For any women reading this, it’s likely that you’ve fallen victim to some of the most common fitness myths that surround women. Maybe it’s about how lifting weights will make you bulky (guilty, but it doesn’t), or that you can spot reduce fat (unfortunately, not a thing). Maybe you still divide food into “good” and “bad” foods — please don’t.
Whether or not you’ve been gullible to them in the past, we’re here to set you straight with the help of a pro, Kate Kraschnefski, the Australian Institute of Fitness‘s head of training. There’s someone who won’t run afoul of a fitness myth.
The Latch chatted with Kraschnefski to find out the most common fitness myths she hears from women, as well as asking her some of our own.
The most common ones she hears? The aforementioned ‘spot reducing fat’ one, along with the ‘lifting weights makes you bulky’ myth. Others? That it takes hours of cardio to burn fat, that carbs result in weight gain, and that the gym is just a place for guys.
The first thing that comes out of Kraschnefski’s mouth? “If only it were that easy to build muscle!” Although individual women will vary in their capacity to build muscle, we’re not able to build muscle the same way men do — purely because of hormonal differences.
She encourages women to lift weights. Why? “Because we slay at it!” she exclaimed. “Strength training is a great way to not only see results in the body; it also empowers us and builds our self-esteem.” It also helps build and maintain our bone density, helping us avoid osteoporosis as we get older.
For those just getting started, she recommends working with a qualified PT. It doesn’t have to be for more than a few sessions, just to get you on the right track. “Having a program tailored to your specific needs someone guiding you through to make sure you are performing exercises with optimal form and technique is so important!”
Personally, I’ve been told that bodyweight exercises aren’t enough and I’m too scared to jump right into weights. My mind can rest easy now (and I can prove people wrong), as Kraschnefski told us: “Bodyweight exercises can be utilised in a way to build muscle, absolutely!”
Putting my mind at even further ease, she said, “With any resistance training, as long as you are experiencing what is called ‘progressive overload’, you will continue to get results.” Progressive overload is when you’re increasing a variable of your training consistently over time — whether weight, repetitions, sets, frequency or even complexity.
“By continually challenging your body, you will stimulate your musculoskeletal system to adapt, leading to strength, fitness and many other health benefits.”
Our minds will never quite wrap themselves around this (or maybe they’re just refusing to), but no, you cannot spot reduce fat. The good news? “We lose fat evenly all over our bodies.” It may be that you notice changes in some areas more than others, but it’s all dependent on your body composition.
We don’t know about you, but personally, we think the phenomenon of food having a moral equivalence as, well, really odd. Kraschnefski also discourages attaching labels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to food.
Her advice? “Aim to hit your nutritional requirements every day though fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and lean sources of protein. Choose to eat them in as much of an unprocessed form as possible.” Another tip of hers regarding food is that it’s “meant to nourish our body and our souls, so enjoy!”
Some of us get pretty gnarly period poops, some of us suffer from premenstrual exacerbation, and some of us have terrible period pain. So when it comes to exercising on your period, Kraschnefski tells us that it’s “a super personal choice”.
She does say, that for the most part, “Physical activity will help us feel better, improving our mood, energy levels and can also help manage period pain.” But for when it’s just too tough, “Listen to your body and allow yourself to relax, or choose gentle exercise.”
Cardio seems to get a bad rep or is overlooked entirely, but like Kraschnefski says, “Cardio training has many benefits and should be done routinely.” So get those running shoes laced up, and head outside!
She even put together an exercise routine for someone with average needs. And no, we’re not calling you average, just saying you probably don’t have the same needs as a marathon runner or powerlifter.
Her advice? 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (a long walk with the dog) most days; 25 minutes of more vigorous training three days a week (HIIT sessions), and resistance training twice a week (yep, weights).
“If that seems a lot, remember anything is better than nothing; set small achievable goals to start, and add a little more every week. You’ll start to feel amazing in no time, and that will keep you motivated!”