Most of you who are reading this follow me because I share recipes, I bake like crazy, chase after donuts and fried food on a stick and write about my visits to restaurants. A few of you are here because you know me from my weight-loss journey. I’ve lost around 150 pounds by eating less, eating healthy and moving more. More than a few of you have said to me in comments, e-mails and in person, “How do you not weigh 300 pounds with all of the baking, eating and food you write about? How are you keeping off all the weight you lost?”
Well, in my defense, I don’t eat all of everything I write about. I eat clean plus I try to stick with eating only one sweet treat a week. And I exercise. Not that it’s possible to out-exercise the amount of calories I’d like to consume, but it sure helps.It also keeps me healthy, even as I work to lose a few more pounds. I love being active!
Those comments from well-meaning folks about how I have maintained my weight loss for a few years now got me thinking about exercise, how important it is, how I ended up in a healthy place with a solid support system and how I came to enjoy exercise. That’s right…I said ENJOY and EXERCISE in the same sentence. I want to share with you how that happened for me and a few tips on how it can happen for you. That’s right, a food blogger is gonna ramble on about exercise and how to get moving. Since I am not an expert in the field of physical fitness, I also got input from my two favorite personal trainers, Mandy Froehlich and Mendy Shriver. Get ready to move!
For me, this was the hardest part. I had never been a gym-going kind of gal. I’m not super coordinated so dance-oriented classes scared me. Smelly, grunting, muscle-bound guys gawking at too-thin girls in the gym annoyed me. Equipment left uncleaned by the previous sweaty person grossed me out. So how did I find a gym that worked for me? I found a trainer who understood my goals and put me in an environment where I was comfortable and felt welcome. Here are a few pointers from Mandy and Mendy on what you should look for when choosing a trainer:
Mandy suggests looking at the experience a trainer has, not only if they are certified but who they are certified through. Certifications vary, look into how long it took to achieve the certification and if continuing education is required to maintain the certification. Ask for a consultation, either in person or over the phone. Ask for references! Look for a trainer who will look at your goals, where you are coming from.
Mendy suggested looking at the trainer’s website or blog, see if the trainer’s core values are the same are yours. Look at the overall focus of the trainer. Is the trainer focused on their own achievements or their client’s success? Mendy pointed out there is a reason this is called “personal” training, it’s about you and your goals. Ask who the trainer’s mentors are, that will give you a glimpse into where they are headed, too!
I’ll also add that you should look for a trainer who will make adjustments to exercises to accommodate your current fitness level as well as any injuries. Modifications are necessary, intense pain is not. If the trainer won’t hear you out on your concerns, keep looking!
Finding What Speaks to You
Intimidated by a co-ed exercising setting? Find an all-women’s fitness center or a just-for-fellas workout group, seek out a trainer focusing on women’s or men’s fitness.
Don’t like lifting weights? Then don’t. Don’t dig loud, thumping techno music and choreographed exercise? Skip it. Feel out of place in a yoga studio? Keep looking!
There are so many fitness options today. Forcing yourself to go to something you don’t enjoy is a sure way to fail. Find something you like doing, find a trainer who gets what you are hoping to accomplish. This will make it so much easier and, I’ll even say it, FUN! I’ve tried things that made me uncomfortable, visited fitness centers where I was pointedly unwelcome (yoga with professional ballerinas? yep, I was there…) and also found my way back to some of those places as my fitness level changed. I’ve hula hooped, boxed, ran, lifted, danced, swam, kayaked, spun, ran and biked on every terrain you can imagine, gone to more yoga studios than I can count, did Pilates til it hurt…I’ve tried lots of things in search of what I enjoy. I keep going back to what I enjoy and spice it up with something new every once in awhile to keep my body guessing. That’s a great tip from Mandy–mix it up! Next month it’s belly dancing for me, finally an exercise for which I feel well-equipped. 🙂
|My fitness sisterhood
For me, what keeps me motivated is community. I’ve worked out with Mandy for several years in small-group training sessions. The community aspect keeps me accountable and makes a formerly dreaded task fun. I know not everyone wants to work out with others, but for me this keeps me going to the gym. It’s much more fun to exercise when you will see friends who have similar goals.
When I first started doing distance races, it was with a group of women who had similar goals to mine. Mandy suggested a group of us train for a half marathon or marathon together. I still train with some of those women, four years later. My suggestion for staying motivated is to find a group of people with similar goals (and perhaps a similar level of fitness), pick a mutual goal like a race, a walk, a fitness vacation and train together. You’ll keep each other accountable in a friendly, non-competitive way that keeps you motivated, keeps you moving forward. It’s easy to bail on yourself, but if you know a friend is expecting you to show up, you’ll do it. You’ll also have someone to celebrate the mini achievements along the way and the goal at the end…which will lead to you choosing another goal the day after you’ve reached the first. Not kidding about this, gotta keep moving forward. Don’t stop once you finish that first race or meet your first goal, keep moving!
Mendy suggested constantly evaluating your expectations and readjusting your expectations to stay motivated. Relish those little bits of triumph, they’ll give you a little oomph to keep pushing forward and help you decide if your goals are realistic for where you are currently in your fitness plan.
Mandy is a proponent of micro goals, a smaller goal along the path to your big goal. I can’t count the number of times Mandy has reminded me that fitness is a lifelong path, there is not a final goal. That can be overwhelming, but having small goals along the way helps stay focused and gives a reason celebrate, to congratulate yourself on your successes.
What to Avoid
I could write a book on what to avoid when getting started with exercise, when choosing a trainer. Even after years of working out with good trainers, I
occasionally often get sucked into some unrealistic fitness or diet plan. I’ve spent the last six months recovering from a nasty injury obtained at a gym that advertises fitness results that aren’t realistic and uses training methods I, a total layperson in the world of fitness, find questionable. But I still got sucked in. Don’t follow me on that path, okay?
I suggest avoiding any trainer who puts you in a competitive environment, as opposed to a supportive environment. Your body is not the same as any other person’s. Avoid any trainer who doesn’t appreciate that. Ultimately you are only working to make yourself better, competing with someone else who has a different body than yours isn’t beneficial in the long-term. Because I’m afflicted with the competitive bug, I compete against myself, working to make each month better than the last.
I work to improve my race times, my endurance or whatever my current goal is. I try hard to recognize that I am going to improve in some areas faster than others, while not improving as fast as others at some things. I’m never going to be a speedy runner but I could run slowly all day. See what I’m getting at? Comparing myself to a sprinter would be discouraging. Comparing my cumulative mileage this month to last month’s is a better motivator for me. I work with trainers who subscribe to this thinking. Avoid a trainer who expects your improvement to mirror anyone else’s.
Avoid fitness where the focus is only on looking better or having smaller measurements. Find a trainer and a program where improving your level of fitness is all-encompassing. I’m suggesting health here, not just smaller jeans. Can you walk further than last month? Great! If climbing six flights of steps leaves you less winded, that’s improvement. Find many ways to measure your success, avoid getting stuck on only numbers. (I’m a number junkie, this one is tough for me!)
You know that small print in the bottom of the diet drug and weight loss ads? When you start looking for a trainer or a gym, you’ll notice the same thing in some of their ads. “Results Not Typical.” But we all want to think we’ll be the atypical success story, right? Newsflash for you: 99.9% of us won’t be. Avoid any trainer or gym who promises quick results. Instead, look for a program that puts you on a path to lifelong fitness. As mentioned by Mendy, we as a society are conditioned to look for a quick-fix. That’s not realistic, avoid thinking it exists.
I also suggest avoiding signing any long-term agreements with either a gym or a trainer. This might not be a bad idea down the line, but when you are just getting started, your path might change a few times until you find the right fit. My path is constantly changing and that’s a good thing! Instead of a one-year contract, consider signing up for 6 weeks at first. I’m not suggesting you don’t sign up for anything, because making a financial investment is a great motivator for me. Just don’t sign your life away.
Because many of my readers have specific nutritional needs, I thought I would touch on that, too. Some trainers will prescribe a very rigid nutritional plan. Run from these folks. In chatting with Mendy about this, she pointed out to me that requiring a fitness client to eat from a specific plan is outside of the scope of services for a personal trainer. She also said a good trainer has the ability to look outside of themselves and pull in other services. Those who don’t are doing a disservice to their clients. I have had great success working with a trainer who will help me stay on track with healthy eating, sharing dietary tips yet allowed me to eat in the manner best for my specific health issues and also is quick to suggest I find someone with specific dietary skills when I need help.
So there you have it, how to pick a trainer, how to get and keep motivated and what to avoid. Big thanks to Mendy and Mandy for lending their expertise for this blog post. I hope it encourages you to get moving! I’d also love to hear what moves you. Leave a comment below, let’s talk!
About Mandy and Mendy:
Mandy Froehlich is a personal trainer in Liberty, Missouri specializing in training women and girls. I highly recommend Mandy’s small group training for women, it’s life-changing! Follow Mandy on Facebook, she shares great tips, links and resources.
Mendy Shriver owns Fit By Burn, a wellness and fitness studio in Liberty, Missouri. Big things are happening at her fitness studio, check her out on Facebook. (Pssst! Healthy cooking classes will be happening here soon…Two of my favorite things, exercise and food, coming your way!)