5 Outdated Fitness Lifestyle Tips That Need to Die (Plus What to Do Instead)

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5 Outdated Fitness Lifestyle Tips That Need to Die
A woman wearing a white tank top and orange tights stretches her right hamstring

You’ve likely heard these common recycled fitness tips a time or two. They’re often said by people with good intentions, who maybe aren’t up on all the latest health trends. Well thankfully, we’re telling you it’s time to let this old advice go. 

There’s a better way. A way that allows you to approach fitness with self-love, positivity, and most importantly, joyful progress!

We looked at the research and talked to top Kickoff fitness experts, and we think you’re going to like what we’ve found. So, without further ado, here are five outdated pieces of fitness advice, and what you should do instead. 

1. No Pain, No Gain 

What it means

You need to push your body to its absolute limits in the gym and experience extreme soreness to see results. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.

Why it’s off-base 

Pain and soreness are not necessarily indicators of positive results, according to expert Kickoff personal trainer Robert Guthrie. In fact, pushing your body too hard can actually hurt your fitness progress over time — or worse, injure you. 

“It’s definitely outdated, the idea that you need to go 100% in the gym every day,” shares Guthrie. “You still get muscle activation, build muscle, and get a good workout by listening to your body and doing what it needs.”

Of course, you may experience some discomfort and soreness as you begin a new exercise routine or use your muscles in new ways. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS, and it’s common after unfamiliar or unconditioned exercise. It’s why you feel so sore after running for the first time in years. It’s important to learn how to distinguish between healthy soreness and discomfort (DOMS), and the pain that can come from pushing yourself too hard.   

What to do instead

Certified personal trainer with Kickoff and health educator Ahsha Morin recommends an incremental approach to training, and working on a scale of 1 to 10:

  1. Pick up a weight. Start with lighter weights of five to 10 pounds. 

  2. Do 10 to 15 reps of a few basic exercises (ex: bicep curls, squats, lunges, tricep kickbacks).

  3. Check in with yourself to see how you feel on a scale of 1 to 10: 1 meaning you could continue all day without feeling fatigued, and 10 meaning you couldn’t do another rep to save your life. Hitting a 6 or 7 is the sweet spot. You should feel like you could do more reps, but you’re definitely feeling your muscles work and they’re a bit fatigued.

  4. If you’re below a 6 or 7, consider ramping up your weights by three to five pounds. Repeat as necessary. 

2. Always Stretch Before Working Out 

What it means

Static stretching before a workout warms up your body and prevents injuries. You should never skip stretching.

Why it’s off-base 

Stretching before a workout is important, but maybe not the kind of stretching you’re imagining. Did you know there are actually two different ways to stretch?  

  • Static stretching is holding the same position for a certain period of time. Think holding a forward fold for 30 seconds. 

  • Dynamic stretching is making controlled movements that allow your full range of motion. Think leg swings, jumping jacks, arm circles, and other mobility exercises.

While there is a place for static stretching (we’ll get to that soon), it may not be ideal for warming up your muscles at the start of your workout. 

What to do instead

“I usually recommend a dynamic stretch. I prescribe my clients a dynamic warm-up before each workout,” shares Guthrie. What does that look like in practice?

Start with five minutes of light-to-moderate cardio, or just enough to get your body temperature up and your heart rate elevated a bit. Then do five minutes of dynamic stretching. Focus on frequently used areas like your rotator cuff and hip flexors. Now you’re warm, loose, and ready to train! 

As for static stretching, it’s often best saved for after your workout. That way, your muscles are properly warmed up, allowing you to stretch deeper and more safely.  

3. Lifting Weights Makes You Bulky 

What it means

If you’re a woman and you lift weights, you’ll bulk up.

Why it’s off-base 

Beefing up with muscle isn’t something that happens by accident. Just ask bodybuilders. They work on their physiques daily for years, often at great personal sacrifice. 

“I think the misconception is that if women lift weight, we just automatically bulk up. And that’s just not the case. It takes a lot of work and a lot of dedication to actually get bulky,” explains Morin. “And I would say most people don’t have the time, energy, or effort to do that. But that fear of, ‘oh I’m not going to lift weights cause I don’t want to get bulky,’ is actually hurting women in general because it increases our chances of osteoporosis in the future.”

In fact, research shows that weight training can help slow bone loss and create stronger, denser bones overall. Having healthy bones is important for aging — that's powerful motivation to stick with leg day!

What to do instead

Stay focused on your goals and not on the potential negative what-ifs. Whether you’re trying to improve your cardio health, tone your muscles, or lose weight, it’s possible to incorporate strength and resistance training into your routine without bulking up. Not sure where to start? Connect with an expert trainer who can support you at every step.

4. Everybody Should Strive for 10,000 Steps Every Day 

What it means

Ten-thousand is the magic number of steps you need daily for your health, wellness, and longevity. You should always strive to hit 10,000 steps per day to maintain proper activity levels.

Why it’s off-base 

The 10,000-step goal was likely first introduced in 1965 as a marketing tool by a Japanese company that made a step counter called Manpo-kei, or “10,000 steps meter.” Since then, it’s become the gold standard of step goals. But does it have a basis in reality? Maybe not. 

One study found that older women who averaged 4,400 steps per day had a 41% reduction in mortality over those who took 2,700 steps per day. For participants who took more than 4,400 daily steps, mortality rates progressively improved — but only up to 7,500 steps per day. This suggests that the 10,000-step goal may not be one-size-fits-all. Not that it’s not a good goal, but that it may not be necessary to meet your long term health goals. Especially if it takes away from doing other health-building activities.   

What to do instead

Building activity is all about taking baby steps. 

“Going from very little to 10,000 is difficult, especially for folks that aren’t used to being on their feet that much,” explains Guthrie. He suggests an incremental approach: 

“Someone who is sedentary most of the day, I would say start out with a step tracker and see how many steps you get on average. If your average steps are about 3,000, I would try for 5,000. Then once we get 5,000 consistently, let’s bump it up to 7,000.”

This can help you make progress slowly, in a way that supports your body and avoids too much fatigue. But what if you don’t have a fitness tracker? You can use a step tracker app on your phone, though you’ll have to carry it with you throughout the day. Or, Guthrie says you can simply try setting yourself a goal to walk 30 minutes a day. 

5. You Need a Protein Drink After a Workout 

What it means

Protein builds muscle, so you need a protein drink right after a workout to help your muscles grow.

Why it’s off-base 

“We’ve lived a lot of years without protein powders and drinks and still achieved goals,” explains Morin. “Do I believe in increasing your protein to help build muscle and sustain life and good health? Yes. But I think there’s a lot better ways to get protein in, versus just drinking a protein shake.” 

Overall, your daily protein needs can vary depending on your age, sex, activity level, and more. But the reality is, most Americans already get enough protein in their diets, so a protein shake may be overboard. 

What to do instead

Morin says most people can get all the protein they need from whole food sources. So long as you’re eating within a few hours of working out, you should be good to go.

The one exception? “When people are really busy and struggling to get their daily protein, there’s a place for powders.” 

She says her vegan and vegetarian clients sometimes turn to powders to fill in gaps between meals.

The bottom line? Protein powders are a quick, easy solution in a busy world. If you enjoy your post-workout shake, more power to you! There’s nothing wrong with protein powders, they’re just best used alongside a diet of healthful whole foods.

Wrapping Up

Our understanding of fitness has changed a lot through the years. It’s okay to let go of advice that’s not working and keep or reframe the parts that are working. In fact, we say it’s a good thing — happy training!