In a world where beliefs about exercise are either long-held or fleeting (you know, until something better comes along), it can be difficult to know if we're doing the right thing at the right time. And while some rules of fitness are backed up with studies and research, others aren't as well grounded in science: in short, some rules are made for bending.
Rule One: Always warm up and cool down.
The Whole Truth: While a proper warm-up is a must, especially before a race, a cool-down isn't always necessary.
Nothing But The Truth: Researchers at Aberystwyth University, in Wales, found that a warm-up that includes moderate to heavy efforts can improve high-intensity cycling performance by three per cent. These efforts activate all available and necessary motor units so they're ready to jump into action at the start, meaning you'll be less likely to go into the red 30 seconds in. For very hard efforts, a cool-down can help prevent blood from pooling in your legs and causing dizziness, but there's no evidence that it clears lactic acid or helps prevent soreness.
Rule Two: Drink before you're thirsty.
The Whole Truth: Drink up, but don't drown yourself.
Nothing But The Truth: A little dehydration doesn't hurt performance or put you at risk of heat stress. In a study from the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, researchers found that runners who drank according to thirst performed just as well as those who drank moderate or high amounts, and they didn't have any higher heat stress or core body temperature.
Rule Three: When you're weight training, rest between sets.
The Whole Truth: Keep moving.
Nothing But The Truth: You're a triathlete, not a body builder. Sitting between sets reduces potential calorie burn. In a study from the University of Connecticut, researchers found that lifters who rested for one minute or less between sets experienced nearly double the metabolism boost of lifters who rested for three minutes.
Rule Four: Crunches will strengthen your core.
The Whole Truth: Crunches don't work.
Nothing But The Truth: Do this instead: lie back on a mat and lift your legs so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your knees are bent 90 degrees. Extend your arms straight toward the ceiling. Contract your abs and lift your torso off the floor while simultaneously straightening your legs so your body
forms a V. Hold for two seconds. Lower. Do three sets of eight to 10 reps.
Rule Five: Aim for 90 rpm when pedalling.
The Whole Truth: There is no magical cadence number.
Nothing But The Truth: You can perform well spinning between 80 and 100 rpms. Choose according to your muscle-fibre makeup as well as your fitness level and gear selection.
Quick Tip: Most people prefer running outdoors to putting in a session on the treadmill but at this time of year you may have no choice but to head to the gym. The running action you employ on a treadmill is different from the one you use outdoors, so set the belt at a one-degree gradient to compensate. You can also use treadmill sessions to focus on your running technique. Warning: this will require looking in a mirror.