“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.