, that’s fine, but for others (including most women), that’s not healthy nor sustainable.
We’ve all been so conditioned to think that visible abs are the epitome of healthy or fit. In reality, visible abs are a sign of some dang good genetics or a lifestyle that involves refusing your favorite foods, eating in a calorie deficit, and exercising for several hours per week.
5. You must do cardio to lose weight.
The truth: Lifting weights revs your metabolism more than cardio ever will.
Cardio is so good for your health — we’re definitely not advocating against cardio as a tactic for achieving a healthier mind and body. However, cardio alone shouldn’t be anyone’s plan for losing weight. Cardio typically burns more calories per session than weightlifting, but over the long term, resistance training is the better bet.
Lifting weights helps you build muscle, which increases your body’s resting metabolism. Muscle is an extremely metabolic tissue, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. Cardio doesn’t promote muscle growth the way that resistance training does, meaning it doesn’t affect your resting metabolism in the same way.
Let’s get this straight: If you are a true beginner, you will lose weight no matter what type of movement you do. Your body isn’t used to burning extra calories, so initial weight loss will come quickly. However, the more you do a certain type of exercise, the more efficient your body becomes, and the fewer calories you burn while doing said exercise.
The above is particularly true for cardio, because the potential for progression is lower than with weightlifting. Case in point: No matter how much you go jogging, you’ll only ever jog so fast. When you lift weights, you can manipulate your progression in several ways (weight, reps, sets, rest intervals, etc) and continue to challenge your body — continual challenge means continual changes to your body.
Smarter Sweat takeaways
Fitness myths abound and they always will: It’s up to everyone to use their best judgement when evaluating a health or fitness claim.
One of our main goals at Smarter Sweat is to dismantle fitness myths that promote unhealthy, restrictive, and harmful habits, so we’ll continue to publish posts like this. If you’re curious about a health or fitness claim, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll look into it!
P.S. If you want to know what productive, healthy training looks like, grab our free 7-day workout program. From warm-up to cool-down, we have you covered for a full week, and you can do these workouts anywhere.
By Amanda Capritto
Amanda is the cofounder of Smarter Sweat. She's a certified personal trainer, health coach, and functional fitness coach. She also owns another business, where she writes about all things fitness, nutrition, travel and lifestyle.
About Smarter Sweat
Smarter Sweat is a fitness company built from the ground up by fitness experts Amanda Capritto and Ashley Phantz. Amanda and Ashley are both dead-set on cutting through the clutter of the fitness industry and providing raw, real, utterly honest information about fitness and wellness.