So, the personal trainer you promised yourself you'd hire to get back into shape is simply not in the cards. Might as well throw in the towel, throw on the flannels, break out the Cheetos and revisit the issue in 2016! Not so fast. Though there are many incredible benefits to working with a trainer, there are a few ways you can act as your own fitness professional.
Part of the reason working with a trainer works is that it keeps you accountable. You have set appointments that you pay good money for, whether you show up or not. More often than not, that means you make them a top priority and rarely miss a session. So, in order to keep yourself accountable on your own, you must treat your workouts like ironclad appointments. One way to do that is to pencil them in. Create a fitness calendar for yourself, put it where you can see it and physically write down the times, days and types of workouts you plan on attending each week. Work other parts of your schedule around these set-in-stone sessions just as you would for a hired pro. Simply, show up for yourself. (Isn't that a mouthful!)
Another part of the personal trainer puzzle is the sessions are always efficient. There is never a moment wasted on trying to figure out what to do next; they have a plan already mapped out, moving everything along in a super-organized and super-time-effective manner. Well, can't we do this for ourselves? Abso-effing-lutely, we can! Just like a fitness expert, you too can ensure an effective session at the gym. I hate to sound like a broken record but, write it down! Spend a few minutes before you head out for your workout, put a pencil to paper and write down exactly what exercises you're going to do, in what order and for what duration. That way, when you enter the weight room you know exactly what's going down and never waste a moment staring blankly into the abyss of available equipment. If you're not quite sure where to start, don't fret. There are a lot of great online fitness resources to get your creative exercise juices flowing. You can find excellent pre-planned workouts at http://www.popsugar.com/Workouts and http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts. Spend a few weeks following their guidelines and soon you'll start mixing and matching all the moves you learned into customized combinations. Just make sure you do the moves you hate as well as the ones you love.
"Don’t give up!" "You got this!" "Push harder!" You might roll your eyes at these cheesy affirmations, but trust me, when you're dripping of sweat, trembling from head to toe and working until absolute failure, you can use all the help you can get. Yes, motivation is another indispensible aspect of a trainer. Whether it's an enthusiastic pep talk to get you through a tough set, or a pat on the back afterwards, this encouragement can be the difference between getting through it and giving up. Can we do this for ourselves? Yes. Do we? Not usually! Most of us are really bad at giving ourselves positive pep talks, about anything. "I'm too tired." "I'm not good at this." "I should just quit." Most of our internal dialogue is ridden with negative, nay-saying self-doubt. Without getting into the incredibly depressing nature of that statement, this is a great time to stop that Negative Nancy B.S. and start supporting and encouraging ourselves.
Here are a few tips for flipping the script. Before you start a new exercise, remind yourself how capable you are. A simple, "I can do this," will do. As the set gets more difficult acknowledge the challenge and refuse to quit. Think to yourself, "I'm almost there... don't quit now!" When you finish, don't forget to praise yourself for your physical and mental strength to see it through! "That was amazing. I'm getting stronger!" #PREACH
Anything worth doing is worth doing right, especially when it comes to exercise. You can do 1,000 squats, but if your form is off you may not actually be benefitting from them. The wrong technique can not only cause injury, but you can actually be working the wrong muscles entirely. Part of the personal training gig is to ensure safety, remind you how to properly execute every exercise and spot your form throughout the workout.
Here are a few prompts you can use on your own at the gym to improve your form without the help of a professional.* The first is: Relax your shoulders, otherwise you risk pulling muscles in your upper back and neck. The next cue is: Engage your core. It will intensify the work and help with stability and balance. Tightening the core will also help when it comes to protecting your back, which segues perfectly into the next cue: Make sure your lower back is not arching. Whether it's pressing your lower back into the mat when doing something like leg-raises or chest press or making sure your whole body is straight as a board when doing moves like planks or push-ups, this will help make sure your back isn't absorbing the brunt of the impact and the right muscles are engaged.
*Note: If you have doubts about how to safely perform an exercise, then ask someone! Find a fitness professional at your gym and ask them. That's what they're there for!
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