Illustration by Emily Tarbush

What Fitness Trends Should You Definitely Skip?

Fasting and high intensity-training are not a great combo

by Molly Hurford

The fitness world can be a scary place to venture into: One minute, you’re being advised to lift heavy all the time. The next, you’re being told that lifting heavy weights will make you pack on bulky muscle that you don’t want. Trends are constantly ebbing and flowing, especially around nutrition and what will give you the best #gainz. Whether you’re serious about finding a fitness routine that fits your lifestyle, hoping to run a 5K later this year, or just want to get off the couch a couple times a week, don’t buy into the hype. Here, we’re looking at a few trends that fitness professionals wish would just die already.

The Go Hard Mentality, All the Time

In a fast-paced world with minimal time to fit in workouts, it’s super-tempting to just hit up CrossFit seven times a week, or do some other type of high-intensity training or heavy lifting every day. But if you’re skimping on recovery or easy days, you’re not letting your body actually make those gains, and you’re more likely to end up puffy from water retention and inflammation, injured from overuse, or burned out from a cortisol overload. Don’t ignore warning signs like DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), that sore feeling you get the morning after a hard workout, where getting out of bed to go pee is agony. Let your body dictate what it needs on any given day, and have options at the ready. You shouldn’t skip a workout altogether if you’re feeling sore—just swap the hard workout for a gentle yoga session or a walk. (And take one full day off each week!) You’ll be surprised to find that you see results a lot faster if you take time off.

Intermittent Fasting… Especially Around Workouts

What are two ways busy people try to drop weight? First, they do workouts in the morning before work. Second, they get turned on to the intermittent fasting that’s currently the nutrition trend de rigeur. The premise is simple: Fast, some of the time. That might mean not eating for 16 hours in a day, then having an eating window of eight. That’s the most common current usage, and while it’s smart to give your body a break from food every so often, Dr. Stacy Sims is more a fan of what she calls "eating like a reasonable person." That means stop eating after dinner, don’t eat until breakfast: That often gives your body a 12-to-14-hour break. If you are trying the whole intermittent fasting plan while trying to work out regularly, though, the biggest mistake people are making is combining hard and full-length workouts with a "fasted state training," i.e. training on 16 hours without eating, before breakfast. It’s fine to do a super-short, super-light workout (walking the dog, gentle yoga) before eating in that case, but you can’t expect to make it through a boot camp workout successfully without a snack first. Stick to intermittent fasting if you’re loving it, but make sure your workout comes during that eating window, so you can pre-load with a snack and enjoy a post-workout recovery meal.

Going All-Intensity or All-Endurance

"I wish athletes would recognize that high-intensity training works best as an ‘and' to endurance work,” says longtime running coach Jonathan Beverly. "The emphasis on intensity was a necessary correction for years when it was ignored and overlooked, but then it became over-emphasized and preached as all that you need. To reach your best, I think you need both: lots of easy volume and some all-out, high-intensity work.” What he’s saying is that for years, we were all about cardio and long, slow distance for general fitness. Then, boot camp and HIIT workouts became the top trend, and people shifted only to going hard. But to get the best results, a middle-of-the-road approach is best. For a runner, that could look like two longer, slower runs; one run with some intense intervals thrown in; one easy yoga session; and one hard weight-training or boot camp-style session in a week. That balance will keep you getting stronger and faster.

Keto as a Cure-All

Not everyone will respond the same to a “keto” diet where the focus is on eating mostly fat and severely limiting carbohydrate intake. Sure, for some people, results will be immediate—that’s why the Atkins Diet was so popular back in the day. But a fat-heavy diet isn’t going to work for everyone, particularly women with hormonal balance issues or women who are exercising with any kind of regularity. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but if anyone tells you that a keto diet is the best way to lose weight or get ripped, know that, while it may have worked for him or her, it might not work for you. (The same goes for any other trendy diet, from raw veganism to Paleo.)

Anything Promising “Skinny” With Zero Work

Nutritionist Anne Guzman jokes, "Just shoot me if I see another bag of skinny tea. If it worked, we would all be ripped!” She’s right. But the whole "get skinny quick" scheme has been around for decades, and now, it’s everywhere: in our teas, candies, snacks, workout routines… Basically, if anything promises immediate results or a "fast detox," give it a pass. You’ll save money and agony if you just stick to the basics of moving more and eating more veggies, fewer doughnuts. Pretty simple, right?