• Tue, Nov 1 2011

Ginnifer Goodwin’s Trainer Gives Horrible Fitness Tips In Allure

“Working out too hard will make you bulky” and “you need to put in hours of cardio per week to be skinny” are a couple of the biggest fitness myths out there, and Ginnifer Goodwin‘s trainer, Andie Hecker, managed to perpetuate those and more in the November issue of Allure. The magazine features tips from trainers made famous by creating “hot celebrity bodies” so that you, too can achieve “tight abs, lean thighs, [and] a jiggle-free butt,” according to the cover. And while some give great advice (thank you, Gunnar Peterson, for keeping it real), I have a major bone to pick with Hecker’s advice—to do a ton of cardio, avoid exercises that “bulk up your lower body,” and do ballet for a “leaner look.” These are just tired fitness myths that perpetuate constant frustration with weight and poor body image.

Hecker is a former dancer and founder of Ballet Bodies, and has worked with Goodwin, Natalie Portman and Kristen Bell. She tells Allure that she derives her workout philosophy from the book, Outliers, which is problem number one:

I follow the Malcom Gladwell ’10,000-hour rule’: It takes a lot of repetition to master a skill. The more you practice a specific exercise, the better you get, so you see more results.

Gladwell’s book uses the example of music, ice hockey, and computer programming, all of which make sense: With roughly 10,000 hours of practice, people seem to master whatever skill they’re practicing. This may also extend to dancers, whose performances depend on their mastery of very specific movements. But for most of us, who are looking to build muscle and lose fat to sculpt our physiques, this DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. Excuse the all caps, but really: This is the opposite of good advice. Practicing the same movement repeatedly won’t get you the kind of results you want; it will make you plateau. This is why trainers recommend switching up workouts every few weeks, or even every few days; our muscles adapt to movements so that they become easier, requiring less energy. That’s not what you want if you’re trying to get an efficient workout.

Hecker’s “best tips” are rife with error, too:

1. “Do cardio for at least 40 minutes. Yes, a 15-minute burst is better than nothing, but it takes 35 minutes to burn off blood sugar before your body can start metabolizing fat.”

No! High-intensity exercise burns fat much more efficiently than a long, slow slog. That “interval training” thing that you’ve been hearing about for years? It’s real. And it means that you will get a lot more out of alternating between sprints and jogging for 30 minutes than running at a medium pace for hours.

2. “Don’t go overboard on exercises that bulk up your lower body, like running, hiking on an incline, or the elliptical on a high-resistance setting. If you overtrain your quads and glutes, you can actually make them larger.”

How many times do we have to tell you that it’s really, really hard for most women to get “too buff”? So-called “bulky muscles” are hard for most women to achieve, and it doesn’t happen on an elliptical. And getting lean requires burning fat, which requires muscle mass, which means high-intensity running or working out on cardio machines with high resistance is much more effective than a slow, easy job on flat terrain.

3. “You burn more calories when you work your upper and lower body at the same time. Jumping on a mini trampoline while doing different ballet arms, using a weighted jump rope, or swimming for 20 minutes are all good options. Or take a ballet class. Dancers stretch and elongate their muscles while being active, which gives a leaner look.

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  • DW

    Thank you! I was flipping through the issue and read this article, and was horrified.

    • Briana Rognlin

      Glad I’m not the only one! There was some good advice mixed in there, but Hecker’s advice in particular was just not cool. (Not that I’m a huge fan of Tracy Anderson’s warnings about bulk, either.)

  • Cristina

    I only started to exercise at 31, last year: I did indeed get leaner abs and nice arms, but gained10 pounds and increased my hips size in 7 inches, 2 trousers size – that’s a lot!

    Yes: strenght training is good for your body and there’s a lot of myths around there. But all the bodies are different and react different ways.

    If you don’t exercise for years, your muscles are smaller.

    You start to exercise you will bulk up because you increase your muscle size!

    That’s the sad true.
    You get healthier and with a firm body, but you will increase size.

    Saying that you wont increase with exercise / weight tranining size is a myth also.

    The problem is that today people are more worried with the size of the pants than being healthy. I increased 2 size pants, one size on tops and I still feel really bad.

    But do I feel better and more healthy? Of course!
    And I’m still trying to convince myself that that’s the right way to do.

  • cam

    Clearly you people haven’t spent your lives sculpting your bodies to look tight, thin, & feminine. If you had, you would know that Hecker’s advice is pretty spot on. Given her professional ballet background, I would say she has authority on the matter of what it takes to create a long, non-mannish physique. It probably doesn’t include a bunch of squats, lunges & heavy weights. Her perspective is interesting, & seems to come from a point of view that’s different from the physical layperson. Oh, & when she mentioned cardio duration, nowhere did I read anything regarding intensity….
    Just sayin’.

    • Briana Rognlin

      Ha, this makes me laugh because right now one of our top stories is one about what Adriana Lima does to look good right before a Victoria’s Secret fashion show. (http://www.blisstree.com/eat/what-it-really-takes-to-look-like-a-victorias-secret-angel-hint-a-stupid-diet-128/)

      While I’m not saying that the average woman should imitate her routine AT ALL, I think she proves that squats, lunges & heavy weights can still give you a “long, non-mannish physique”:

      “It is really intense, it’s not really the amount of time you spend working out, it’s the intensity: I jump rope, I do boxing, I lift weights, but I get bored doing that. If I am not moving I get bored very easily.”

      Of course, she a) is lucky to have great genes and b) supplements her routine with a pretty crazy diet (which, it’s worth mentioning: Hecker didn’t discuss at all).

      For women who do feel like they bulk up when they weight train, most trainers and nutritionists I’ve talked to would say that you either a) need to clean up your diet (note: this doesn’t mean starving yourself; this means eating the right balance of vegetables and protein and eating the right amount of carbs from the right sources); b) might have a hormonal imbalance, or c) might just be genetically prone to putting on muscle mass more easily than most people (just like there are some men who would have a really difficult time putting on muscle mass, even with an awesome weight training program).

      Ultimately, everyone’s body is different, but I stand by the fact that Hecker’s advice is really off-base according to a lot of the new research about what works when you’re trying to slim down and get lean.

  • Cristina

    Why did this make you laugh?

    I can say that for all this year that I gained 1o pounds since I started exercised:
    - I went for 3, or 4 (not quite sure) nutrition analysis (in spite of I don’t think was necessary, I’m quite aware of what’s a nutricional and balanced diet is).
    - I changed my workout routine every 2 months so I could “leave plateau”. In 5 months I was jumping rope (like the article says) for 45 minutes long non-stop so “the cardio would melt away what the weight training wasn’t melting”.
    - I checked my hormonal balance with blood analysis. Everything normal.
    And now, people say, I can’t stop exercising because all the increase sizes I gained in my hips would melt down!

    I don’t know who’s right. All I can say is that I’ve been working by the rules of what most recent articles and scientific reports claim and I just keep increasing.
    And no: I’m not that muscular woman as you can see on Mr. Universe contests.

    By the way: I left gym and now work out at home. I stopped calculating the ratio between carbs/protein/fats and the calories according and now eat a simple no-fuss balanced diet. I purchased some new jeans, 2 sizes bigger of all garment that I have and don’t fit.
    I just quit.

    In the end, I just wish that this diet theories war could end and this “you are so wrong and I’m so right” could evolve for more constructive information.

    • Briana Rognlin

      Hi Cristina, sorry: I’m not laughing at the fact that you’ve struggled with your weight since starting to exercise at all. I was referring to the other comment below that says “Clearly you people haven’t spent your lives sculpting your bodies to look tight, thin, & feminine.” Because many, many women have, and many women have come up with other answers.

      You’re right, it’s not helpful to make matters of weight loss, fitness or health into “you’re wrong and i’m right” arguments. But I just find that there’s a lot of misinformation out there that confuses women and makes them feel that they have to over-exercise in ways that can be damaging to their physical and mental health.

      If you’re interested, I’d love for you to email me (briana@blisstree.com) with your story and maybe we can find some people to interview about it; I’m sure you’re not the only one who’s experienced this frustration, so it would be great to learn more about it and see what other nutrition, fitness and health experts think about it.

      Good luck – and I hope to hear from you!