Dread the gym? You might need a new routine. Find a workout you like with tips from personal trainers on losing weight, gaining muscle and eating clean.
Even your favorite exercises will get old if you do them every day. And after months and months of working the same muscles, your body won’t be getting a ton from it either. Targeting new muscle groups helps keep your heart rate up, while exercising your whole body.
That doesn’t mean you should pick a hard new workout every day — you’re not immortal and your body needs rest.
“Break your workout up into days when you’re focusing on strength, and then when your muscles are recovering, do cardio to get fresh blood to your muscles so you don’t get sore,” recommends Top Pro Meghan Aro of Meghan Aro Fitness in Playa Vista, California.
Keep moving. Daily rituals like taking your dog for a walk, taking the office stairs after lunch or going for a short evening run add up to make a big difference in your overall health.
“If you keep your activity levels up throughout the day, you’ll probably burn more calories that way than you would just going to the gym,” says Meghan.
In fact, 30 minutes of cardio a day (plus healthy eating habits) can be enough for most people to reach their fitness and weight loss goals.
Some beginners see someone deadlifting at the gym and think, “Sure, yeah, I bet I could do that.” Think again.
Lifting weights is a rewarding but complicated exercise, and there are more than a few ways that you can get hurt. For example, arching your back when it should be flat. Dropping your head while doing squats. Forgetting to squeeze your elbows in while you curl. All of these can lead to injuries that will sidetrack you from your fitness goals.
Instead, start weight training with professional advice — from an instructor or fitness website — and with super light weights. As you perfect your form, you’ll move past the 5-pounders. Until then, take it slow and easy.
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It’s easy to get busy and forget that you’re thirsty — and by the time you realize you’re feeling dehydrated, it could be too late to catch up. You need to drink water throughout the day.
Remember that tea and coffee are dehydrating, and that midday Diet Coke is actually making your body more thirsty. Drinking water will keep your body feeling good during and between workouts, curb your appetite and improve your overall wellness. It can also help with weight loss.
Get a water bottle you like and keep it with you at all times.
Try a superfood. “Adaptogen superfoods are natural antidepressants, antioxidants and have antiviral and antibacterial effects,” says Meghan Aro of Meghan Aro Fitness. Astragalus, licorice root and holy basil are all easily available at health stores. They mostly come in powder form.
Never done a push-up? Hire a personal trainer to get you started with fitness basics.
Whether you want to lose weight or strengthen and tone, an instructor can work with you to set up a workout routine that works for the goals you’ve set. That includes meal prep.
“It’s especially important to find someone who is confident recommending the appropriate amount of protein for your body weight and type to ensure optimal outcomes,” says Thumbtack pro Kevin Weston of Shape 2 Tone in Huntington Beach, California.
Personal training isn’t just for beginners — anyone can improve their form or routine with help from a professional.
Regular exercise will help you feel great. But if you want to see a real transformation, you have to change your diet.
“If you’re trying to maintain or lose weight, your daily intake should be 40 percent protein, 40 percent fat and 20 percent carbs,” according to Thumbtack pro Becky Phillips of Fit Body Gym in Aubrey, Texas.
Pick well — think healthy carbs like apples and whole grains over highly processed foods like white bread and healthy fats like in avocado, salmon and raw almonds.
If you want to shed pounds fast, high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) is a good option. Circuit training programs burn calories by keeping your heart rate high for a full 45-minute session.
But don’t discount steady-state cardio like jogging, swimming or biking — workouts you can do every day without burning out your muscles (or mind). Your body recovers faster from steady-state cardio, and it’s great for building cardiovascular endurance and maintaining muscle over time.
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If you’re working out every day, and the number on the scale is creeping up (or not moving), remember that muscle weighs more than fat. The way you feel, your energy level and strength, are just as important as how you look.
If you’re trading unhealthy habits for healthy ones, trust that your body will respond — and if it isn’t helping you, give your scale a break. It might help to track your body fat percentage along with your weight to give you a more complete picture of how your program is working.
There’s good pain and bad pain. Knowing the difference might just keep you out of urgent care. If your muscles burn during a workout, that’s generally the kind of pain you can work past. Sharp pains or snaps are a red flag. As soon as they happen you should stop what you’re doing.
One way to avoid injuring yourself is to get enough rest. “Don’t exercise for more than an hour a day. If you’re smart about it, you can get an efficient workout done in 30 to 45 minutes,” says Meghan.
Cortisol is a hormone that controls blood sugar and regulates your metabolism.
“When the body produces more cortisol than it needs the symptoms can include weight gain, acne, anxiety, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances and fertility issues,” says Meghan.
There are a few ways to get your cortisol levels back to normal. First, switch to a healthier diet. Meghan says eating whole foods and adding a probiotic can dramatically reduce inflammation and cortisol in the body.
It may help to download a fitness app to help track how certain foods affect your mood. Then, focus on reducing stress. Get some sun, try meditating and focus on getting a good night’s sleep.
Finally, make sure you exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day, at least three days a week. “During exercise your body briefly increases adrenaline and cortisol production, but the exercise helps your body be able to regulate levels afterward and in the long-term,” says Meghan.
The cost of hiring a personal trainer depends on the length of your sessions, how regularly you train, your trainer’s background and any special equipment you might need (for example, a pilates machine).
Certifications, specialized trainings, educational background and injury rehabilitation training all may increase a trainer’s fees. Trainers who provide nutrition counseling, injury rehab and weight training will often ask for a higher hourly rate. In general, group trainings are less expensive than one-on-one sessions.
If you’re interested in weight loss, firming and toning, increasing muscle mass, nutrition, flexibility, endurance training, body building or aerobic fitness, a personal trainer can help.
The best way to get started is to try out a training session and learn more.
For more on costs, see “How much does a personal trainer cost?”
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