Growing up I was an active kid. My mom is a big walker, so evening walks were normal parts of my childhood, and when we lived in town, I rode my bike any chance I could get between April and October. Athletic however I was not. I tried one year of soccer in sixth grade and discovered that I hated team sports, in addition to not being good at the game.
Gym class was the bane of my existence. The anxiety of it stayed with me until sophomore year of high school, which was the last year we had a gym requirement. No matter how deep I dug during any of the units, I just plain sucked at whatever we were doing, and always getting stuck on the same team as That Kid – the one who takes flag football way too seriously – didn’t help matters.
I started doing Pilates and light resistance training in my bedroom my junior year of high school. Originally I started being working out because I hated my appearance and figured if I was going to be stuck with cystic acne, at least my body could look good. Ultimately though, I wound up falling in love with the endorphins. I spent the last two years of high school working out in my bedroom, and then once I got to college and had access to the on-campus gym I really kicked it up. Resistance training has been a part of my life since.
It’s been 10 years, and resistance training has provided me incredible, joy-making benefits. However, along the way, I’ve learned and then had to unlearn some dumb stuff from popular magazines and fitspo accounts. There’s some general dumb information, and there’s questionable bro-science that gets directed to young men.
But for the women? Man (no pun intended), there’s a lot of stupidity the ladies have had to rake through to find the solid advice. From an article in Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal trainer advising women not pick up more than three-pound weights so they don’t get “bulky” (a purse weighs more than that, for crying out loud) to anything pyramid scheme employees promote on Instagram, there’s so much counterproductive crap women hear when they’re first getting into resistance training.
Before going any further, I want to make it clear that I’m not a personal trainer or other fitness professional, so I don’t want anything I say taken as gospel. Although my explanations are based on science, the main point of today’s blog is to make fun of terrible fitness sayings most if not all active women have heard once. So sit back, pour yourself a coffee or whatever your beverage of choice is, and let’s have some fun!
- “Don’t lift too much or else you’ll start to look like a man.”
First of all, this isn’t even possible. There are innate biological differences between men and women, one of those being testosterone and how much of it is present. Women have testosterone, but nowhere near what a man has in his body, so by virtue of having less testosterone, women simply can’t build up enough muscle to look masculine. Additionally, male athletes and professional bodybuilders take years of hard, disciplined training and following close nutrition plans to build up their physiques. No woman lifting three times a week is going to turn into The Rock, unless she’s using questionable substances to help herself.
2. “I don’t want to look bulky – just toned.”
Celebrity gossip magazines are the worst offenders of pushing this mentality. “Gigi Hadid shows off toned tummy on date night!” “Carole Middleton shows toned body on vacation – here’s how she gets the ‘Middleton’ middle!”
Say “Middleton middle” five times fast if you really want a tongue twister. But anyways, “toned” isn’t really a thing either. One of the personal trainers I enjoy on Instagram refers to being toned as being less fat, which is in essence what a lot of folks mean when they say toned. If your goal is simply to reduce body fat, cardiovascular exercise is perfect, but to change the body composition and get a “toned” look, you’re going to have to do some resistance training and risk looking “bulky.” Although I have to say as a chick who does actually look bulkier after heavier lifting and running, nobody has ever confused me for a man. I’m simply a woman with muscular calves, and they do look pretty good in high heels.
So the real point is, don’t get hung up on toned vs. bulk. Lean muscle is beneficial and flattering on everyone.
3. “You’ll lose your boobs.”
This might be an American thing for all my non-US readers, since breasts are so heavily sexualized in the states. I’ve seen a handful of female personal trainers post memes about losing their breasts to fitness. Many of these women were overweight or obese before and discovered that with weight loss meant their breast size decreased, since breasts after all are fat. Forgive me if I sound harsh with this comment, but at least in the United States, 70 percent of adults are overweight, and 40 percent of adults within that are obese. Obesity is rising among my generation (Millenials), and frankly, “losing boobs” is a terrible and sexist reason to not try and lose weight if there’s a medical need to. There’s more to being a woman than just having breasts and preferably large ones, for the approval of hypothetical straight men.
Additionally, building up pectoral muscles underneath the breast tissue can create a lifted, “bigger” look.
4. “I don’t want to grow my legs, but I want a bigger butt.”
Spot training or spot reducing is a popular myth in fitness. There’s no way to reduce fat or train up the muscle in only one body part. So if let’s say you wanted stronger glutes for running and decided to do deadlifts, the exercise wouldn’t work only the glutes. Deadlifts are also great for strengthening the back, hamstrings and quads. Since the body is all connected, most if not all exercises can benefit at least two muscle groups at the same time. This is great news for people who are short on time.
However, in women’s fitness Instagram there’s this bizarre insistence you can totally build up glutes and still have skinny legs with a thigh gap. It doesn’t work like that at all. Pretty much any glute move is going to work the legs as well, from goblet squats to walking lunges to donkey kicks.
I’m going to stop here. This could turn into a rant pretty quickly.
Bonus stupidity: “Girls only go to the gym to look good for guys.”
This was said to me by a dumb guy I was talking to in college. Nothing ever happened or became of him, and I mean that quite literally. Although he did wind up impregnating a girl and now has a daughter. I’m not holding my breath, but I sincerely hope his college-era views of women evolve for the daughter’s sake.
So with all that being said, I hope you all enjoy your Friday and have a great weekend. Go show today who’s boss.
Yours in writing and running,