(Pardon my tone here folks, but I'm more than a little passionate about this topic.)
That's right, I'm talking about the biggest, ugliest, stupid myth perpetuated in this fitness industry. It's the one thing that gets me more fired up than anything else (except for Nickleback, I really hate Nickleback).
We've all seen the "Women's Fitness" magazines at the grocery store, or local CVS.
"Lose 20lbs in a month and have the best body of your life..." Blah, Blah, Blah.
You are probably thinking right about now that I'm going to go on a rant about how the women (more often than not celebrities of some sort) in magazines are airbrushed, made up, don't look like that in reality,etc... but you'd be wrong.
They all seem to be implying a very scary similar theme.... In order to have a "great body," nix that, "Your best body," you have to lose weight and be skinny.
3-4 pounds over the course of a few months won't do it either, we're talking 10-15 lbs even sometimes 20lbs in as little as 2 weeks.
Truth is, if you did that (especially in the time frame they describe), you're more likely to have the worst, most unhealthy body of your life, and probably feel like a poop sandwich to boot.
The idea that your femininity as a woman is somehow directly correlated to how skinny you are, is just downright scary, but time and time again the “fitness” media tries to tie them together in this not so subtle way.
On the flip side, how often have we all heard someone (men and women alike) say something like "She looks kinda manly," when referring to a woman with strong looking arms and shoulders, or one who is working particularly hard in the free weight area of the gym.
What would ever possess her to wander outside of the cardio equipment or Group Exercise class area (note the extreme sarcasm here)?
Unless her Adam's apple is sticking out further than yours, shut up and lift your own weights! Chances are you have more than enough to worry about with your own workout.
Please, I beg of you all, understand this: femininity and strength are not mutually exclusive! Anyone who implies otherwise is a total asshat, and should be promptly told so.
As a trainer I resent the idea that men and women need to be trained in completely different methods. Yes our body's are different, but muscle is muscle.
Apparently, unbeknownst to me, and any of my college professors who are way smarter than I am, women should only be doing body weight exercises or living on stability balls and never, under any circumstances, lift more than the tiny weights that are less than 3lbs (ahem Tracy Anderson). At least according to the so called "Gurus" out there.
The general reasoning I hear from these "Gurus" preaching this fallacy to women is by training with high repetitions of light weight we can lengthen the muscle and tone/sculpt it.
First lets address the myth of “lengthening muscles”:
Your muscles are attached to bones by tendons which run across joints in your body. These muscles then contract, pulling on the tendons which then creates movement.
Short of surgery, that insertion point isn't changing, so that muscle cannot physically lengthen past the point in which the joints it runs across are extended. If that was possibly, we'd all be Gumbi.
As for "toning," well, I'm sure most of you who are reading this are already well aware of this fact, but muscles can only do two things in regards to it's shape. They can atrophy (shrink), or they can hypertrophy (grow).
The idea that your muscle is somehow a piece of clay that can be molded like Michelangelo would do, just isn't true.
This is going to be hard to hear for some, but you just are not in control of that part of the equation. I'm sorry to be the bearer of that bad news.
You can however train hard, build muscle, and burn calories, and look and feel amazing by ......
Drum roll please......
Lifting heavy weights and getting stronger!!!!!
Let's make a pact to stop associating a woman's feminine qualities with the appearance of her muscles and how "toned" they are. If we can do this, maybe these scummy magazines and “Fitness Gurus” will finally start to change their tunes.
In the words of the rap super group Public Enemy "Don't believe the hype!"