Blowing Up Your Biggest Exercise Excuses & Myths

“I don’t have time.”

We know now that even 10 minutes is worth it. Making 5 minutes before lunch a power walk around your office building or better yet outdoors can do positive things. You’ll eat more mindfully. You won’t have as great an appetite. The foods you choose will tend to be lower in calories and healthier. If you haven’t had time all day a 10 minute stretch in the evening can help you sleep better. Is 20 or 30 minutes even better? It can be.

What I often observe however is if I go to the gym or go to my own basement with an hour I don’t necessarily get more done. Keep in mind I’m pretty focused. I go with a purpose and intention about my workout. Yet, what happens for me and those I observe is there’s more talking, more resting, more checking the phone or more thinking about what’s next.

When you have the pressure of time consider it an asset. I prioritize clearly and get done the most important things first. I move through the workout with intention and I move with intensity.

“As long as I do something I’ll burn fat.”

In my book You Still Got It, Girl! I shared a study that came out within the last couple years that makes this statement clearly wrong. Doing cardio, of the wrong type and timing, can make you fat. To avoid being dramatic, let me clarify.

Obese women subjects in a study performed cardiovascular activity as a part of a weight loss program. After the results were in a group of subjects was identified as over-compensaters. That is, they actually gained weight (fat weight). The wrong kind of exercise can stimulate appetite and fool you into feeling you’ve burned so many calories that you’ve earned the right to eat more.

Lifting light weight many times has not been studied. My educated guess, however, based on the outcome of lower intensity and longer lengthier exercise would suggest that over eating and appetite stimulation is more likely to happen. We do know from data that higher intensity exercise burns more fat during exercise as well as after exercise. You need to get clear on what kind of exercise you do and plan it well so you aren’t over exercising.

“Weights will make me bulky.” 

You may indeed be a mesomorph body type, that tends to be a more muscular body. Lifting weights with a specific protocol for your body type can help. Someone with a willowy lack of muscle for instance should do a bulking protocol. Someone with an hour glass figure that is fairly balanced will respond well to anything. The challenge for mesomorphs is that the routine we were all taught was 3 (sets) x 10 (repetitions) which is a bulking protocol. Picking up heavier weights and lifting them fewer times will make your muscles more dense. This is true. However, a dense muscle takes up less space. Fewer inches and smaller sizes.

The hormones responsible for bulking may not plaque you any longer after 50. Testosterone is something women after 50 will benefit from in the boardroom and the bedroom. Lifting weights is one way to get it. Testosterone is your ticket to a little alpha female and who doesn’t need a little of that? Think confidence.

“If I eat fewer calories than I burn I’ll lose weight.”

Unfortunately, this reduces the weight loss equation down to a math problem. If it worked we’d all be skinny. We’ve been using this route for decades and instead we’re fatter. There are other contributing factors: we increased our empty carb consumption as we decreased our consumption of fat, minimally decreasing caloric intake and in some cases increasing it.

We have found eating more healthy fat, that today includes even saturated fat and cholesterol, and reducing simple sugars in the obvious and not-so-obvious form (carbohydrates that are metabolized as sugars) tends to pack on the fat weight. So here, I say, its quality not quantity of what you eat.

It’s also a mistake to reduce your calories. I believe it’s a mistake to count them, unless only to get a benchmark and it’s most important if you are seriously overeating or underrating. You send a message to your body to burn fewer calories when you eat too little. It listens. It slows your metabolism and then you’re still at the same weight with a bigger problem.

“I’ll try it first on my own and use a trainer later.”

It’s time to realize that we all get a honeymoon period with new activities and goals. In our fifth decade and beyond we ought to be able to capitalize on that. When you try it yourself – whether that’s using a new club, beginning to lift weights, getting a regular start – if it doesn’t work you’re less likely to ask for help. You’re no longer in the honeymoon stage. You’ve convinced yourself it doesn’t work or you can’t do it. Worst case scenario is that you’re hurt, injured, or ill because you’ve overdone it.

Yet the real reason is no failure on your part, it’s information about what doesn’t work. For most people, that simply is a random act of anything. If you’re not sure what to do you begin with group exercise or you begin on cardio equipment where you can perch and watch others. Sound familiar? Others don’t have your knees, your needs, or your goals.

“If you don’t get results, you aren’t working hard enough.”

There are a lot of personal trainers who want you to believe this. In some cases it might be true. No one can throw that blanket statement on you however without an assessment. Looking at you as a WHOLE person is important. This isn’t about looking at what your heart rate gets to during exercise. It isn’t about looking at what you eat before and after exercise. It is part of each of those. It’s also about whether you sleep at night, and whether you’re under severe stress and have ways of dealing with it. It’s whether you have symptoms of hormone imbalance.

You may be surprised that you need another day of rest during the week not another day of torturous bootcamp or interval training. Your “fix” is not always intuitive and certainly an expert in exercise might too easily suggest more exercise. Like a chiropractor is going to suggest an adjustment or a physical therapist is going to suggest soft tissue manipulation.

“Choose between cardio, or yoga, or weights.”

You need them all. Yes, you may prefer one over the other. Contrary to popular belief yoga does not increase bone density to the point it will help prevent osteoporosis. Weight training does not improve cardiovascular fitness to the effect that you don’t need cardio. You need to take a good look (assess) at your lifestyle, your functional needs, your family history and determine not just what you like, but what you need to do today to be more fit in 10 or 20 years.

A study out just this January (2016) published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research revealed that after studying nearly 400 men and women across 6 decades (18 -80) that declines in middle age began occurring in significant amounts for women in their fourth decade (and in men in their fifth). That’s not at 40. That’s between 30 and 40. What’s more alarming is that women tend to live longer.

Get strength cardio and yoga habits begun early in your adult life and don’t let yourself stop them.

“More exercise is better.” 

The right dose of exercise is different for each of us. Like your unique biochemistry will determine how you respond to foods, some of us recover faster and some take longer. It’s not a weakness or even a sign of an untrained individual necessarily. So you jumping into a bootcamp 4-6 days a week could be a mistake. If you have the option of attending 6 days a week, wonderful! Attend such that you have adequate recovery to make progress not just get tired.

You don’t get your money’s worth by attending all the days a program is offered. You get your money’s worth by getting the transformation you want.

“Trends like body weight, kettle bells or suspension give me tons of choices.”

While they do offer more choices and many of these allow you to exercise at home more conveniently, not everything fits everyone’s needs. If it’s the difference between no exercise or being active, its probably better! Yet, you really want to start with your goals and your limiters. Do you for instance, have neck and upper back tension? Do you need osteoporosis prevention? Suspension methods of resistance can cause problems for already existing neck issues and not challenge the bone with enough force to have it positively respond.

Tools are great for variety. If you’re someone who gets bored of routine they can help make it fun again. I have kettle bells, suspension and spend time doing push ups! Yet, I know what I really need is two days of heavy weight training for 10 minutes to truly affect my bone density and boost my lean muscle maintenance. It’s when I look my best, feel my best, and move my best through other exercise.

You need to set the trend based on your needs rather than follow one based on innovation of a new exercise piece.

“Working out on empty burns more fat.”

True and not true. You potentially will burn more fat but you’ll be much less comfortable and you’ll burn it so slowly that it doesn’t compare to what you can do implementing other strategies. The studies that back up exercise on an empty stomach (in a fasting state) were done with men fed a high calorie diet that was at least 50% fat. Most of us health-conscious individuals don’t do that.

​A similar study set up with young women who were health conscious showed that eating before exercise vs not eating before exercise resulted in no difference in fat burning or energy expenditure. There is a difference in comfort level, however. General data about eating or not show that subjects exercise longer or harder without perceiving it as such if they’ve had something to eat before exercise.

“I can’t run so I’m never going to look like “that.”

For some reason runners have got the gold standard of approval. It’s as if running is better. In truth, it’s about heart rate, intensity, and duration across exercise. So if you can’t run, you can swim or bike. Reach the same energy expenditure and you’ll achieve the same results essentially.

When I work with women who are limited by the amount of weight bearing they can do because of injury, or weight, we bring it back to intensity and heart rate awareness. If you’ve been runner but can’t now or choose to limit running so that you can run for decades longer (my personal plan) be aware that riding a bike your heart rate response will be about 10 beats lower because of the lack of gravity resistance you’re doing. That means, it will still “feel” as hard at a lower heart rate. Swimming is harder though possible to take heart rate but remember at a horizontal position if you’re actually swimming… your heart rate will also not be quite as high. You can monitor by “feel” in the water instead. Use your personal “fast, medium, and slow” speeds.

“I was so sore I couldn’t sit down: it was a great workout.”

Unfortunately, both trainers and we exercisers can play into this. It’s only evidence that you did significant damage to muscle tissue. All exercise breaks down the body temporarily. This type of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) requires some smart response. More recovery activity before you’re pain-free and should return to the same exercise again. Reduce intensity so that you’re not compromised in daily activities of life. A little soreness or awareness after is reasonable. Can’t sit down? Someone is coming closer to injury than to improving you.

“Cutting down on fat will help me lose fat.”

Several studies support otherwise. It depends a great deal on who you are and how you respond. There is data that suggest obese individuals who cut down on fat do lose more weight. Don’t run too far with that study however. There seems to be a line that you cross and then the carbohydrate and insulin connection return causing an increase of fat cells, expansion of fat cells, and more likelihood of storing fat if too many simple carbs are consumed. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), like that of coconut oil that you’re probably using now for something actually enhance fat burning and resist storage.

This is an individually determined solution and potentially temporary approach based on what is going on with your body.

“I look good so I don’t need to exercise.”

Disease doesn’t discriminate. I can’t argue that for most of us how we look is motivation for exercise. If you’ve got it, though, you need to keep it. If you’re here and reading this, I know that this statement is not one you believe. Yet, we all know one person who does. I’ve had that one person, a close friend, experience a heart attack on the way to work. Don’t let that happen to you.

Don’t believe yourself for a minute when you’re tempted to throw in the towel and buy into one of these limiting beliefs. Surround yourself with the right information and support that tells you when you’re crazy making! It’s not a matter of whether you can, its whether you want to work that hard….not to do the changes but to change your thoughts. That’s the hardest part.

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