The subjects of fitness and wellness are among the most important, yet misunderstood topics in all of Western culture today. You would be hard-pressed to find any other subject that is as saturated with myths and marketing deception. But, as long as we as a society continue buying into one quick-fix fad after another, we can’t blame the creators of these fads and misinformation for simply giving people what they asked for. Fortunately, those of you who are reading this are likely to be in the minority of people who are truly looking for more than just shortcuts and band-aids because you understand that any building without a strong foundation will eventually come tumbling down.
So, without further ado, here are 3 of the most prominent fitness & wellness myths:
1. Myth: Fitness and wellness are purely physical states
Truth: A healthy body is a manifestation of a healthy mind
We can likely all agree that your general level of wellness is primarily the result of the decisions you make. The most important decisions usually don’t even require a great deal of specialized knowledge, such as deciding whether or not to skip your workout or eat at McDonald’s. You may make the wrong decision in these cases, but it won’t be because you didn’t know better. To change the effects of our decisions, we need to target the causes of our decisions.
One simple tip that can powerfully change your motivation to make healthy decisions is to focus more on why you want to make these better decisions in the first place. We are emotional beings, and we will almost always make the decision that we have more emotional connection to. I should workout because it’s good for me is not nearly as powerful of a desire as I should workout because it will allow me to be more active with my children and become a more positive influence in their lives. Whatever your reason is, remind yourself as often as possible. As Zig Ziglar said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend both daily.”
2. Myth: We need extra protein and supplements to be fit
Truth: Nature has conveniently provided everything we need
One of the largest sources of misinformation in this industry comes from supplement companies and those that stand to gain from their sales. Think about it… we have the most “advanced” supplements in history and yet we are less fit than ever! We also don’t need to go out of our way to get extra protein, whether it’s from a supplement or not. Prior to our current ability to mass produce almost limitless amounts of meat, it was not normal to even have access to meat at every meal. I’m a vegetarian and I still don’t need to take protein supplements or go out of my way at all to get enough protein. My point isn’t that you need to become a vegetarian too, my point is just that you can stop worrying about protein – you don’t need NEARLY as much as you’ve been told, and you can get what you do need even by accident.
Not to say that supplements don’t have any effect at all, but most of the time the placebo effect is responsible for the majority of the results. That would be completely fine if it was sustainable, but these results tend to only last until the excitement wears off and then you will be onto the next product. As a good friend of mine (who managed a Vitamin Shoppe at the time) used to point out whenever he was asked about the latest Dr. Oz recommendation – if any of these supplements actually were miracle cures, then all sales of the prior magic pill wouldn’t suddenly stop when the next one is plugged.
Supplements can be useful in some instances as great remedies to replace harmful alternatives, but they do not replace real food. We need more from our food than just vitamins and extracts. We are still constantly discovering new components of our food that are beneficial for us, so you can save yourself 500 more years of research to figure the rest of it out and just eat whole foods. Re-visit #1 above and focus on mastering the basic decisions rather than trying to cheat the system.
3. Myth: Pain is a normal part of exercise
Truth: Exercise should reduce aches and pains, not create them
Do you think children run and play because they force themselves to do it for the sake of being healthy? Of course not! Then why do we, as adults, begin to think that exercise has to be miserable and involve pushing through pain (not to be confused with fatigue? Pain is your body’s way of telling you NOT to do something. We associate pain with exercise only because people so often do nothing at all for long periods of time and then jump back in too quickly, against their body’s advice.
Aches & pains result from stress, tension, and physical imbalances. When you go long periods of time without exercise, most people end up with plenty of problems in all 3 categories. Then, when those same people begin exercising and try to skip steps or implement a quick-fix program that doesn’t build a strong foundation, even more tension and imbalance is created. A well-designed program for your level and goals goes a long way, but you can avoid much frustration simply by listening to your body and not doing anything that doesn’t feel right. Even if you don’t know why it doesn’t feel right, your intuition tends to serve you well if you pay attention.
Lee Haney once said “exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate”. And this is coming from a man who won the title of Mr. Olympia a record 8 times – beating out countless competitors who lived by the motto of “no pain, no gain”. If even a world renowned bodybuilder can reach his goals without annihilating his body, then I’m sure the rest of us can too.