Fitness is an open book with no true rights or wrongs to it. There is no set formula that applies to all, and yet we make a habit out of forming countless misconceptions regarding how we need to go about reaching our goals.
There is an argument to be had that this is even more applicable to women than it is to men, taking into account all the pressures that come with being a woman in the gym and trying to look your best.
Over the next few pages, we’ll explore a selection of these “secret tips” and “handy hints” that are either way too specific, way too general, or are just outright nonsense that’s somehow spread to all sectors of the industry.
Fitness is an open book, and it’s up to you how you interpret it.
1. Cardio Is Your Best Friend
Female body stereotypes are changing for the better, and we as a 21st century society have come to appreciate the curvier, fuller figure in all its splendour, but thin is still very much in for some.
As a result, cardio has become linked as the main method to lose fat and the primary to looking thin, perhaps because many models and long-distance runners are built like twigs swaying in the breeze.
There are more ways to get a sweat on and lose weight than cardio alone, and even then, you’re better off sticking to short bouts of high-intensity training than you are staying on the elliptical for hours at a time.
2. Stretching Is Only Good For Yoga (and Pilates)
As a youth, many boys and girls will be taught that stretching is essential before any kind of exercise, but when we lose the gym teacher telling us what to do, we sometimes forget the basics.
Stretching isn’t only needed if you’re preparing to enter Downward Facing Dog; you should warm up and stretch before lifting weights, body weight exercises or weightlifting in order to avoid injury and maximise results.
3. Carbs Are The Enemy
Level of activity is a crucial factor in knowing how much carbohydrates anyone should consume, man or woman, but its often females who underestimate how much of this macronutrient they actually need.
Carbs are often viewed as the main source of adding on weight, and while this may be true for those looking to use them that way, it shouldn’t be forgotten their primary directive is something else: energy.
Many women would benefit if they stopped viewing carbs as an evil and started to see them as merely a tool in the transformation process, one that, when utilised correctly, will build you into one mighty chick.
4. Lifting Weights Will Make You Bulky
Arguably the greatest female fitness myth that still exists today.
Whenever this writer is quizzed by women on the impact of weights in relation to making them bulky, he always says the same thing:
“People have lifted weights for years and still not managed to pack on the size they hoped for. If you aren’t eating and training to stack on muscle, you won’t be able to—trust me.”
Coming from a male perspective and one who has tried and failed at times to put on size, let it sink in when I say a good diet and weights will not make you bulky unless that is absolutely what you’re chasing.
5. Juices Are God’s Gift
Juices and smoothies hold an odd reputation in modern life, where an image displaying some fruit or vegetable instantly accepted as healthy.
Newsflash: Most of them aren’t.
Many juices are high in sugar (both natural and refined), calories, difficult-to-digest carbohydrates and plenty of E numbers. Smoothies are the lesser evil, but always read the labels to see what you’re drinking.
6. Energy Drinks
Continuing the misleading beverage trend, it’s also become commonplace for people—men and women—to swig energy drinks before, during or after their workouts, and it makes no sense.
There are far superior, healthier energy-boosting options out there—such as green tea or coffee with a dash of coconut oil—that won’t cause you to crash as soon as their “nutrients” wear off.
7. Protein-Rich Diets Are For Men
It feels as though the lines between man and woman are gradually becoming more blurred these days, which is a good thing, but we’ve still got a good distance to go.
Women often view whey protein supplements and big portions of meat as something only a man should take part in, but they’re just as beneficial for the fairer sex.
If you put in the work to make use of those calories after a gym session, protein shakes, steaks and tins upon tins of tuna are very much for you, too, and offer a low-carb alternative for calorie intake.
8. Make-Up Is a Must
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing women that they look better in their make-up.”
Macklemore once rapped those lyrics in a song called “Thin Line,” and they ring true through to the gym sphere, just as they do in everyday life.
We’ve created a society made up largely of women so self-conscious about how their true faces look that many now deem it necessary to plaster themselves with make-up for a visit to the gym.
Perhaps they need that shield to get through their day-to-day. Perhaps they feel there’s a chance they may get “spotted” by a photographer or random agency head if they look “their best.”
Whatever the reason, it’s a sad development so many females feel the necessity to hide their faces away; grit and determination are sexy traits, too, and we will all accept your sweaty anger looks with open arms.
9. Detox Diets
Almost any woman looking to lose weight fast has most likely tried at least one diet, and there’s a good chance any one of those regimes touches on “detox” or “crash” dieting in one way or another.
The very concept of a detox diet is flawed, due to the fact it insinuates doing something unnatural to your body that won’t last in the long term, so what’s the point?
You’re far better off using your time to develop a healthy relationship with all foods that allows for everything in moderation to reach sustainable goals that can be preserved for life.
10. Female Limits vs. Male Limits
Lastly, it’s time to escape the shackles of what a man can do versus what a woman can do.
Obviously, men are more capable of running faster or lifting heavier weight—we need only look to the Rio 2016 Olympics as proof of that—but females are very much capable of entering Beast Mode as well.
Don’t worry about the hair getting in your face. Fret not about looking rugged when you power out the last rep of a 5×5 deadlift session. Get in there and perform like the strongest human you can be.