Tricks of the Trade - How to Train Like a Trainer

"You must work out all the time!" I hear that often from clients and I have to laugh, mostly because it's just as difficult for me to find time to exercise as it is for them. In fact, the trainers I work with sometimes workout less than their clients do. They work so hard for their clients, it's easy to forget about themselves. To combat that in my workplace, the trainers there have become creative to keep us all healthy and in shape.

Try using some of our tricks of the trade to stay on track with your exercise no matter what.

When All Else Fails, Go to Plan B

The first thing I learned as a personal trainer was to always have a backup plan. Just because I have everything scheduled doesn't mean I can control the entire universe. It helps to be prepared for the unexpected, whether it's a late night at work or a sudden free hour in the day. Here's what the trainers at my studio have done to be ready for anything:

  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. In my world, schedules change daily--sometimes hourly...maybe even minutely (is that a word?). Because of that, you never know when you'll get a chance to workout so preparation is key.
    • Keep an extra set of workout gear - Clothes, shoes, socks, underwear, deodorant, face/body wipes and a towel. Keep it in your desk drawer or the trunk of your car so you're always ready for a workout.
    • Use any time you get to exercise - I've seen trainers do more in the 10 minutes between clients than some people do in a whole workout.  Take any time you have – time while dinner is cooking or time before the kids get home and use it.  10 Minute Workouts.
  • Be Your Own Grocery Store. One of the hardest things for all of us is finding time to eat healthy. Make it easy by keeping snacks and/or meals around that are ready to eat. What's in our fridge:
    • Baggies of sliced fruit (apples, oranges, strawberries)
    • Bananas
    • Chicken, whole wheat pasta, and veggies
    • Roll-ups with turkey and cheese
    • Yogurt
    • String cheese and whole wheat crackers
    • Energy bars
    • Almonds and dried fruit
    • Tons of water

    Experiment to find healthy meals and snacks you can bring with you to work--when you eat often, it's a lot easier to avoid temptation.

    • Schedule Everything. Trainers, like many people, live and die by schedules and our calendars tend to fill up fast. What we do is schedule our workouts at the same time each week. That time is sacred and no clients or other appointments get scheduled there. Carve out whatever workout time you can find each week (we set aside Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays for cardio workouts) and don't allow anything to interfere with that.
    • Be Ready to Do Anything. The problem many people face is trying to squeeze in exercise on a busy schedule. If you workout at a gym and you only have 30 minutes, you don't have time to drive, change clothes, workout, clean up and get where you need to be. Same thing with us trainers--sometimes we have little time for workouts and have to go elsewhere because of the size of our studio (very small). That means tossing out the idea of a usual workout and doing whatever is available. Can't get to the gym for your spin class?
    • Lower Your Standards. People skip workouts because they don't have enough time. Most of us think if we can't work out for the required length of time (according to experts), why even bother? As trainers, we've learned that something is always better than nothing. If we can't do that 45-minute run, we settle for 10 minutes. If we planned an hour of strength training, but only have 15 minutes, we use that 15 minutes for something. Be willing to use the time you have, even if it falls outside of 'guidelines.' Something is always better than nothing.  Try some of these Timesaver Workouts.

    Creative Cardio

    If you do have to shorten your cardio workouts due to schedule changes, try increasing the intensity of your workout. If you only have 10 minutes, you want to get the most out of that time by working as hard as you can. Remember to always warm up--in shorter workouts, your warm up will be short as well, but make sure you ease into your workout a bit. Create your own circuit by choosing 10 different cardio activities and doing each one for a minute as hard as you can for a high-intensity workout.

      Try the exercises below or this Jump Rope Circuit Workout:

    Creative Strength Training

    It's easier to be creative with cardio since many activities (like walking) are accessible. With strength training, you usually need some kind of equipment and it isn't always easy to find the privacy you need. Don't forget, you can always do cardio and strength during the same workout but, if that's not an option, check out these tips and tricks for fast workouts:

    • Do body weight exercises. Pushups, squats, lunges, dips, crunches...these are just a few things you can do without equipment or with whatever is handy (I've done squats holding my husband's heavy briefcase in a hotel room). Check out this No Weight Workout for ideas
    • Pick one set of weights and figure out which muscle groups you can do with that weight. For example, 15-25 lb dumbbells are ideal for larger muscle groups such as chest, back, and butt. If you pick 8 lbs, you might stick with shoulders, biceps, and triceps. You'll save time by not having to switch weights and still get some work in.
    • Use a resistance band. These easily fit in a suitcase or desk drawer and can be used for the entire body. Check out this Resistance Band workout for ideas
    • Do one exercise for each body part, one set, the end. 2 or 3 sets is great, but you don't always have time for that. We'll often choose the heaviest weight we can handle for each muscle group and lift to fatigue--whether that's 10 reps or 20. Fast and no frills.
    • Do only exercises that are lying down. This sounds silly, but if you do chest press, flies, tricep extensions, close grip bench press, skull crushers and dumbbell pullovers you've just worked chest, back, and triceps without even getting up.
    • Do everything seated. Overhead press, lateral raise, front raise, bent over raise, bicep curls--right there, just worked shoulders and biceps without standing up.
    • Do compound movements. To save time, we sometimes combine moves - squats with an overhead press, rear lunges with rows or side lunges with an upright row, just to name a few.

    Workout guidelines are great and it would be fabulous if we could follow them all the time. In the real world, that isn't always possible and even personal trainers can't always meet those guidelines. If you can't either, it's time to throw out all those rules and make your own.

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