Fitness Rules That You Should Break

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The longer I work out, the fitter I'll get
Endless sets, long hours pounding the pavements; getting fit and staying lean is not about the duration of your workout sessions. In fact, research shows that short bursts of intense exercise will make you fitter quicker. A team of scientists at McMaster University in Canada found that doing 10 one-minute bursts of activity, interspersed with short rest periods, is better at building muscle than hours of conventional cycling. So, though it may sound counterintuitive, less exercise can deliver more benefits. Try getting your heart rate up in a spin class or by doing interval training.

I should always do 12 reps
For some reason, when lifting weights or doing exercises like sit-ups, we have been conditioned to think the optimum number of repetitions is between eight to 12. The truth is, though it isn't detrimental to the body, this represents a medium amount of exertion for your muscles, and an increased amount of tension would, therefore, help your muscles to grow faster. As soon as you are comfortable with moving up a gear, begin to vary your repetition lengths to keep your muscles guessing - and say goodbye to the dozen reps that have been keeping you on that plateau for years.

No pain, no gain
Without doubt one of the most potentially harmful rules of fitness, the 'no pain, no gain' mantra should be tossed away like an old smelly pair of running shoes. Pain is not your friend, and in fact you should stop exercising straight away if you feel any discomfort while working out. While you may feel disinclined to take a break from your exercise regime, carrying on through the pain barrier could lean to an injury which could keep you out of action for months.

Crunches are number 1 for a flat belly
A strong core is essential for overall health and fitness, but there seems to be a common misconception about the best way to get it. Though stomach crunches are a useful exercise, they are far from the only option and you should not be fooled into thinking that repeating the 'up, hold, down' routine will get you that washboard stomach. You need to vary your stomach workouts to strengthen your abs, and include pilates and yoga, which are proven to sculpt your midsection just as well, if not better, than crunches and other exercises.
Targeting a specific body part for weight loss
Most people have at least one part of their body they are not entirely comfortable with, and it often leads to hours spent trying to blitz that area in the gym. But be it bingo wings, love handles or an overly jiggly backside, you will find it practically impossible to lose weight from just that part of your anatomy; fat loss occurs across the whole body when you exercise and eat well, so your workout regime should focus on balancing cardiovascular sessions and interval training to burn fat with strength training to tone those dodgy body parts.

I should weigh myself every day
When you set yourself short-term weight-loss or fitness targets, it's tempting to check up on your progress on a daily basis. But if this means stepping onto the scales every day, then you could be doing yourself more harm than good. Your weight can fluctuate quite easily every 24 hours, and this is more often than not down to an increase or decrease in levels of fluid in the body, which gives no indication of actual weight loss. Hold a weigh in once a week instead, at the same time of day and with no clothes on (just close the curtains first).

More protein equals better muscles
There is no doubt that protein can aid muscle growth and development, and we're always banging on about it on these pages, but it's not quite as simple as eating 10 eggs for breakfast and a few pounds of steak for dinner. Too much protein isn't actually that good for you, and your body can actually only process a certain amount, so if you overdo it the excess protein could end up as fat. As a safe rough guide, aim for 25% protein in every meal and make sure the rest of your plate is covered in fresh vegetables and non-refined carbs.

If I can't exercise, I should skip it
As a general rule, adults should aim to do at least 30 minutes of exercise four or five times a week. It doesn't sound like much, but it can actually be quite difficult for many of us to fit this into our hectic schedules. But if you only have time to fit in one or two sessions a week, this is still hugely beneficial to your overall health and fitness, including preventing many horrible illnesses and conditions. And remember what we said earlier: shorter, sharper sessions can be more effective, so all you have to do is squeeze in an extra 25-30 minutes in the morning, or even spread throughout the day, to start reaching your goals.

Eat less while exercising to lose weight
Though you should certainly look to improve your diet when you embark on a fitness and diet programme, don't listen to that old adage that says less calories will help you reach your target quicker. You should aim to match your intake with the intensity of exercise you are doing - if you are burning thousands of calories a week then you need to eat plenty (of the right foods) to fuel your workouts. In fact, you can pretty much eat as much as you like (within reason), so long as your diet is made up of healthy, balanced, natural ingredients and not foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar.

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Fitness Rules That You Should Break

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