4 Training Myths

by Stephanie Anaya, MS, CSCS, USATF-I

As a trainer, I hear TONS of fitness and weight loss myths and am asked a lot of questions.

Anything from magical supplements, detox diets, to exhausting exercise routines. There are so many out there that I could go on for days but I’m only going to focus on a handful.



 1- Spot Reducing

“What do I need to do to lose this?”, asks a woman as she pinches the back of her arm.

A former professor of mine referred to this phenomenon as “bingo wings”.  Now you’ve got a wonderful picture of flabby arms waving in the wind as all the elderly ladies take turns yelling “Bingo” during senior lunch.

The back of the upper arm, inner thigh, and belly are all typical “problem” areas that people want to lose fat from and everyone asks what exercises they need to do to get rid of it.

The answer?

You cannot target a specific area to lose weight from.

This is called “spot reducing”.  The body chooses where it wants to store fat.

Unfortunately, the body is really good at getting rid of the fat in places where we want them (i.e. the bust region) and it seems like an eternity to get those problem areas to follow suit.

So how DO we lose our unwanted flab?  Not by doing crunches or lots of push ups or clam shells.  Yes, those will help build muscle in those areas but will still remain covered by the fat.  In order to expose the 6-pack abs, you’ve got to lose that fat that lies on top of them.

To lose that fat, you’ve got to have a caloric deficit by either decreasing what you put in your mouth and/or increasing caloric expenditure (exercise), which leads me to our next topic…

2- Using a single method (diet or exercise) to lose weight 

Without getting into too many details or exceptions to the rule, In order to lose one pound of body fat, a caloric deficit of 3500 calories (kcals) needs to happen.

This happens by either decreasing the amount of calories we eat and/or increasing the amount of miles or minutes we put in at the gym.

Have you ever heard anyone successfully losing weight by doing just one of these things?  Yes, it’s possible but takes a lot more work and time than if you combine the two methods.

Let’s say, hypothetically, it costs 100 kcals to walk a mile.  It would take 350 miles to lose 10 pounds if all other variables stayed the same.  If you walk a mile every day, it will take 350 days to lose 10 pounds.  Let’s say you take away that dessert coffee (200 kcals) you have every day at 10 am, in addition to that daily mile.  That’s 300 kcals and it would take roughly 117 days to lose 10 pounds.

So if you want to lose weight at a faster rate, combine exercise while consuming fewer calories.

3- Stretching before a workout

Many people think that it’s necessary to stretch as your warm up or part of it.

Well, the jury is still out on this one.

In a 2011 review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretches on performance (1), they found that there were studies that concluded that stretching was detrimental to performance and studies that concluded that stretching was not detrimental to performance.

In conclusion, if you aren’t worried about performance, stretch after your workout or after a light warm up.  Perform dynamic stretching pre-workout if you are focusing on increased performance, (1).

To stretch or not to stretch?  I will leave that one up to you.

My personal preference- I stretch after a workout because it’s relaxing and I don’t even stretch all the time.

 4- Power vs. Endurance training

This is about the rule of specificity.  Specificity means that if you want to be a 20-minute 5K runner, you want to train at that pace. If you want to be a 12 second 100m sprinter, you want to train at that pace.  This refers to all aspects of training, including strength training.

I am going to have my 5K-runner train on each aspect of the race (including the “sprint” to the finish) by having them run the proper distances and speeds during intervals and long runs.  In the weight room, I’m not going to have my distance runner power lift because he doesn’t need to be powerful or explosive during the 5K.

For my sprinter, I’m not going to have her go out for a long run because it serves no purpose for her race.  Yes, it may be good for her heart but what part of her race is going to have her at less than 100% of her exercise capacity?

The point is, you train how you want to compete.

If my workouts only consist of me running 3 miles in 30 minutes for 5 days a week, my next 5K race is not going to be far off of 30 minutes.  So train specifically for the results you want!

We want to hear your thoughts and training questions in the comments below!

Happy Running!

1. Eur J Appl Physiol (2011) 111:2633-2651

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