We’ve come a long way since the 80s and shiny leotards. But while we’ve learned a lot about how women respond to exercise, some bizarre notions about women’s fitness endure (we’re looking at you, fitness celebrity who says women will become bulky if they lift dumbbells heavier than 3 pounds).
Here are three misconceptions that many women have about exercise, with some tips for shifting our thoughts.
“I really hate running, but I need to do it because ______”
A huge part of sticking to your fitness plan is NOT to hate it. Take the time to find an exercise routine that works for YOU. Work around likes, dislikes, time, budget, etc. There is something out there for everyone, if you treat exercise like “me time.” Reap the benefits and enjoy the process.
So you hate running? That’s okay! Try something else!
“But I just want to tighten and tone, I really don’t want to “get big.”
Let’s go ahead and dispel this myth once and for all. Lifting heavy weights will not make you big, manly, or the she-Hulk. As women, we are not hormonally set up to “get big.” Resistance training will tighten and strengthen muscle, bones, and joints and give you a curvy and shapely body. Weight training actually boosts your metabolism and increases your lean body mass. This means, you get to burn more calories when sleeping or sitting on the couch…and who doesn’t want THAT??
“How many calories did I burn during this class??”
Put down the calculators, ladies! Higher calorie burn doesn’t necessarily equal “good exercise.” There are fabulous workouts out there– like resistance training, yoga, Barre, and Pilates—that will not necessarily give you the highest calorie burn. These workouts increase your muscle mass, prevent injuries, and boost your metabolism, despite what your wrist monitor says.
Rather than trying to micromanage calories in vs. calories out, try focusing on intrinsic benefits of exercise. Exercise can boost the mood, increase energy, build strength, improve confidence, manage stress, and promote good sleep. These benefits are impartial to a number on a scale or wrist monitor.
Shift your focus, and you may just find yourself practicing gratitude with exercise, without treating it like homework (or worse, punishment).
Isabel Betancourt is a dietetic intern at Saint Louis University, as well as a personal trainer.