Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Four Fitness Myths

OK, I’m feeling invigorated from my morning workout, and I thought I’d write about something a little bit different: FITNESS.

The other day someone asked me how long I’ve been lifting weights. I had to do some quick mental math to come up with my answer . . . about 20 years. Yes, that’s right—I’ve been lifting longer than my typical blog reader has been alive. I would say that it makes me feel old, but actually I feel great! Lifting has kept me young! Lifting weights and training others to lift are some of my favorite hobbies.

Today I want to write about a few myths that most Filipinas have about the gym. Ladies, I’m not trying to pick on you—just trying to give you some helpful advice. As you read, remember that “resistance training” simply means lifting weights. I’m writing primarily with students/teenagers in mind, but I think everyone can benefit.

Important: Keep in mind that I am not a medical doctor and I am not here to give medical advice. I’m just a guy with a blog.

Here are the myths:

MYTH #1: The gym is only for those who are overweight or out of shape. This is probably the most commonly believed myth among Filipinas.

There’s a common idea among Filipinas that women should only go to the gym if they are fat or chubby. Otherwise, you don’t “need” to go. I have news for you—NOT TRUE!

First, no one can keep a nice figure without exercise (at least 99% of us). Many teenagers and young adults develop unhealthy lifestyle habits, thinking they will never experience any consequences. This seems especially true for Filipina teenagers, since many of them are naturally thin. Here’s something you need to understand: if you have an unhealthy lifestyle, it will “catch up to you.” Don’t expect to look and feel good five years from now if you never exercise and live on a diet of potato chips, McDonald’s, Pepsi, and cigarettes. Develop healthy habits now! It is much easier to maintain a healthy appearance than to have to regain it.

Secondly, there are some great benefits from resistance training that women should be interested in. You’ve seen all those ads about osteoporosis, right? Well, studies have proven that resistance training helps women increase their bone density (even in the elderly). Good bone density=stronger bones that do not break as easily. This is just one example of a multitude of benefits that come from weight training.

MYTH #2: Lifting weights is for men. I don’t want to get big, I just want to tone. This is a fear shared by both Filipinas and their American sisters, although there is just not any evidence to substantiate this fear.

Many Filipinas are afraid that they will lift weights for a week, then wake up one morning and see the she-hulk in the mirror, complete with huge bulky muscles and bulging veins. You need to understand that this is simply impossible. I’ll explain why.

Women have a different hormonal makeup than men (surprised?). Men have much higher levels of testosterone than women (yes women have it, but at a much lower level). This is one of the main reasons men are bigger and stronger than women. It’s also the reason we (men) do “brilliant” things like get into fistfights more often than women, but I won’t go there right now.

Because of these hormonal differences, women normally cannot get big and bulky like men. “What about those scary looking bodybuilding chicks?” you may ask. Well, professional bodybuilders (men and women) normally use anabolic steroids (not all, but most). Steroids are basically some form of synthetic testosterone. Just listen to a female bodybuilder do an interview after her competition some time. There’s a reason she has the voice of Barry White—she’s full of steroids! She did not achieve this look naturally.

If you still don’t believe me, just visit your local gym. I guarantee that most of the guys in there will not be that big. If most guys cannot get huge after a few months in the gym, why would you think you can?

This fear also causes many women to lack intensity in their training. I’ve seen girls using dumbbells that look to have the mass of a baby rattle. When I train women, I give them almost the same routines that I give men. Sure we take it easy, concentrate on good form, and we don’t chose weights that are too heavy. We pick weights, however, that are challenging. Remember, you aren’t going to get big, so don’t be afraid of the weights!

MYTH #3: Aerobics is the best way to lose fat. The aerobics phenomena was started by a guy named Ken Cooper in the 70’s and 80’s. Since then, folks have been putting on their spandex, turning on the cheesy dance music, doing their aerobics steps, and hoping their bodies would change. Most people have been disappointed.

Resistance training is a much better way to change your body composition and become leaner. There are two basic reasons for this.

First—lifting weights simply burns a lot more calories than aerobics. Get a good weight lifting session in and you’ll be burning more calories hours later. This is true only for weight training, not aerobics. This is due to some physiological factors that I won’t get into (if you want all the details just email me and I’ll explain).

Second—weight training ads muscle, which will raise your metabolism. The best thing you could do is ad five or ten pounds of muscle to your body. Gaining weight sounds horrifying, but keep in mind that muscle weighs a lot more than fat. Five or ten pounds of muscle would actually not make you look any bigger (see myth#4). That five or ten pounds of muscle would be burning extra calories 24/7, even while you are sleeping. Again, this is something that cannot be accomplished through aerobics.

I’m not saying that aerobics is bad. I am simply saying it is inferior to weight training for changing your body.

MYTH #4: I will go on a diet and lose ______ pounds. This will most likely shipwreck your metabolism and cause you to end up fatter than before the diet.

When most people say “diet” they mean restricting caloric intake—starving themselves. Here’s what happens when your body doesn’t get enough calories: Your body has to “feed” on its own tissue because it is not getting enough energy from food. This would be great if your body only used fat, but it also feeds on muscle tissue. Loosing muscle means your metabolism slows down. The end result is that your metabolism is slower than it was before the diet. This means you will gain more weight from fewer calories. Once you go off the diet, you gain even more weight back because there is less muscle to burn the calories. Not good, right?

If you are serious about getting in shape, my advice would be to join a gym and don’t get near a scale for the first six months. Use the mirror, not the scale. It is possible to get smaller without much change in weight. How? Very simple—you gain muscle while loosing fat.

In terms of diet, start off by increasing your protein intake (fish, chicken, etc), and cutting back on the junk food and sugar. Give yourself a break once a week—have your favorite junk food once a week. Go have some pizza and doughnuts, but just once a week. It will not make any difference if you are consistent the rest of the week. The break will also help you stay faithful to healthy eating the rest of the time.

You may have to make more drastic dietary changes, especially if you have a lot of bodyfat to loose. What I’ve written is simply a starting point and would probably be enough to help most of the readers.

A few final considerations:

I realize that many of you are full time students and don’t have time or money for a gym membership. Just take a mental note and join one once you graduate. In the meantime, stay as active as possible through sports (badminton, volleyball, basketball, etc).

I also realize that some of you may have health problems that prevent you from working out. This article was written with relatively healthy people in mind (no serious health conditions, etc). As I said, I’m not a doctor so I don’t know what you can and can’t do.

Yes a gym membership will cost money. Before you protest about the expense, keep in mind that the yearly expenses of many gyms cost less than cell phones! Which is more important, having a camera in your cell phone or having a healthy body?

See you in the gym!

Check out Curvalicious (Flavia Del Monte) if you are looking for a good program for women.

3 Comments

  1. Wow this is very helpful. I need to gain a few pounds as I am underweight but I don’t want the ‘fat weight’ I want to gain ‘muscle weight’. I’ll share this with my friends. By the way I got your link from friendster. Thanks!

  2. Interesting! As for Myth # 4…I do the no weighing scale and just mirror thing. I used to go to the gym (stopped because of lack of time eeeh :/ ), and I rarely weigh myself. Heh. The measure of me getting thinner/fit is me being able to wear the jeans that do not fit or the shirts that do not fit start to fit better.

    But as for the rest…I’ll keep that in mind. 😀 I’m still contemplating the gym thing, since everyone’s inviting me to join Fitness First, but I find it a bit too expensive. So maybe I’ll be joining a different one, and continue boxing (because that’s just so much fun haha).

  3. Excellent piece, brother! I should forward this to my wife. Sssssssh.

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