In a society 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 grounded in science. These are the rules you can bend.
THE TRUTH Always warm up and cool down.
THE WHOLE TRUTH While a proper warm-up is a must, especially prior to a race, a cooldown 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 3 percent. These efforts activate all available motor units so they're ready to jump into action at the start, and leave you less likely to go into the red 30 seconds in. For very hard efforts, a cooldown 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.
THE TRUTH 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 for 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.
THE TRUTH When weight training, rest between sets.
THE WHOLE TRUTH Keep moving.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH You're a cyclist, not a body builder. Sitting between sets reduces potential calorie burn. In a recent 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.
THE TRUTH Crunches 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.
THE TRUTH Never do intervals on back-to-back days.
THE WHOLE TRUTH Do intervals on back-to-back days--but only if you're training for something really hard.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH If you're training for a stage race or other multiday event, doing consecutive interval days with ample rest afterward helps build top-end stamina and simulates what's ahead.
THE TRUTH Aim for 90 rpm when pedaling.
THE WHOLE TRUTH There is no magical cadence.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH You can perform well spinning between 80 and 100 rpm. Choose according to your muscle-fiber makeup and recruitment as well as your fitness level and gear selection.