I went to a water aerobics class tonight with two lovely and awesome ladies. The class was fun until the teacher, as part of her instructions to us to do twists, said “You’re whittling your waist”. That’s one – I’m irritated but able to return to my happy place.
Then we started doing crunches in the water. She confused the lats for the obliques, twice. That’s two, more irritated but still able to return to my happy place.
Then when we started doing side crunches she said “now you’re losing your love handles.” That’s three – my workout is now fueled by rage.
I was annoyed at the “diet talk” – as if I should have a problem with my waist or love handles, but that’s not my bigggest problem. I’m seeing red because this person who is supposed to be a fitness professional was giving people blatantly incorrect information. It happens a lot, it shouldn’t but it does. I was first certified as a personal trainer in 1995, and I just re-certified once again this year so I can tell you that people who go through certification should absolutely know better. Here are some of the most common stupid things that fitness instructors say:
Sit ups don’t make your waist thinner, side bends won’t change your love handles, adductor presses (inner thigh presses) won’t make your inner thighs smaller. We already know that weight loss almost never works, so it should be no surprise that you can’t make certain fat go away by working the muscles near it.
Melt Away The Fat
The evil cousin of spot reducing, this is the idea that you can somehow make the fat (often in a specific area) melt away. No. No. No. You can work that thigh master until the cows come home and it will strengthen your inner thighs but not change the fat around them.
Work Your Lower Abs
This drives me nuts. There is No. Such. Thing. as lower abs. The rectus abdominis is made up of two long muscles that are parallel with connective tissue down the middle and fibrous tissue going across (that’s what creates the “six pack” there are not six muscles, some people even have 2 bands or 4.) Whether you are doing crunches or lower leg lifts, you are working the exact same muscles. There are no lower abs, anyone who tells you to work your lower abs should be shot or at lease start looking for another career.
Tone Your Muscles, Don’t Bulk Up
I think that this one is a shame. There are a ton of benefits that can be gained from strength training but this myth puts women off of it. It is impossible for most women to “bulk up” without a massive amount of effort. Lifting reasonably heavy weight has tons of benefits including making you stronger and supporting mobility, strengthening bones to prevent osteoporosis, retain muscle mass as you age, and if you are fat it helps with the physics of moving a fat body around etc. If someone tells you to lift a 1 pound pink weight 100 times a day so that you tone but don’t bulk up, you can tell them with great confidence that they are full of crap. You either get stronger, weaker, or maintain but if you want the benefits of strength training feel free to save yourself sometime and lift heavier weights and fewer reps.
Hey – you know what I was just thinking? All of these issues would cease to exist if we created fitness goals around, um, fitness – instead of trying to manipulate body size. What if we lifted weights based on what we wanted to lift (grandkid? Boxes full of files? Ourselves?) What if we decided that we wanted to be able to do 100 push ups because it’s a fun challenge and without the empty hope that it will give us someone else’s arms? Of course you are under no obligation to care about fitness at all, but if you do and you interact with fitness professionals there is a decent chance that they will lie to you either out of ignorance or for profit, and I kind of hope that you call them on it.
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