By Martin Foster
I’ve been a personal trainer for 16 years, but it still surprises me how many myths and misconceptions surround the fitness industry. Even when I’ve explained the reality to clients, sometimes in great detail, certain old wives tales still emerge. I suppose the stories have been around for long you can see why people still have doubts, so here are the facts that explode the myths.
Muscle turns to fat
I can remember being 14 or 15 when I wanted to get into some form of weight training and talked this over with my father. Amongst the many countless gems of home spun logic passed on to me over the years, he guaranteed that as soon as I was finished with my weight training the muscle almost overnight would turn to fat.
Physiologically, scientifically, medically this is completely impossible. The structure that makes up both muscle and fat are just not capable of turning from one to another. An unused muscle just shrinks - you can’t turn an apple into an orange and you can’t turn a muscle into fat.
Lifting weights will make you huge and bulky
This one applies particularly to the ladies. I can’t stress how important weight training is, for anybody especially if you’re 40 plus. But how many times have I heard, usually from some semi anorexic female that they are worried about getting huge and masculine, or that they gain muscle very easily.
First, to get big you have to eat big. There is no living entity that grows from nothing - everything needs food. Even championship bodybuilders, men and women who are dedicated to getting rapid muscle growth, must consume between 6-10,000 calories daily to reach their potential. Yes your clothes will fit differently and you may look a little bigger. This is because you have changed shape and a trained muscle always looks bigger than an untrained muscle, but you won’t get huge. On a regular diet it’s just impossible.
Weight training makes you slower
Actually weight training makes you quicker. The stronger a muscle is the faster it contacts. The quicker the contraction the quicker you move. Basic stuff. Got any doubts, take a look at sprinters, rugby players, track and field athletes - the list is endless. They’re very quick and very muscular human beings.
Weight training makes you muscle bound
I’m never quite sure what this means but I’m guessing it’s about lack of mobility. If you work all the muscle groups proportionally and through a complete range of movement your flexibility has to improve. Sitting at a desk won’t do this, neither will working in a shop or on a building site. On the other hand working chest and biceps only (the tight-tee-shirt-for-the-pub look) aside from looking slightly odd could possibly restrict certain movements. So, programme your routine properly and you won’t have any flexibility problems.
Exercise is bad you
Whilst running in my first marathon in Nottingham, surrounded by thousands of fellow runners and spectators, a sad and unfortunate incident happened. Around the 4klm mark, a man died of a heart attack - no ordinary man but a man of supreme fitness. A few years later Dr Kenneth Cooper, the man who coined the phrase ‘aerobics’ and an extremely fit individual also died of a heart attack whilst running. Can you see the connection? Running, exercise, heart attacks, death!
Actually what both of these men had in common as well as many others who have died exercising was an inherent weakness of the heart. Yes it is possible to die when exercising but it is extremely unlikely. If you haven’t exercised in a while (around a year) and you smoke or are overweight have a family history of heart disease or are 35 plus, get a check-up. Exercise almost certainly wont kill you but there might be something you are unaware of that could. Get a check-up anyway.