Superstar trainer Dennis Lindsay on the doubts, fears and myths about working out
Is morning the best time of day to work out?
Medical experts still don’t agree on this one. Levels of most growth-related hormones are higher in the morning, and working out does kick-start your metabolism. But your strength is highest in the afternoon (2-4 p.m.), based on circadian rhythms. In the morning your body has the least amount of stress on it, and can work harder. Afternoon workouts burn off stress and food. Morning workouts are often done without food in the system, which is not good. Evening and night workouts are the same as afternoon [workouts] except peak strength has passed, and it’s a little harder to focus after a long day. Basically, choose the time that suits you best — when you know you can do it and will do it.
Should I stretch before or after a workout?
Most people only do one or the other. Typically, if they stretch before the workout, it’s for the warm-up, not for the stretch. (Stretching before can create joint instability, taking away from your workout.) Stretching after a workout avoids the instability and teaches the muscles a new level of flexibility, which can prevent muscles from getting too tight between workouts. Warm up before with full range movements (calisthenics), and stretch after.
What burns more fat, running or lifting weights?
Fat burned during cardio is direct — it is used as fuel at that moment — as is fat burned during weight training. If we are just talking about the time you spend in the gym working out, you will burn more calories and probably more fat doing cardio work. The difference between the two is AFTER the workout… Muscles are the only thing in your body that use fat for energy (even when resting), but weight training makes muscles more fit, which means you will burn more fat indirectly (even at rest).
Will eating a lot of protein help me build muscle?
Protein is the building block that helps you rebuild tissue. Eating a lot of protein will only guarantee one thing: you will eat a lot of protein. Your body can only digest a specific amount of protein per ingestion period. If you consume more than that, you may actually add fat to your body.
Can I be toned but not bulky?
Girls always want to be smaller; guys always want to be bigger. If your goal is to get toned, you need to use a manageable weight (60%-80% of your maximum) for 10 to 15 reps. Pick 3 to 6 exercises (mixing body parts) and perform them in a circuit fashion, avoiding slow movements. It takes many months of intense training to add pounds of muscles, so you don’t have to worry about ballooning up overnight.
Will bulking up now prevent me from getting taller?
Depending on what stage you are at in your growth development, it could. Most research shows that “proper” weight training doesn’t stunt growth. Improper weight training (such as too much weight, too intense an exercise, and training too often or too long) can prevent you from maximizing your natural growth.
Most girls don’t hit their maximum height/weight ratio until 20 years, and most guys don’t hit theirs until 24. So, based on these facts, be sure to make smart decisions.
I think I should be sweating more when I work out. Am I working hard enough?
Generally, the amount you sweat is related to how hard you are working. Remember that this rule only works when comparing you to yourself. You sweat when your body needs to cool off, but that shouldn’t be your only indicator of hard work. If you are dehydrated, you may be sweating less but working really hard. If you feel you are working hard but don’t sweat, you should see your doctor and get an assessment with a registered dietitian and/or certified fitness trainer.
If I can’t work out for at least half an hour, am I wasting my time?
No. Even 15 to 20 minutes can be a very intense power circuit when it incorporates speed, strength, stamina, power and basic muscular endurance. Just be sure to have a plan when doing this, and realize that although you might affect how your body works, it takes more consistency to change how it looks.
Will sticking to the same workout for a long time stop working for my body?
Probably. The decision to be made here is not about “same,” but about “results.” If you are expecting something specific to come from your hard work, make sure you are tracking it. Once you succeed at your goal, then you can change your program plan for the new goal. Typically your program should change at least every four weeks. Changing weights is not enough. You have to shake up the order and the exercises as well. Variety is the spice of life.
Can the right training gear make a difference?
Training equipment/clothing is only as good as the user. Sometimes having the wrong stuff can lead to injury (shoes with fallen arch supports lead to all types of patterning problems). Sometimes having the right stuff can also lead to injury (shoes with extra “springy” materials may be too bouncy for your ankles to control and stabilize, which can lead to injury).
Be sure to buy the appropriate gear. Get an expert opinion, and go for function and ability rather than fashion and attitude.
What rehydrates better, a sports drink or water?
Water gets into the blood stream pretty quickly and helps blood flow. When you sweat, you lose water from your blood, which makes it move slower. Sports drinks often have extra energy value that can take away from the blood viscosity, but they make up for it with the energy kick in the muscles. Sports drinks have one advantage: they taste better than water, so you are more likely to drink the appropriate amount. One other tip is to make sure you sip throughout your workout. Don’t “drink,” but replace the liquid as you sweat it out.
Is it pointless to work out if I don’t go to a gym?
This is marketing hype used to sell gym memberships. You can get great results working out at home with nothing but you, space and gravity. You can also work out at the best gym in the world and not show dramatic results over a full year. The factor here is commitment – if you really want it, you will find a way to get it. If you want to work out at home, go for it, stick to it and set a short-term goal. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish with “nothing.” Most people go to the gym for the social aspect, and the fact that they are paying, forces them to use it – personal reverse psychology.
I hate gyms. What are my options?
Gyms are not the only place you can get fit. Try activity crosstraining: rollerblading, rock climbing, martial arts, yoga, or boxing are great examples. You can join a team sport outside of school like dragon boating or ultimate Frisbee. Find some form of exercise that you can do with your friends. There’s no sense in starting something you won’t finish. Don’t waste time and don’t kid yourself.
Thanks to our fitness specialist Dennis Lindsay, director of PROformance Athletes Gym, in Toronto. Dennis has worked with, amongst others, Venus and Serena Williams, Eric Lindros, DMX and was the strength and conditioning coach for our gold medal winning Women’s 2002 Olympic Hockey Team.
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