Ignore These 6 Pieces of Advice that Can Keep You from Exercising

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ROTC swimming
A U.S. Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps midshipman, with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, swims during an ROTC swimming exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Aug. 15, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Sanchez)

Some people do not exercise because they get tripped up by circular logic that prevents them from even getting started on the most basic level. When well-intentioned advice ends up keeping us from exercising at all, it is time to move away from that source. If advice doesn't make sense, stop listening. 

Here are some classic confusing pieces of advice many of you heard throughout life. I've applied some logic to help you move on from thinking in a way that produces nothing but excuses as to why you do not exercise.

Don't Get Into the Water Until You Know How to Swim.

Well, how are you going to learn how to swim? Sure, you can watch swim videos. You can also watch swimmers doing their thing from the surface or while wearing a mask underwater if you want to see how to swim. 

But you have to get in the water to learn to swim, and it will require practice. Take lessons or stay in the shallow end. Watch and learn from those around you. 

Don't just practice learning the swimming technique. Make sure to get into swimming shape. You may be able to run a six-minute mile, but getting across a 50-meter pool with poor technique will tire out anyone with an above-average cardio conditioning level. 

Check out swim videos and swim critique videos to help you with the military stroke called the combat swimmer side (aka modified side stroke).

You Should Not Exercise at Your Age, Because You're Too Young or Too Old.

Exercise is important for everyone, no matter their shape, size or age. Just getting outside and playing on a playground or going for a walk is exercise. Anyone who wants to play sports, no matter their age, needs to get stronger and increase their ability to move. The same is true for those who want to do martial arts, calisthenics or even dumbbell exercises.

It's important to be an active person when young or stay active as we age. Take care to choose safe, effective movements and activities when those exercising are pre-teen or over 75 years of age. The goal is to start moving early and never stop, even as the decades start to accumulate. 

You Should Not Work Out Until You Know How.

This is a similar paradox to the advice not to get into the water before you know how to swim. I like to teach people to progress into working out with a foundation of calisthenics and cardio exercises that require no equipment. Then you can add in dumbbells and TRX exercises to increase the exercise selection of your workouts.

Ask for assistance from trainers in the gym or buy a training program to get you started with breaking up workouts during the week using what is called "split routines." Basically, if you follow a model of doing upper-body exercises one day and lower body the next and a cardio day or day off in between, you will have a great way to train that will quickly yield results. 

Where most beginners make mistakes is to do the same workouts day after day after day and not allow the body to recover fully for the needed 36-48 hours before engaging the same group of muscles when lifting weights or even doing calisthenics. 

You Might Get Injured if You Start Training.

True. You might get injured walking across a parking lot if you are not paying attention to where you are going. The same is true when you train. 

If you follow some basic rules of training, your chances of getting injured are greatly decreased. It's important  to progress logically with increasing weight and repetitions of exercises or miles of running. Be diligent and watch your technique when lifting, running or just moving. 

Watch some videos that demonstrate proper technique for any activity you try. Make a video of yourself attempting that activity and then compare if you do not have another set of trained eyes watching you. Exercise and increased activity are well worth the risks, compared to the risks that come with not moving more or choosing to eat better foods. 

Some paradoxical advice can even get mean: 

You Are Too Overweight to Exercise.

I hate this one. Finding something you can do can be challenging, but no matter how little or easy it seems, moving is the healthy option. Sure, you will have to progress into more activity with patience and persistence, and reducing your food intake will be required for weight-loss success, but you must move in some way. Dumbbells, TRX, sandbags, walking, treading and aqua-jogging are great activities when gravity makes moving around quickly difficult on the joints. 

You Are Too Skinny to Lift Weights.

Many young people find it difficult to gain weight. You can build muscle with calisthenics, then advance to dumbbells and TRX to make your workouts harder. After some time of regular training and eating more food than normal, you will get bigger and lift more weight in the weight room. Making the transition from a foundation of calisthenics to weight room training is the method I have used with countless beginners and teens looking to prepare for sports or just get bigger. 

I tell people who ask me about special ops training not to take special ops training advice from people who have no idea about that job. You should take the same approach to advice about working out. 

There's a lot of bad special ops advice that's based on rumors and half truths that make little to no sense to someone who has worked in the profession. The same is true for fitness advice. Talk to someone who works in the business or at least trains frequently and has some knowledge of the process. 

Asking someone who does not know how to swim to improve your swimming stroke makes no sense, so find a better information source. See hundreds of articles at the Military.com Fitness Section for starters. 

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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