Whether your goal is to look like an iron man or simply (and more realistically) to shape up and improve your health, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions that can get in your way.
Myth: Crunches will get rid of my spare tire.
Reality: Everyone stores extra weight differently, but the gut is one of the most common problem areas for men. Even if you do a gazillion stomach crunches and sit-ups, you won't burn enough calories to lose the fat around your middle and see the muscles you've built up underneath. To get flatter, more defined abs, cut calories and add more overall exercises. Stick to a low-fat diet of lean protein and healthy carbs while doing a combination of cardio and strength training. But you still need to do stomach exercises.
Myth: The fastest way to build muscle is to do more reps with lighter weights.
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Reality: Heavier resistance with fewer reps will build your muscles faster. If you're just looking to shape up, doing more reps with lighter weights will improve your muscular endurance (heavy weights are those you can use for only eight reps or fewer and light weights enable you to do 12 to 20 reps). The best plan includes a combination of both. Another reason to do both is if you always lift the same amount of weight for the same number of repetitions, your body will acclimate, and progress will be slow or nonexistent.
Myth: Real men don't do yoga.
Reality: Boredom is one of the main reasons people stop exercising, and yet most men are resistant to taking classes at a gym. The benefits are not just psychological. When you do the same exercises all the time, your muscles adjust, and you hit a plateau. Changing things up will challenge your muscles and make them stronger. The social interaction also keeps many people from giving up or dropping out. And for those of you who think yoga is just for long-limbed women who can twist themselves into pretzels, think again. Even one yoga class a week can help you remain limber, reduce stress, and prevent injury.
Myth: Working out hard on weekends will keep me in shape.
Reality: Being a weekend warrior may sound like a good plan for those of you too busy to get to the gum during the week, but the idea that you can pound your body for hours to make up a week's worth of inactivity is faulty. It's also one of the leading causes of injury. Whether it's with a strenuous game of basketball or a too-long run, overexerting yourself on the weekend is both ineffective and risky. You will not train your muscles, heart or lungs effectively, and the soreness that results may keep you from being able to get off the couch for days. To really get in shape, consistency is key, even if that means just a 30-minute workout most days of the week.
Enjoy these six great foods either as a snack or in a meal: sardines for heart health, brazil nuts for prostrate health, edamame for mood, sesame seeds for sex drive, blueberries for memory and lentils for energy.
• Terry Shaw is the owner of Carolina Pilates. She teaches private and group classes and trains the Panthers in flexibility. Contact her at carolinapilates.com or call 548-8775.