This month's Outside magazine dispelled a few widely-held fitness myths. Here are a few that may surprise you.
1. "I'm an endurance athlete. I don't need to lift."
Most injuries are due to muscular imbalance, and lifting weights will make you uniformly strong and injury-proof. Also, runners who incorporated heavy squats twice a week increased maximum speed for over a minute longer than non-lifters. So strength-train twice weekly.
2. "All my workouts should be high intensity."
Yes, if you want to burn out and get injured. Elites make only 20 percent of workouts "hard." This corresponds to one day of interval training (sprints) and one tempo workout (race pace). The rest should be slow and steady, with some active recovery (at 30 percent capacity) thrown in.
3. "Fluid and electrolyte imbalances cause muscle cramps."
Actually, it is muscle fatigue that causes you to cramp up. So don't overload on drinks and gels. Let thirst be your guide, and improve fitness with conditioning to avoid cramping up.
4. "Extended endurance exercise is bad for your heart."
Health improvements are seen in runners who log up to 40 miles a week, then the improvements wane, but health does not deteriorate with extended exercise. Of course, if you fuel on Mountain Dew and Big Macs then you're a heart attack in the making, whether active or sedentary. So eat clean.
5. "I need to follow a particular diet."
Don't follow fads or be prey to false claims. Let nutrient density be your guide, and choose plant proteins, which have more nutrition per calorie, over animal foods (meat and dairy). This will improve your fitness and extend your life. For more information on nutrient density, read The Paradigm Diet.
To learn about other fitness myths check out this month's issue.