Post Workout Soreness (or DOMS)

The term “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” (or DOMS) is usually seen as the bane of new exercisers, but even experienced athletes know that changing up your workout routine or intensity can result in some serious pain for the next few days.

If you’re recovering from your first tough workout, you might be wondering how to cope with the pain that’s starting to set in. The truth is, while nearly everyone who works out is going to experience DOMS at some point, there are some steps you can take both during and after your workout to reduce your discomfort and post workout soreness.

Adequate warm-up and cool-down. Your warm-up should mimic your workout, but at a lower intensity. Cool-downs offer a similar benefit by allowing your mind and body to acclimate to your post-workout environment as your heart rate and breathing slow and your muscles relax.

Stretching and flexibility. While stretching may have little impact on DOMS following the workout you just completed, over time it will increase your range of movement, muscle strength and potentially prevent future aches and pains.

Finally, as you plan your workouts, know that workouts involving unconventional movements (like downhill running, plyometric training, and resistance training) are more likely to lead to DOMS. If these workouts are your main game plan, especially if you’re increasing intensity over previous efforts, then increasing your usual warm-up and cool down will greatly benefit you.

Once DOMS sets in, there are a few recommendations that might help you find relief…and a few that won’t.



Massage. Studies have shown that massage can increase inflammation in the body and can increase muscle soreness, so it is unlikely to leave you feeling better once DOMS is leaving you sidelined. A light massage that will improve your circulation immediately after your workout however, is worth a shot, as long as it is at a level of intensity that will not lead to more inflammation.

Active recovery. Many athletes swear by active recovery, so returning to activities that are similar to but lower in intensity than the ones that left you sore, may leave you with some relief. Try a few reps of bodyweight strength training and some slow running, walking or elliptical training. Swimming can also be especially helpful.

Alternative methods. Other common recommendations include Epsom salts baths and ibuprofen. While research demonstrating the effectiveness of these interventions is pretty limited, many athletes find them helpful.

The main thing to understand is that DOMS is a normal response to changes in your workout routine, whether you’re new to exercise, or are just new to your current activity. However you treat it, remember to give yourself extra time to recover between your workouts, including extra sleep and good nutrition, and keep in mind that the soreness will pass within a session or two.

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.

Flexibility and Mobility

Flexibility and mobility are fairly common terms in today’s fitness world–and I’m sure a good majority of you have heard these words in relation to your own workouts. While both have a very important place in fitness (especially when you are first starting out on a fitness program) people often mistake flexibility and mobility as being one in the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth as they are very different concepts. Let’s take a quick look at the difference between flexibility and mobility to better understand.

Flexibility relates more to the length of a muscle (bending easily without breaking)
Mobility is how a joint moves, its range of motion (the ability to move freely and easily)

While they may seem somewhat similar, they are in fact very different. There is much debate as to which is more important, but I feel in any well-rounded fitness program that flexibility and mobility should complement each other. The key (in my opinion) is how and when you incorporate each into your fitness routine.

When Should We Perform Flexibility Training?

Remember when we were taught to “stretch” before a workout? Whether it was in gym class, before a game or practice or took off for a run, we bent down to touch the toes or pulled the heel into the rear end to stretch those quads. Seems like it made sense, right? But what really happens when you stretch prior to a workout is that you are actually relaxing the muscles being stretched. In addition, this also relaxes the nervous system. Still doesn’t sound too bad until you consider that when you relax your muscles and nervous system you’re actually inhibiting their ability to produce strength and power by weakening the signal between the two. That doesn’t sound too ideal for those who want to get the most out of their workout!

Now when you consider the things that make stretching a bad choice prior to your workout, those are the exact things that make it ideal for a post-workout activity. Following a workout, your muscles and nervous system are fired-up, so stretching will help relax them and begin the all-important recovery process. Plus your muscles should be warm from your chosen activity which will make them more conducive to flexibility training, and also get you better results!

When performing post-workout flexibility training, focus more so on static stretches (holding for 15-30 seconds) that target not only the muscles you used in your workout, but the entire body. We often work our way up the body when stretching by starting with the achilles/calf and then moving up to the hamstrings, quads, groin, glutes, hip flexors and then into the upper body.




When Should We Perform Mobility Training?

While the focus on mobility training is fairly new to the fitness industry, it has been a big part of the physical therapy field for many years. Unfortunately, many people are introduced to the concept of mobility as a reactive approach instead of a proactive approach. In other words, people are incorporating mobility drills and exercises only after problems/injuries arise. So it only makes sense that many trainers and coaches are now utilizing mobility training as a warm-up tool. When comparing mobility training to stretching, it has the opposite effect on your body. It enhances your nervous system, warms-up the muscles more efficiently and prepares the joints for exercise.

By moving your muscles and joints through a range of motion actively, the nervous system to muscle connection is better established. This connection between the two can then lead to increased power and strength output, greater range of motion through the joints, and a more efficient workout/performance.

The mobility warm-ups that we use with clients usually consist of 10-15 minutes of specific movements that target the major joints of the body. The mobility exercises used will vary from workout to workout, but we always utilize a progressive approach that starts with basic mobility-based drills (foam rolling, wall slides, leg swings, marches, skips, etc.) and then advance to more demanding mobility drills (crawling, rocking, bodyweight lunge/squat variations, etc.). By the time you’re done with a mobility based warm-up, you should definitely notice a change in how you feel and a readiness to get after your planned workout!

Mobility exercises can also be a workout of their own. I’ll often prescribe mobility-based drills as an “active recovery” day for clients that could benefit from giving their body a little rest and focusing on quality movement. I find they tend to come back to their regular workouts feeling stronger and well-rested.

As you can see, flexibility and mobility are very different in how they can affect your body’s workout performance and recovery. As we get older we often tend to lose both flexibility and mobility, so it’s important to incorporate both into your regular workout routine.

By using mobility-based exercise as your warm-up and flexibility work after your workout as part of the cool-down, you’ll see better results that should have you feeling stronger, less achy and more confident in how your body moves!

Ken Grall a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, as well as a Youth Fitness Specialist (YFS) through the International Youth Conditioning Association. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.

Warm Up and Cool Down Basics

Jumping directly into (or out of) a tough workout isn’t the best approach. Abruptly starting your workout can leave your brain and body craving a bit of transition time. Cooler weather and slippery conditions can also make you vulnerable to injury and fatigue immediately after your workout. So what are the smartest ways to start and end your workout? Here are the latest recommendations for warm up and cool down basics.

Warm-up activities should prepare your muscles and joints for the activity, as well as gradually increase your heart rate and mental focus. This helps you to avoid cramps, muscle pulls, and early exhaustion in your workout. Warm-up activities should be active, yet slower and easier than the heart of your workout. They should also increase your range of motion over your usual daily activities.

Great warm-up activities can include walking, running, or cycling at a slower pace than your intended workout. You can also include bodyweight strength training exercises such as squats, planks, lunges, and push-ups as a way of increasing the efficiency of your warm-up. Some athletes might want to include drills and dynamic stretches before a tough workout, such as those suggested in this Runners World article.

One thing to try to avoid in your warm up is static stretching, (i.e. those long held stretches you remember from your early gym classes.) These stretches are actually shown to decrease your performance during your workout and increase your risk of injury. Save them for other times, such as the cool-down.




Cool-down activities increase the range of motion of your contracted muscles and gradually return your cardiovascular system to its normal state. This will improve your recovery and return to your day, reduce your risk of injury, and allow you to improve your flexibility over time.

A good cool-down includes both cardiovascular and flexibility components. Three to five minutes of walking, easy jogging or cycling are all great ways to start your cool-down.  After your heart rate and breathing have returned to comfortable levels, you can include some flexibility activities (such as those static stretches we discussed above).  Stretching during your cool-down allows you to take advantage of already warm muscles to stretch more comfortably. It may also help you to avoid muscle cramps and soreness as you recover from your workout. When done consistently with your workouts, these stretches will improve your flexibility over time.

Cool-down stretches should target the hip flexors and rotators, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, shoulders, chest, and triceps. Hold each stretch, without bouncing, for 30-90 seconds for the best results, though any amount of stretching is better than none. For more on proper stretching and suggestions on ways to stretch each area of your body, check out this article from Men’s Health.

Sticking to a consistent warm-up and cool-down is an essential part of an exercise program and can provide a convenient time to improve your strength and flexibility. Enjoy these transitions into and out of your home workouts as you make this winter your healthiest yet!

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.

Simple yoga moves for morning and evening

Nothing beats the energy of a group class coupled with the instruction of a knowledgeable teacher–but attending a daily yoga class is out of the question for most. However, just by investing a short block of time in the morning or evening, you’ll find that fitting in a short practice that will provide you with many of yoga’s benefits is easier than you think.

[If you are new to yoga, click on the highlighted links for a quick video/photo reference]

Morning Yoga. Focus on invigorating postures that increase circulation and support healthy posture and movement. Sun salutations are a classic series of flowing movements that will nourish your mind while building core strength and healthy positioning of the knees and feet. Including two rounds of both the classic A-series and B-series will strengthen your core and upper body, as well as the supporting muscles of your knees and feet. Follow this with a balancing posture (such as Tree Pose or Dancers Pose) to improve concentration and foot health. Finish with a chest/heart opening asana (such as Camel Pose or Bridge) to reinforce healthy posture and energy. This practice can also be a wonderful way to warm up for your favorite cardiovascular or strength training activity.

Evening Yoga. Taking a little time for yourself before bedcan reduce the stress from your day, improve connection with your friends and family, and prepare you for sleep. It can also make you more mindful about the evening habits that we often fall into at the end of a long day. It’s also a perfect way to finish your evening workout. You can start this practice with slower paced sun salutations or begin a more restorative practice by coming into Child’s Pose or Cat and Cow postures, which are especially helpful if you experience soreness in your low back. Hip openers, (such as Pigeon Pose) will counter the constriction of remaining seated at work during your day, as will a gentle counter pose/back bend like Upward Plank Pose. Finish your quick evening practice with a generous dose of forward folding  to support quieting of the mind and a more restful sleep. Seated Forward Bend is a great option.

Just 5-10 minutes in the morning or evening can support strength, body awareness, flexibility, and the balanced mindset that are some of the benefits of a yoga practice. If you find yourself with a little extra time, you can combine or build on the postures above using Yoga Journal’s practice builder or the resources at MyYogaonline. The most important step is giving yourself the time to notice what your body and mind need most and providing that with a few directed postures.

Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. To find out more, visit the Meet Our Writers page.

Rest stop fitness: Easy workouts while traveling

Travel is a mainstay in my personal and professional life so if I want to practice what I preach, I have to find creative ways to get in exercise when I’m on the road. I’ll admit, at first, it seemed overwhelming because I wasn’t able to duplicate my home routine. The secret to my on the road exercise success is in thinking outside the box. Coincidentally, that was also when my traveling workouts got really fun!

Although it may seem like a challenge to find ways to stay fit on the road, the truth is, there are opportunities everywhere you look. The key is to plan ahead, be mindful, and get creative. Here are three fun 10-minute workouts to stay active while traveling on the road.

Lace up your shoes!  Wear your exercise shoes when driving and you’re one step closer to getting in a great workout on the move. Stop at a rest stop area and perform 30-second intervals to boost your circulation, heart rate and burn calories (it’s also a great way to stay energized and awake at the wheel).

Start out by walking easy for one minute to loosen up. A great place to do this is on the grass or sidewalk to avoid traffic in the parking lot. After one minute, pick up the pace to a power walk for 30-seconds, and follow with walking easy for 30 seconds. Repeat this nine times for a total of nine minutes of heart pumping activity. If you want a more challenging option, pick up the pace to a run for 30 seconds and walk it out to recover. Finish with the following three stretches and you’re off.

  • Chest Stretch: Interlock your fingers behind your lower back. Relaxing your shoulders, keep your arms straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your hands up toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch in your chest. Perform this stretch on each side once for 30 seconds.
  • Hip Stretch: Using a mat, towel or the grass, kneel on your left knee with your right foot forward. Your right knee should be aligned over the ankle. Relax your back leg and focus on pushing your right hip forward and up towards the ceiling. Reach to the sky with both arms and clasp your hands together for a full body stretch and hold for 30 seconds. Perform this stretch on each side once.
  • Calf Stretch: Stand with your feet hip width apart and your hands on your car just above your shoulders. Move your right foot back about 2-3 feet and bend your left knee.  Keep your right foot on the ground and hold for 30 seconds. You’ll feel this stretch in your back calf.

Jump to it! Remember how much fun jumping rope was? There’s a reason professional fighters use it as a training mode – it’s quick and easy way to get in a high intensity cardio workout that will boost your metabolism for hours. Toss a jump rope in the car for your next trip or, compromise with jumping jacks instead. Try this jumping workout to get your heart pumping and burn a ton of calories.

Walk around at an easy pace for one minute to loosen up. Then repeat the following intervals for five times for a total of ten minutes. You’ll feel like a million bucks after this hard core cardio workout.

Rest Stop Circuit. This workout will help loosen your tight muscles, keep them active and strong and burn calories. Walk around for two minutes to loosen up and perform the following four exercises for one minute each. Repeat a second time and follow with the three stretches mentioned above.

  • Caterpillars: Start in push up position on a mat. Perform three push-ups and then push your hips up towards the ceiling into a downward dog position (in the shape of a V, with your hips elevated to the ceiling. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly walk your feet one at a time to your hands keeping your legs straight (bend your knees if this is challenging). Hold for 5 seconds with your hands on your feet (or shins) and feel the stretch in your hips and hamstrings. Slowly walk your hands forward and into push up position and repeat again for a total of one minute.
  • Walking Lunges: Stand with your feet hip width apart on stable ground (sidewalk).  Take a long step forward with your right foot and kneel down towards the ground by bending your knees until your forward leg is parallel to the ground. Press up and through your heel and take another step forward and kneel toward the ground. Make sure to line up your knee over your ankle as you move forward.  Repeat for one minute.
  • Squat: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Sit back as if you are going to sit in a chair until your legs are at a 90-degree angle with your thighs parallel to the ground, making sure your knees are over your ankles (not toes). Reach your arms straight out in front of you to shoulder height for stability. Pause and hold for two seconds and then press your heels into the ground, extend through your legs.  Repeat slowly for one minute.
  • Calf Raises: Stand with your feet hip width apart and the balls of your feet at the edge of the curb so your heels are off the ground. Bring your arms out to the side for stability. Raise up on your toes and hold for two seconds and then release down until and through the full range of motion with your heel lower than the curb and hold for two seconds. Repeat this for one minute.

Staying fit on the road is easier than it sounds, and once you get started, the options are endless along the way.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

The Importance of Rest and Active Recovery Days

Vision Fitness BlogWhen you’re committed to your training program, taking a rest or active recovery day can be even harder than sticking to your workouts. Figuring that more is better, many of us churn out workout after daily workout, only to be sidelined with an injury or mental fatigue that won’t let us make it off the couch. If you can’t remember the last time you took a break from your training or if you’re struggling with nagging soreness, injuries or low motivation, it’s time to build some mindful breaks into your program.

Recovering from your workouts doesn’t have to mean complete inactivity. Active recovery workouts allow you to continue physical activity at a lower level of exertion than your training workouts. The rule of thumb for these workouts is that they should leave you feeling better than when you started. Many of us find that it’s easier to stick to both a training plan and our diet if we stay active every day. Active recovery not only helps us to do that, but may also have some benefits by providing an opportunity to improve our form and increase our range of motion, without taking time away from training on more intense days.

Whether you’re using your treadmill, indoor cycle, or elliptical, your home fitness equipment can be a great way to build lower impact workouts into your training plan. Technological advances, such as virtual destination video and preprogrammed workouts can make it easy for you to take a mental break while providing just enough increased circulation to help you recover from your last tough workout. These recovery workouts might be as simple as using your home fitness equipment, while keeping an eye on your heart rate. For active recovery workouts, try using the “fat burning” setting (if your machine has one) or keeping your heart rate at 60-65% of your maximum.  While your total calorie burn will be lower than if you were working out at a higher intensity, you will give your body the chance to recover and to become more efficient, making your more intense workouts easier in the long run. You can incorporate the same approach into an outdoor run or bike ride by using a heart rate monitor and slowing your speed, or even walking every time your heart rate goes above 65%. While you may find yourself walking a lot during your first workouts, in time you will become more efficient and able to maintain your pace with lower effort.

Active recovery also gives us the opportunity to build in some cross training workouts. For runners and cyclists, lower intensity days when you are less fatigued are a great time to work on drills to improve your form. Think about keeping your exertion rate down (these workouts should feel easy!) while increasing your mental focus on maintaining perfect form. Runners might do some easy strides on a treadmill or the road; cyclists might work on increasing the pulling action of their pedal motion while releasing tension from the upper body. You can also incorporate yoga, core work, self-myofascial release (foam rolling), or light strength training for cross training that will help your body and mind recover, increasing your strength and flexibility for your next training session.

While active recovery is a great tool to keep motivation high and injury low, there are going to be days that call for complete rest. If your training schedule includes very high intensity events or if you’ve just completed an exhausting competition or season, you may benefit from one or more consecutive rest days. These days can also be used regularly to avoid injury and exhaustion and to improve adherence to your program. While your home fitness equipment makes sticking to your workouts easier, family schedules and work demands can still lead to time off from training. When you know that these conflicts are coming up, you can plan for them by incorporating a full rest day into your plan. It might make sense to look at your upcoming weekly schedule and if you know that one day is going to be unusually tight, schedule a tough workout for the day before. Rather than feeling guilty about missing your next workout, enjoy a well-earned day of rest knowing that your body is getting stronger for your next training session.

Ask an expert: Best morning and evening exercises

 Are there any good exercises to do right before bed to wind down the day or right when I get out of bed in the morning to get my day started? –Samantha

When thinking about exercise before bedtime and as you start your day, it’s wise to focus on the purpose and how it will affect your life performance. For instance, as you head towards bedtime your cortisol levels are dropping in preparation for sleep. If you perform an activity that boosts heart rate and breathing, it works against the natural rhythm of your daily cycle and can effectively keep you awake when you want to sleep.

One way to promote more restful sleep is to perform a nighttime routine that includes light stretching and meditation. Here’s a five minute evening exercise routine that’s easy to remember:

  • Lie on your back in a quiet, peaceful place.
  • Pull your knees into your chest and hold for 30 seconds.
  • With your knees into your chest, bring both knees over to your right side and relax them on the floor.  Stretch your arms straight out from your shoulders and look to the opposite side (left side). Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this on the other side by bringing your knees over to the left side, stretch your arms out and look right. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Relax with your legs and arms on the floor.
  • Close your eyes and focus on breathing in and out through your nose.
  • Visualize a beach and hear the sound of the waves hitting the beach.
  • Breath in to the rhythm of the ocean wave flowing up the beach.
  • Breath out as the wave draws back in toward the ocean.
  • Start with 1-2 minutes of this meditation exercise and build up to five minutes.

Now that you know how to bring things down at nighttime, let’s focus on how to pick things up to start your day. Sleep, although restorative, can also leave us feeling tight and stiff in the morning. Here’s a five-minute morning routine you can do anywhere:

  • Stand with your hands at your sides and take a deep breath in reaching your arms up along your sides toward the ceiling.
  • Exhale, bend at your waist and relax the arms down toward your feet, keeping your knees slightly bent. Repeat this sequence five times to wake the body and warm it up.
  • Next, from a standing position, bend at your hips and knees and squat until your legs are parallel to the floor while reaching your arms out in front and hold for 5 seconds. Press through your heels, pull your arms back toward you as if you were pulling something towards you until you’re in standing position again. Repeat 5 times slowly to wake the legs.
  • Lie down in push up position with your hands just beside your chest. Push yourself up into push up position and hold keeping your hips in line with your body. Suck your navel into your spine and draw your right knee into your chest and hold for 2 seconds. Then repeat with the left knee. Alternate bringing the right and left knee slowly into the chest while keeping your body in alignment for 60 seconds. Match your breathing to the rhythm of your movement, exhaling as you draw your knee into the chest and inhaling as you return to starting position.

It’s amazing how impactful a five-minute routine can have on your overall health. It all begins with matching the purpose of the activity with the flow of your life routine.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Shin splints: Causes, prevention and treatment

Shin splints are one of the most frustrating things a runner will ever encounter. And chances are, most runners will deal with them at one point or another. In fact, shin splints make up more than 13 percent of all injuries suffered by runners.

Since this condition is so common, it makes sense to prepare yourself for it by learning how to prevent, identify and treat shin splints.

Causes and Symptoms

Shin splints, known in the medical community as tibial stress syndrome, are not a condition in and of themselves but are generally just a symptom of some other underlying problem. Since, like all pains, shin splints can be a signal that something else is going on, it’s important to know whether or not what you’re dealing with is indeed shin splints.

The pain we call shin splints is a dull, throbbing ache in the front of the lower leg. This can manifest during or after exercise, either along the edges of the shin bone or deeper in the muscle. In some cases, the pain is constant but the area can also be more sensitive to touch. As with any persistent pain, you should get your doctor’s opinion on the best course of treatment.




A medical professional’s input is especially important in shin splints because they can be a symptom of stress fractures. These tiny, hairline breaks in the bone can happen without your knowledge and require medical attention so that your bone heals properly.

Over-pronation, an incorrect stride associated with flat feet, can also cause shin splints. In these cases, the natural arch in the soles of your feet are pressed flat when from the impact of each step. This stretches the muscles and tendons in an unhealthy and unnatural way that will lead to tibial stress. Many people have flexible flat feet and don’t realize it until they run on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt.

The most common cause of shin splints, though, is overuse. Working your lower legs too hard or too often will cause the muscles to swell and become irritated. Of course, what is too hard or too often will depend on your fitness level and may take some experimentation at first.


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and shin splints are no exception to this rule. Even when the pain is minor, shin splints can potentially keep you from running for weeks and slow you down even once you start your training again. Fortunately, preventing shin splints is pretty simple.

Before you even hit the road, the first thing you need to do is select your perfect running shoes. These shoes will have good padding and promote a healthy stride, with a mid-foot strike.

Be warned: too much padding is very possible. If the soles of your shoes are overly-thick, it will be more tempting for you to adopt a heel-strike and several other bad habits. You want to land on the middle of your foot and roll forward to the balls of your feet. Also, consider investing in arch-support inserts if you have flat feet. Even once you have your ideal shoes, avoid running on inflexible surfaces that can wreak havoc on your arches.

Once all your footwear is in order, you’re almost ready to run. First, don’t forget to stretch and warm-up. These are often neglected aspects of runners’ training, generally left out to save time. All it takes, though, is a 5 to 10 minute warm-up, including a few stretches before and after, to help prevent shin splints.

Finally, don’t overdo it. Runners, and athletes in general, have a habit of pushing through pain, but this could just cause more injury and keep you down for longer periods of time. If you feel pain during your workout, stop running.


If, despite your best efforts, you have shin splints, the best possible treatment, regardless of the underlying cause, is something terrifying to all athletes: Rest.

Your body will act to repair the damage on its own if you give it the chance. One of the most productive things you can do is work to lessen the inflammation. Ice your shins for 20 minutes every three hours until the pain goes away. Aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory painkillers can also help, but should only be taken regularly under a doctor’s direction.

Once the pain subsides and you decide to brave another run, start slowly. Don’t try to pick up your training right where you left off. Start with slow jogs and listen to your body for any signals. Your legs will tell you how much they can take.

For more serious and persistent cases, your doctor may recommend physical therapy and mobility exercises.

Have you struggled with and overcome shin splints? Please share your tips with us in the comments!


Seven Fitness Myths Busted

If I had a dollar for each time someone told me “running is bad for your knees”, I’d have enough money for a pretty nice vacation.

Luckily for me and all of the other runners out there, this information is outdated and inaccurate. It turns out that running may actually protect your knees from health problems, such as degenerative knee issues. A runner’s risk of knee injuries is only increased if they had a previous knee trauma, or if they have a family history of knee problems.

That certainly isn’t the only fitness myth out there. Here are the real stories behind other common exercise misconceptions:

Myth 1: You can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise. This may hold true for professional triathletes, but not for the rest of us. If you weigh 150 lbs. and run 3 miles, for instance, you’ll burn about 300 calories. That’s approximately the number of calories in a cup of oatmeal and a banana. Unfortunately, exercising doesn’t give you a license to eat whatever you like. You need to burn as many calories as you take in if you want to maintain your weight.

Myth 2: Weight training will bulk you up. Not true. Lifting weights will actually help you tone up and slim down: the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Only people who do intense strength training workouts and have certain genetic factors are able to build large muscles.

Myth 3: You can “spot reduce” certain areas of your body. Nope! You can do all the crunches you want, but that won’t necessarily get you six-pack abs. You’ll also have to do cardio exercise and eat a healthy diet, losing fat all over your body, before those toned abs will show up.

Myth 4: Yoga is an easy workout. Some styles of yoga, and certain postures, are both mentally and physically challenging. Yoga is generally a safe workout, but injuries can occur, so if you’re new to yoga you should start slowly and respect your body’s limits. Also, if you have any health issues, check with your doctor before you hit the yoga mat. “Hot” or bikram yoga isn’t safe for pregnant women, for example.

Myth 5: You have to exercise intensely to get results. There is no truth behind the “no pain, no gain” mantra. In fact, working out too hard can lead to injuries and burnout. Never exercise through pain. You can gain plenty of benefits through moderate workouts.

Myth 6: It’s always best to stretch before you exercise. Experts have long studied and debated the potential benefits of stretching. One thing is for sure, though: it’s safest to stretch after your muscles are already warm. So take a warm-up lap and then stretch, or save it for after your workout.

Myth 7: Machines are safer than free weights. There is a small but real risk of injury regardless of what type of weights you lift. Machines may seem safer because they put you in the correct starting position, but they’re only effective if they’re adjusted for your weight and height. You can still use incorrect form on many machines. Ask a trainer to show you how to use equipment so you can make sure you have the right technique and settings.

What’s your favorite — or least favorite — fitness myth?