Thursday, September 15, 2011

Women's Health - Better than Cosmopolitan, not as good as Oxygen

I thankfully got a lot of feedback from my last posting.  Rants are always popular it seems.  

Some of the feedback I got was that I shouldn't expect anything better from Cosmopolitan in regards to fitness articles, but that they though I'd have a point if it was Women's Health.  I'll save my retort to that for the end of this article, but in the meantime let's take a look at Women's Health.  

Their magazine for this month didn't have much in the way of fitness articles.  They did have a 1-page spread on a kettlebell circut however which was pretty decent.  I like kettlebells, they're a lot of fun.  

Well, okay, this is just silly.

"The secret to shaving time off your workout without sacrificing results: doing dynamic combo moves that target at least two muscle groups (think quads and biceps) in each rep...they are great time-savers and also challenge your stabilizer muscles which help improve core strength and balance."

True enough!  This is one of the reasons that I like moves such as the squat or deadlift - they work multiple muscles in one movement rather than isolating muscles like one does on machines.  As well since you're using more muscles, you will be saving time doing just a few exercises cover your total body rather than going from machine to machine isolating muscles for no particular reason.  And, as I mentioned in another post, free weights will make you use your stabilizer muscles and improve core strength.

They recommend doing the circuit of 4 exericses they give you for 2 sets with an 8-10lb kettlebell.  I always dislike it when magazines give you a recommended weight.  I get asked this all the time: "What weight should I be using?" If you want a universal answer here it is: Whatever makes the routine difficult for you.  When it comes to doing strength training, the weight should be heavy enough that the last 2-3 reps are strenuous and difficult.  In the case of this circuit, it's going to be whatever makes you want to lay on the ground and die by the end of it.  No, seriously.  Circuits are supposed to be HARD.  They are a combination of strength and cardio that are excellent for getting your metabolism up and burning calories while maintaining muscle.  Not to mention a million times more interesting than running on a treadmill or chilling on an elliptical.  

Has clearly progressed from the 8-10lb recommendation

They don't give you a rest interval between sets either, which is also important and a component many seem to forget about.  For circuits I usually say 60-90 seconds.  As well it should be mentioned that a workout like this should not be your entire routine for a strength day unless it's a rest day and you just have a compulsion to go and workout. (That's not just me right? .....right...?)  Something like this should take place after you already do your strength training at the end of your workout.  You could also do this instead of your typical cardio day. (Assuming your goals are physique-related and you don't have specific running goals.)

The four exercises they give you are a little complicated for a beginner and require some serious coordination.  However, it's in no way a bad routine.  Hooray!

So in an effort to get some more out of Women's Health, I picked up "Women's Health Ultimate Weight Loss Guide," something apart from their usual monthly magazine.  80% of the book is about diet, which is great.  Diet is about 80% of the battle when it comes to weight loss, a point they make in the beginning of the guide.  Unless you're a teenage boy, it's hard (impossible for most) to out-exercise a bad diet.  However this is not a nutrition blog so I'll leave all that part alone.

Let's get to the fitness part!

First fitness chapter they have is entitled "Fast Track to a Fit Body," because I guess the title "The slow and steady track with moderate, over-time changes to a fit body" just is never enticing.  In this article they'll be talking about interval training and high-intensity training.  The tagline for this chapter is "The workout secret that will slash pounds - and the time you spend in the gym."  This annoys me.  This isn't a 'secret.'  Fitness knowledge is free and available and out there to anyone who cares to take the time to look.  Women's Health isn't selling you something that hasn't already been said before.  I guess that's just me getting uppity over semantics but the language of health and fitness magazines and infomercials really bothers me.

" that....?"
"Yes, it's the secret....of how to slash pounds."

Anyways, where was I?  Oh yes.  This article.  They cite a study that concluded that interval training will get you the same benefits as a longer, steady-state cardio workout in much less time.  As far as what they mean by 'benefits,' I'm not sure.  Why don't magazines have to cite their sources?  They go on to talk about how to mentally prepare yourself for high-intensity, how to know if you're making a max effort and a couple of examples of interval training.  Then I came upon a wondrous quote that I was very pleased to see:

"Picking up the pace during spin class isn't the only way to pump up your routine.  Programs such as CrossFit and P90X are intense workouts that have women busting out pushups, lifting barbells and swinging weights.  (And no, these chicks don't look like bodybuilders.)" Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay.


"Some women are intimidated when they see a workout like 50 pullups, pushups, and squats because they assume they can't do it...But the challenge empowers them.  They get a chance to do things they thought were impossible."

"There's just now way around it:  If you're not uncomfortable, you're not working hard enough."

There's a tear in my eye.

I'm just so HAPPY!

"Only 20% of your workouts should be high intensity"

....aaaand there it goes. 

 So if you exercise 5 times a week only 1 should be high intensity?  Maybe this is true if you're an athlete during the in-season.  However, CrossFit gives a workout of the day...everyday.  People who do CrossFit do it many times per week.  I do high-intensity work 2-3 times per week.  They give all these lovely quotes about working hard and then tell you to only do it once a week, and that's if you're one of the few people who works out 5 times a week?  Just wrong.  If you're a beginner, yes, chances are high intensity work isn't something you can do more than maybe once a week.  However as you get used to the workload this will change.  The definition of high-intensity also needs to be refined if they're going to put out this kind of statement.  

But, let's not put down Women's Health.  Here's another great quote they give in this guide:

"To burn more fat while weight-training, higher weight, fewer reps instead of lower weight, more reps."


However, Women's Health does not hold a candle to Oxygen in the fitness department.  If you want good info on exercise and fitness Oxygen is definitely the way to go.  It's targeted towards women, however the information is just as applicable to men.  Their models actually look like they workout.  It's shocking, really.  They have success stories from readers every issue who go on to do powerlifting, figure competitions, bikini shows, etc. from their advice.  One of their readers submitted in a sarcastic piece of mail that takes after my own heart: 

"I hate the gym!  A friend took me to her gym for a workout last week.  I hated it.  There were too many sweat-covered grunting gorilla types.  I had to get out.  I realize that Oxygen is a big promoter of weight lifting, but sorry guys, Oxygen just isn't right for me.  I get much more from Shape magazine because they don't believe in strenuous exercise - and neither do I.  When I feel an urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling goes away."

From the cover you wouldn't be able to tell how good this magazine is, except for the fact the cover girl has meat on her bones.

So I'm going to transition here onto the retort I got back the most from my last blog post; that no one should expect good fitness information from Cosmopolitan - it's Cosmopolitan.  It'd be like expecting an electronics magazine to have a decent article on fitness.

Well, if an electronics magazine decided for whatever reason to write an article on fitness, I would indeed expect them to have decent information in it.  If you're going to put out any kind of writing on any topic to the public, if you're going to give advice to anyone about anything, you better know what you're talking about.  Cosmopolitan covers a variety of topics and frequently fitness is one of those topics.  Whether or not their main focus is telling women how to have better sex, if they are going to write about fitness they should write with care and with an informed opinion.  The whole idea that people don't expect good information from Cosmo is telling.  Considering how many women (okay so it's probably a lot of 14 year old girls reading how to give better blow-jobs also) read the magazine and take it for truth should be enough argument to say that we should expect better.

Well this is probably the longest post I've written!  If you made it this far, congratulations!  You win my gratitude! 


  1. Love the blog!
    Aaaand....I know it's one of the annoying magazines, but I came across an article that might bring another tear to your eye:

  2. Thank you so much for your support and the link! If a magazine I deam "annoying" or portraying false information starts putting out articles like that, then a change of opinion is of course in order.

    Let's hope they keep up the message, I'll be sure to keep an eye out on them ;)