Debunking Fitness Myths You Have Probably Practiced

by Lucy Sokol ‘21

School sports are back as many athletes feel unprepared for their athletic seasons due to cancelations and/or personal discomfort with private training, preseason conditioning, and club organizations during a global pandemic. With many athletes trying their best to obtain their optimal performance with less practice time, student athletes may resort to fitness and nutrition myths. From wasting an athletes’ time to making their body more vulnerable to injuries, these fitness myths have got to go. 

One of the most common myths states that athletes should stretch before their workouts. According to Harvard Heath Publishing, experts have strayed away from the idea of static stretching prior to a workout as “stretching a cold, tight muscle could lead to injury.” Instead, athletes should warm their bodies up with light jogging or dynamic exercises to get the blood flowing to major muscle groups and increase range of motion. 

Another fitness myth states that cross country and track runners do not need to strength train because a lean figure will make you run faster. In the Runner’s World article titled ‘“To Lift or Not To Lift: Why Runners Should Strength Train,” writer Dr. Michael Yessis explains that weight training has actually been proven to help athletes run faster. Well-trained athletes have been associated with heavy weight training as their increase in muscle mass has displayed significant increases in their running performance. Yessis adds that athletes with less muscle mass “often become injured because the muscles are not prepared for the increased intensity of the activity.” If you are an athlete that hates weightlifting but wants to run faster and further, Yessis recommends trying inclined sprints as well as joint-specific exercises that increase strength endurance; the ability to continually execute the joint actions over the distance in the same manner. 

The Nestle Nutrition Institute declares “a sports drink is no better than water” as one of the most common sports nutrition myths that many U.S. athletes continue to follow today. While hydrating your body with water is a necessity, only drinking water during strenuous workouts that are longer than an hour will deprive you of energy, lowering your blood glucose levels. Sports drinks provide athletes with sodium, fluids, and carbohydrates that will retain the fluids that are consumed. Nestle recommends that individuals who participate in long workouts or exercises in hot weather conditions should hydrate their bodies with a combination of water and a sports drink.

We all know the saying, “no pain, no gain,” but at what extent could it be detrimental to your own physical health? It is a lot less extreme than you think. According to the Methodist Health System, common signs of athletes overworking their body is carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, shin splints and more. More severe symptoms such as sharp pains in the chest or “pop” sound accompanied by pain are signs that you must stop immediately. It is essential to decipher the difference between discomfort and pain. “The discomfort of sore muscles may feel more dull and tight, whereas muscle pain may feel sharper while you are exercising and when you are at rest,” said the Methodist Health System. 

The scientific findings we have today could save us from damaging myths that were popular decades ago. It is important for athletes to resist the urge to follow these fitness “shortcuts” and instead talk to coaches and health professionals about healthy alternatives that could improve their athletic performance.