1. Eating right is 80% of the battle.
It’s easy to get distracted by fancy-schmancy products and regimes, but whether you’re trying to lose weight or bulk up, as a personal trainer, I can assure you that you can’t go wrong with a balanced diet of fresh food, cooked from scratch. Plenty of veg, some fruit, lean protein, and low-GI wholegrain carbs. And you know what? You eat the right food, you get to eat plennnnnnntttttyyyy of it.
2. Start long-term and work back.
When you’re coming up with your targets, start long-term and work back. In order to run 10k in six months’ time, what do you need to do this month? This week?
3. A personal trainer is worth the cost.
Personal Trainers may seem pricey, but a lot of the work goes on outside of the gym. Those SMART targets and fiddly training plans? We can do those for you! Drawing up a detailed training plan, from single sessions to months of improvement, takes AGES.
Remember to do your research when finding a trainer. Reputable Personal Trainers are members of the Register of Exercise Professionals. It means both you and they are covered by insurance, and they have to do professional development to keep up their skills.
4. And you don’t have to have a Personal Trainer session every week.
Can’t afford regular Personal Trainer sessions? Spend ‘em wisely – choose workouts you can’t do alone. Use your Personal Trainer as a boxing partner, or to spot you lifting heavy weights.
5. It is impossible to get ripped “accidentally”.
Ladies. I’m looking at you. Because of our physical make-up – more fat, less testosterone – you won’t get visibly muscly unless you really mean to. The badass women who choose to look that way WORK for it.
6. You need to make SMART goals.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Write down your intentions for getting fit – not just “tone up at some point” – and it’s much more likely to happen.
7. A single exercise can reveal your injury risks.
Print off the NASM Overhead Squats Solutions Table and ask a buddy to watch you doing bodyweight squats. How you move will show your body’s areas of weakness and tightness. Then make sure you work in exercises to strengthen and stretch ‘em. (Oh, and here’s something I wouldn’t want you to find out the hard way: Sports massages are NOT like the kind with whalesong and candles. They HURT.)
8. Be honest with your Personal Trainer.
If you don’t enjoy the sessions, we need to sort it out. It might be hard work, but to make progress you need to enjoy your workouts too. I find Pilates incredibly dull, but pushing myself to the point of puking in a HIIT session? Sign me up.
9. Remember, this is a professional relationship.
Yes, we might get very close to your sweaty body (some of those two-person stretches are, uh, intimate), and if we’re spending hours at a time with you, we will probably end up hearing all about your personal life. We do care – but this is a professional relationship and it should stay that way.
10. It’s worth investing in the right kit.
Once you’ve found a workout you like, invest in the right kit. And yes, it is “an investment”, not just a killer excuse to shop. The right clothes will stop chafing, wick sweat away, AND make you feel fly. Oh, and some of my faves are totally wearable outside of the gym too (AFTER THEY’VE BEEN WASHED). Check out Sweaty Betty, or Forever 21 if you’re on a budget.
11. You should get a sweat on every time.
You know this really. The good news? The more intense the workout, the shorter it needs to be. The most efficient calorie-burners are dynamic moves with free weights. Struggling? Just think of the endorphins on their way…
12. Peripheral heart action is the way forward.
My ultimate fitness hack? Alternating between upper- and lower-body exercises will work your heart harder and boost your metabolism, without spending any more time in the gym. It’s called peripheral heart action and it’s GENIUS.
13. Cardio then weights? Nah.
Save time by injecting cardio into your strength workouts – try nixing the rest periods between sets, upping the tempo, or doing full-body moves (think swapping the chest-press machine for press-ups).
14. Make weights work for you.
Lifting weights? Go big to small to get the most out of your muscles. Start with compound moves with big muscles (like press-ups) then work your way down to isolated small muscles (like tricep dips).
15. When it comes to weights, the more instability the better.
Free weights > cable machines > machines. When it comes to weights, the more instability the better. Free weights work more of your body in a more functional, natural way, which means fewer injuries. Machines isolate a muscle, leaving you in danger of overworking it and neglecting supporting muscles.
16. Step away from the cardio machines!
I am in danger of sounding like a PE teacher, but a run outside is just SO MUCH BETTER. Not only will the uneven surface strengthen your legs, studies have also shown that being outside boosts endorphins by 50%. If you are going to stick to the treadmill, at least bump up the incline.
17. Recovery is just as important as what you do in the gym.
Overtraining will actually slow your progress and hold you back. Leave 48 hours between working muscle groups, and dedicate time at the end of every session to stretch. Even better, make time for yoga and Pilates classes.
18. It’s not just about the way you look.
The real joy of being fit and healthy, the reason it’s so addictive, is how it makes you feel. You have tons of energy during the day and sleep like a log at night. You’re strong. Your skin GLOWS. Oh, and it’s the best stress-release ever. All those ENDORPHINS.
19. Learn to see exercise as a treat, not punishment.
And finally, the key to keeping this up forever (and it not seeming like a life sentence): Learn to see exercise as a treat, not a punishment. Thanks to endorphins (have I mentioned endorphins yet? #ENDORPHINS), I have never left the gym feeling worse than I did when I arrived. Not convinced? Keep a note of how you feel after a session – I bet the “better” column will fill up way quicker than “worse”.
So grab your trainers, strap yourself into a sports bra with ADEQUATE SUPPORT (your 50-year-old self will thank you), and get ready to see what you can do…