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We’ve all heard them: words of wisdom and “sage” advice from well-meaning friends.  It seems like everyone has an opinion about what you should be doing before, during and after a workout to get the most out of all your hard work.  What you may not know is that some of the longest-held beliefs about working out and exercising aren’t all they’re cracked up to be (and some of them are just flat out wrong!).  So, take a peek at this list of the top-ten workout myths and see how many of them you’ve been following to the letter (then let them go!).

1. Target toning works. 

Uh uh. Sorry to tell you, but if you really want to lose your love handles, all the crunches in the world aren’t going to do it.  Sure, they’ll strengthen your abdominal muscles, but you won’t be able to really see the fruits of your labor until you lose the fat that’s covering them up; and unfortunately, you can’t jump on the treadmill and direct your body to burn the fat around your middle.  It doesn’t work that way.  Get that heart rate up and your body will burn fat, but it will use fat stores from all over the body–you can’t tell it what to burn first.

2. Running on a treadmill will stress your knees less than running on pavement. 

Sorry, but the pressure on your knees comes from carrying your body weight on your joints–and your weight won’t change unless you lose some.  If you want to save your knees, vary your workout; try running one day, elliptical another, biking another, etc.

3. The more you sweat, the more weight you’ll lose.

Just because Bradley Cooper thought wearing a Hefty bag in Silver Linings Playbookwould help him lose weight, doesn’t mean you should buy an extra box of trash bags.  Sweat means you’re losing water–not fat.  Sure, it also means you’re working hard–and that’s a good thing–it doesn’t mean that if Suzy looks like she’s waiting for a wet T-shirt contest after Boot Camp, and you’re damp (but not soaked enough to wring out), that Suzy’s going to lose more weight faster.  It means Suzy sweats more than you and maybe she needs a bottle of water to replenish. Rehydrate her, and the water weight comes right back.  We’ll say it again–water is not fat.  If losing fat were that easy, we’d all just take a few days at the beach and sweat ourselves skinny.

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4. If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough.

Sweating is your body’s way of cooling off, but it’s not a measurement of exertion.  Lifting light weights or taking a brisk walk may not make you sweat buckets, but that doesn’t mean you’re not working and burning calories.

5. You’re not overdoing it if you still feel good, right?

Wrong. You may feel great now, but give it a day or two, and you’ll feel it if you work too hard too soon.  Then, what will happen?  You may have to take a couple of days off of your exercise schedule to recover–and that’s counterproductive.  One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting fresh at working out or starting again after a long absence from the gym is doing too much too soon.  Take your time.  Ease back in.  You’ll get back to your former glory, and you’ll get there faster and easier if you don’t injure yourself in the process.

Next week, we’ll give the last five on our top ten list of workout myths.  Have you recognized yourself yet?  How many of these myths have you been adhering to?