It’s time for New Year’s resolutions and promises to ourselves that we’re going to lose some weight, change our bodies, and incorporate better habits. Is the gym really the best place to start? The answer might surprise you. Here are the five myths about the gym that everyone believes.
Myth #1: If you want to lose weight, you have to go to the gym.
Truth: What you eat matters far more than anything you could do at the gym. People like to combine “diet and exercise” for a variety of reasons, but the truth is that the calories burned during a workout matter very little in the context of weight loss. You couldn’t possibly spend enough time at the gym to burn enough calories to matter.
Change your diet to lose weight. Go to the gym to give yourself more accountability about what you do eat. Nobody wants to ruin the results of a hard-earned workout by eating junk food. Does this mean you don’t need to go to the gym in order to lose weight? Yes. But, before you get too excited, keep in mind that, of the >95% of people who lose a large amount of weight and manage to keep it off long-term, going to the gym 4-5 days a week is almost always one of the changes they make.
In fact, I can usually identify the people who are yo-yo dieters by whether or not they’re able to make the gym a habit. Those who view it as a punishment or just something they have to do in order to lose weight generally end up putting the weight back on within a few months after reaching their goal. Those who incorporate it into their long-term lives and make it a daily priority tend to stay fit and healthy for the rest of their lives.
In other words: If you want to lose weight, change what you eat. If you want to keep it off after you reach your goal, make the gym part of your daily routine, starting immediately!
Myth #2: Cardio is the best way to lose weight.
Truth: Cardio is a great calorie burner, but it does very little to boost your metabolism. And in the long run, getting your metabolism sped up is the key to long-term weight loss success.
I believe the perfect formula for weight loss is 4-5 days a week in the gym, where 25% of your time should be spent doing cardio, and 75% of your time should be spent lifting heavy weights. Adding muscle to your body is the single most important thing you can do to speed up your metabolism. And, if you’re one of those people who’ve spent a lifetime in the yo-yo dieting world, then you’ve probably burned off the majority of your muscle (and slowed your metabolism to a crawl). Weights, weights, and more weights are the key to revving things up long-term.
Myth #3: People who go to the gym every day can eat whatever they want.
Truth: People who try to “eat their workouts,” or say “I’ll eat the <junk>, and just spend an extra hour in the gym tomorrow,” will almost always gain weight. The math here just isn’t on your side. It could take you an hour on the treadmill to burn the calories from a single cookie.
People who go to the gym every day actually tend to pass on junk food because they understand this math. They can either bank the workout towards their health and vitality, or they can apply the workout towards a cookie. Nobody wants to spend an hour of their day sweating and working their butt off for nothing, which is why you almost never see fit and healthy people eating garbage, even though they go to the gym every morning.
Myth #4: Being an overweight person in a gym is embarrassing.
Truth: A huge percentage of people in gyms (more than 90%) are above their ideal body weight. Many have even been where you are, and some are in a worse situation than you. But everyone at the gym has one thing in common: they’re all working to better themselves in some way. In fact, regardless of your size, there are going to be people looking at you and hoping to be where you are someday.
Never let embarrassment stop you from achieving your goals or becoming who you want to be. Put on your grown-up pants and go face your problems head on! But also realize, nobody at the gym is watching you. Nobody cares.
Myth #5: The weight room will make girls look bulky and muscley.
Truth: Girls who lift weights tend to be the ones you see on the cover of magazines. You don’t get a toned body from doing cardio (you just end up skinny, but flabby). The only way to get that body-builder bulky look (as a female) is to take steroids and hormone injections. Repeat after me: “The weight room is where I should be spending my time if I want the body of my dreams!”
This particular myth is heavily perpetuated by women who don’t prescribe to body sculpting, spend hours a day on a treadmill, and can’t figure out why their body doesn’t look the way they want.
Your time in the weight room should challenge you. Lift heavy and push yourself to your absolute limits! If it doesn’t challenge you, it’s not going to change you. You might even consider hiring a personal trainer to build a customized weight-room routine that will help you achieve your specific goals.
Also, lifting heavy (for men and women), is the single most effective way to boost your metabolism. Simply put, more muscle = more food!
One warning… you’re going to gain weight.
Many people start a new fitness/gym routine and discover over the next few days or weeks that they’ve gained weight. How is this possible? The answer is that sore muscles retain water. Lots of water. While your body is healing, it pulls water into those areas to give the muscles extra healing power. This translates to a few pounds of weight gain on the scale. It’ll last a few days, to a few weeks. But it’s nothing to worry about. (And no, it’s not that “muscle weighs more than fat.” While that’s true, you can’t possibly add several pounds of muscle to your body in just a few weeks).