5 Myths About Fitness That I Wish I Didn’t Believe as a Beginner

No matter how much your gym rat friend raves about exercising, we all know that working out isn’t the easiest hobby to pick up or stick to. This might be especially true for us women since we’re generally less familiar with the gym (and so perhaps more intimidated by it). But at the same time, we’re more targeted by advertisers in the fitness industry. I can’t remember the number of times when misconceptions and irrational fears had held me back in my fitness journey - and I’d hate to see another person go through that. So, if you're planning to lead a more active lifestyle, here are some fitness myths I wish someone had debunked for me when I first started working out.

 

  1. 1. Ab workouts “give you abs”

    It’s tempting to believe that, by following the same ab workout as that fitness guru on YouTube, we will get the same shredded abs like hers, but sadly this is not the case. 

    First of all, everyone has abs. The term “abs” is usually used to refer to the rectus abdominis muscle, also known as the six-pack, located on the front of our trunk, between the ribs and pelvis. 

    However, whether this muscle is visible or not depends largely on our body fat percentage and distribution - both of which cannot be easily changed just by doing ab workouts. There is consensus among scientists that “spot reduction” - selectively exercising a part of the body to reduce fat in that region - does not work.

    What those YouTube videos don’t mention to us, is that people who have visible abs also do a myriad of other physical exercises, monitor their diet and nutrition, or are simply less genetically likely to store fats around the abdominal area. This is why, even with the same ab workout, our physiques will still look different from one another. So, don’t be too disheartened if a popular two-week abs challenge didn’t seem to work for you.

    That being said, it’s important to train our abs, because it plays a crucial supporting role - such as stabilization and injury prevention - when we perform other exercises. It is part of our “core” muscle group for a reason!

  2. 2. Weights are only for guys who want to get bulky

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    We’ve seen so many pictures of fierce bodybuilders with their heavily loaded barbells, that it’s almost in our habit to equate weight training with big muscles. Many women are scared of appearing overly muscular and shy away from using weights in our workouts. But the reality of weight training is more complicated than that.

    Research shows that while men and women have similar percentages of muscle growth in response to weight training, men experience greater absolute changes in muscle size because they have more muscle mass to begin with. So even if we girls lift the same weight as an incredibly jacked guy next to us in the gym, chances are we won’t grow as much muscle as him. 

    Research on the effects of weight training on young women also shows that such training can improve women’s body composition without significantly enlarging their muscles. Meanwhile, it has been found that women actually have better gains in strength after resistance training, compared to men. 

    Some scientists think that hormonal differences, such as higher testosterone levels in men than women, may play a role in the difference in muscle growth, although this link is not definitive

    Moreover, weight training has many proven benefits. Not only does it improve our physical health such as strength and cardiorespiratory endurance, it also enhances our psychological well-being such as mood, perceived stress, and even job satisfaction.

    So the next time you want to try working out with some dumbbells or barbells, just go for it! I promise you’ll feel a new type of strong and awesome.

  3. 3. If you're a noob at the gym, you'll be judged by others

    You might be surprised how little people actually care about you at the gym! Most are preoccupied with their own routines, and will likely not pay much attention to other people around them.

    Besides, there is nothing embarrassing about being a beginner at the gym (or, for that matter, at anything). Everyone was a beginner at one point, and it’s respectable that you’re venturing into the world of weights and machines to improve your health.

    It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by an unfamiliar environment, so don’t be afraid to approach someone, such as the gym staff, and ask for assistance. In all my years of going to the gym, I’ve never come across anyone unwilling to help another person.

  4. 4. You should work out to lose weight

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    Sure, losing weight is a source of motivation for many women (as well as men) to work out. It’s human nature to want to look good, and having a goal can help keep us going. 

    But like all other pursuits in life, over-fixation on just one goal may be detrimental to your mental - and sometimes physical - health. For example, after some training, you will likely gain muscle mass, which might actually increase the number on your scale. Focusing too much on your weight might make you unnecessarily demoralised or stressed out, when in fact it doesn’t accurately reflect your fitness level. 

    There is also a possible relationship between an over-fixation on weight and excessive exercising. This puts you at a greater risk of injury and could be unsustainable if it disrupts your day-to-day life.

    It’s important to remember that there are heaps of other reasons why people work out: to build strength and endurance; to work on agility or flexibility; to improve cardiovascular health; to get better quality sleep, better mood; to have fun… It’s perfectly okay to have an aesthetics-related goal, but that’s not the be-all and end-all of your fitness journey.

  5. 5. It’s solely your fault that you’re not seeing results

    For a good while, I thought that being “fit” was a linear path and that, if I couldn’t do things like pull-ups or squat a certain amount of weight, it meant I wasn’t strict enough with myself or pushing hard enough. But as it turned out, this mindset wasn’t exactly right. 

    The truth is, our body is not a simple machine; it has evolved, for thousands of years, into a symphony of complex biological processes. Even in a strictly controlled environment, we can’t expect the body to change exactly how we want it to. 

    Exercising is not the determining factor of your physical state. How we feel, look and function is also influenced by other things like life circumstances, stress level, or even hormones. Maybe you can’t do intensive workouts because you need to reserve more energy for school or work. Maybe you aren’t going to the gym very frequently because you're spending quality time with loved ones. Maybe your strength or stamina is poor because you’re going to have your period soon. 

    I’m not saying we should always find excuses for ourselves; discipline and consistency are key in fitness. But it’s also important to honour our limits, stay patient and be gentle with ourselves. Working out should add value to our lives, instead of taking away all the fun and joy. And at the end of the day, whether you are “fit” or not doesn’t make you more or less of a person.

myths about gymming, women in fitness 4 Photo by CHU Gummies from Unsplash To conclude, cultivating a habit of working out is no easy feat, but neither is it as mysterious or scary as we might think. It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but we should also keep a critical eye on certain information and claims about fitness. Don’t let myths dictate your movements; stay active in a way that serves you.