personal training

10 Things I Do Differently Than Most Personal Trainiers

I have been a personal trainer for almost a decade. Through years of experience and a lot of trial and error, I have developed a practice that has allowed me to witness my clients’ long term transformations, which are often complex and cumulative. Over the years I have noticed a phenomenon: people who worked incredibly hard in the gym were achieving their desired physiques but still not feeling satisfied with the results. These are the same clients who often suffered from terrible cravings, digestive issues, stress and poor sleep. The truth is, that even if we are happy with the number on the scale and the body in the mirror, these markers are not necessarily accurate reflections of our bodies’ complete wellbeing. This is why I long ago left these kind of metrics in the dust and believe so strongly in the philosophies that drive both my personal training and coaching. My approach may be somewhat unconventional, but I have found that when I share these guidelines with eager, open-minded clients, their overall wellness is elevated, ten-fold.

1.  I do not use math. 

I could go on and on about why I never put my clients on a scale. The scale is not an accurate reflection of someone’s progress. There are a multitude of factors that can affect that tricky number including what you’ve recently eaten, how much water you’re retaining and where you’re weighing yourself. Instead of weighing in, I have my clients find a favorite item of clothing that makes them feel confident and have them try on that item once a month. How they feel is reflective of how much work they have left to accomplish. I also never tell my clients to count calories. Every day our bodies are engaged in something different. The fuel our bodies crave varies depending on our activity levels – for example, whether we are sitting in a lecture or carrying boxes into a new apartment. Instead of calorie counting I teach my clients to tune in and listen to what their bodies need on any given day.

2.  I am from the school of Intuitive Eating. 

A variety of factors should determine your daily intake of food. Travel, hormones, stress, and lifestyle changes all affect what our bodies need. A set diet doesn’t take into account any of these variables. Learning to listen to your body as you go about your day is key to really becoming healthy. For example, 1200 calories is not going to properly sustain a busy New York woman who is running between appointments all day long under tremendous stress. Our bodies send us messages, telling us what we need and when we need it. We need to use these cues to make decisions about how we fuel ourselves instead of looking externally for rules and regulations. (intuitiveeating.com)

3.  I use essential oils. 

Essential oils are a new addition to my own personal practice and I highly recommend them. Our crazy modern lifestyles don’t always create optimal conditions for physical wellness. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and environmental toxins can leave our bodies unbalanced and energy deficient. From cleansing and weight management to supporting every system of the body, essential oils provide the tremendous support you need to restore balance and feel your best. They have become an “essential” element of my practice. (DoTerra.com)

4.  I meditate. (Every. Single. Day.) 

Our physical behaviors and habits, whether we realize it or not, are driven by both our conscious and sub-conscious thoughts. Not only does meditation provide time for the reduction of stress levels, it also gives us the power to reprogram our thinking and transform our behaviors. For example, a simple 3-minute meditation a day on mindfulness, has the power to create more thoughtful eating patterns. (ThePath.com) (http://artofattention.com/meditation/)

5.  I focus on long term consistency rather than short term intensity. 

Consistent behaviors will give you consistent results. This truly is my motto and I have been saying it for years. I create routines that inspire my clients to move and I try to motivate them to do something active every day. It is very difficult to sustain a super intense exercise regimen, right off the bat. I have watched clients try to beat themselves into submission, hoping to gain dramatic results. Ultimately these hardcore bursts of activity are not sustainable and a client often ends up back at square one when they find they are unable to maintain the furious intensity they have demanded of themselves. The body responds best to a balanced, consistent routine over time. When you create a pattern of workouts that suits your personality and is geared toward your body’s needs, you are 99% more likely to create new habits and achieve (and maintain!) your fitness goals.

6.  I focus on superfoods over chemical-based supplements. 

Superfoods are a special category of foods found in nature. By definition they are calorie-sparse and nutrient-dense, meaning they pack a lot of punch for their weight as far as goodness goes. They are superior sources of anti-oxidants and essential nutrients – nutrients we need but cannot make ourselves. It can be incredibly overwhelming to walk through the aisles of a vitamin store or try to decode one of the countless articles about supplements in a fitness magazine, but the earth gives us everything we need. And digesting something in its most natural form will bring the ultimate benefits and results to your body. (foodmatters.com)

7.  I promote and practice bio individuality.

There are countless “cookie cutter” diets and nutritional suggestions out there that inevitably lead to yo-yo dieting and patterns of failure. The truth is, no one diet works for everyone. Your body is an incredibly designed system that knows exactly what nutrients it needs in order to achieve its perfect weight and optimal health. I teach my clients that the intake of nutrient-dense foods will always be better than calorie restriction. What works for one person, isn’t necessarily going to work for another and only by looking inside yourself can you determine what is best for you.

8.  I serve as a middle man between my clients
and other wellness professionals. 

This includes life coaches (introducingwellness.com), acupuncturists, chiropractors, functional medical doctors, herbologists, energy healers and beyond. I consistently recommend self-help books, workshops, and wellness experiences such as retreats (www.blissoutwellness.com) to help re-establish the mind-body connection. It is abundantly obvious that achieving our fitness goals and the results we receive from our bodies requires a combination of elements working in concert: a consistent exercise routine, a nutrient-dense diet, proper sleep, regulated hormone levels, and a low stress environment. This is why when I work with clients I look at how all areas of their lives are connected and make sure they have support in all of them. By doing this, I am able to create a program and support system that serves their entire well-being. As a result, their fitness goals and weight-loss are achieved to greater degrees and with more maintainable results.

9.  I encourage clients to eliminate unhealthy
behaviors by adding in healthy ones. 

Deprivation often breeds unhappiness, especially when it comes to eating and other wellness-related behaviors. Instead of taking things away from my clients, I encourage them to add new, healthier behaviors to the mix. It turns out that when we focus on incorporating new healthy habits in our lives, we often simultaneously let go of what is no longer serving us. When we focus on what serves our body well, our body in turn sheds the desires of un-healthy habits and cravings – and it doesn’t even feel like work.

10.  I focus on and surround myself, and my clients with positivity. 

Energetically we need to be surrounded by others whose intentions line up with our own. Our minds and bodies naturally react to our surroundings and daily interactions. When we surround ourselves with people who support our desires to live a healthy life our success increases exponentially. Having a friend to take yoga or spin class with, or perhaps meeting someone new in a wellness workshop, can truly give you a newfound desire to create and maintain a lifestyle enriched with balance and wellness.

Why You Should Give Intuitive Wellness A Try

Exercise can mean many things for different people. For some, it means meeting with your personal trainer every week. For others, it means participating in a group fitness class on your lunch hour. Whatever the form of exercise, we know that the key to long-lasting health and a great physique is commitment.

Yet most of us approach our fitness as a chore we need to check off the list every day. Instead I think we need to rely on our intuition to guide our exercise routine. Intuitive exercise simply means moving in a way that makes you feel good in your own skin. Basically, allow yourself to think about exercise as a commitment to movement:“What does my body need today, what does my body crave today, within today’s crazy schedule — what type of exercise would be most beneficial to my body?”

In today’s fitness-obsessed world, it is easy to adopt the fear-based mindset — that you have to work out or you’ll gain weight. But, we have the power to shift our perception to: “I will honor my body today by moving in a way that feels good!” Giving yourself a choice empowers you to become more consistent in your routine. Here are some tips to get you on YOUR own intuitive path to fitness:

1. Tune into your body every day.

Take a deep breath and listen to how your body is feeling every morning. Doing a body scan can really help you identify what your body needs are for that day. Perhaps you are feeling really tight. Maybe you’re feeling the stress from your week building up in your body. Tune into your emotional state as well and analyze what is going on.

2. Be satisfied with whatever type of movement the day brings.

Whatever workout you choose today, embrace it. Do not let your ego talk you out of what you know you intuitively need. So, if you are feeling really strong, lift weights instead of doing cardio. If the only way you can fit in exercise is a few 10-minute walks throughout the day, that’s okay too.

3. Figure out your why.

It is normal to feel less then motivated when it comes to working out. We tend to bully ourselves into going to the gym. We try to scare ourselves with consequences. “If I want to eat those cookies, I better get my but on the treadmill” or “If I don’t run five miles today, I won’t fit into my bridesmaid dress!” This type of thinking is only going to push your mind and your body to rebel. We need to always remember that, exercise is a form of self-love. Write this on your fridge! You are working out because you deserve a healthy and vibrant life.

4. Move with joy.

This may seem like a shocking concept, but whatever exercise you choose to do, make sure you actually enjoy it! Exercise should never feel like torture. You should always feel good, energized and accomplished. Remember the more you experience joy while exercising, the more you will be willing to do it — and the more you do it, the healthier and more amazing you will look and feel.

5. Find satisfaction in every type of movement.

Know that whatever you did today was perfect and it is enough. Some days we kill our workouts, and some days our workouts kill us! No matter the outcome or the intensity, being consistent and committing to taking care of your body is all you can ask of yourself. There is no greater commitment than the one we make to ourselves. After every workout, you can feel awesome and proud of yourself for choosing to honor your body.

Treats, not Cheats

We are all familiar with the term or phrase, “Cheat Meal”. I hear it a hundred times a week and constantly throughout the day. “I eat clean all week, but let myself have one cheat meal”, or “It’s cheat day!” Lets, break down this idea, of the “cheat meal.” The word, cheat in its essence has a negative connotation to it. By definition:

Cheat verb

: to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something

: to take something from (someone) by lying or breaking a rule

: to prevent (someone) from having something that he or she deserves or was expecting to get

When it comes to designing your health and diet for long-term maintenance, adopting an all-or-nothing mentality is a recipe for sabotage. In life, so few things are simply black or white, good or bad. When we put a negative spin on a behavior, like having a “cheat meal” it tends to affect that behavior greatly. In the case of food, it leads to the inevitable binge. The idea behind allowing yourself a “cheat meal,” is that you shouldn’t be indulging – that you deserve to be ashamed of your behavior. This kind of thinking is a slippery slope. Once you’ve cheated a little and you’re already feeling bad about yourself, why not cheat a lot? If you’re already feeling down on yourself for cheating on your diet, you are much more likely to feed your indulgences and overdo it.

Enjoying a treat once in a while, on the other hand, means just that. By definition:

Treat noun

: an occurrence in which you pay for someone’s food, drink, or entertainment

: something pleasant or amusing that is unusual or unexpected

: something that tastes good and that is not eaten often

See the words they use. “Entertainment.” “Amusing.” “Pleasant.” It’s a treat! You deserve that cookie or that bowl of pasta – you earned it through days and weeks and months of maintaining healthy habits. It’s like taking a vacation. We all need a break to relieve stress and relax from the grind. We do this when it comes to our workout programs, don’t we? We take rest days when our bodies need them we should also take rests from our diets when our body wants a treat.

 Doesn’t that sound better? Can you imagine if you thought about food in this way? So the next time you are out with your friends, enjoying a glass of wine and a delicious meal, instead of the shame and last supper mentality, reclaim your right to eat what you want in the moment. Give yourself unconditional permission to have a treat when your body desires it, and then put it to bed. This shift in perception will prevent you from binging and also allow you to make the food choices that you truly desire and not just indulge for indulgence’s sake. It’s called balance, and that is how you really set yourself up for a lifetime of healthy living.

Breaking the Mirror

One step forward and two steps back can seem to be my motto some days when things don’t go as smoothly as I’d like them to. Last week my brand new love seat arrived in five pieces with nothing but a socket wrench and about one thousand screws to put it all together. It would only make sense that, once fully assembled, I would back right up into my full length mirror, causing it to crash into what seemed like a million little pieces covering every inch of my 200 square foot studio. After an entire year with no furniture, I had purchased and assembled a loveseat only to back into another piece of furniture and have it destroyed.

My normal reaction to such an event would be to scream a profanity, fists to the heavens and breakdown in tears. But for whatever reason a calm came over me and I actually chuckled over my unlucky stumble. I cleaned up every shard of glass, which was tedious, believe me. Suddenly I realized how incredibly bare the wall was. There was no longer anything staring back at me. It was literally just a blank wall with ten holes in it, from where I had attempted (apparently not all that successfully) to hang my now demolished mirror. The holes weren’t even straight. I don’t believe in levels. I’m an “eyeball it” kind of girl.

As the week went on I must have checked my reflection on that blank wall filled with holes about a hundred times. I became filled with an awareness of how much I actually examined myself on a daily basis. “Body Checking” and searching for an external confirmation of how I was feeling was something I was doing far more often than I realized. So I decided to do an experiment. I would not purchase a full-length mirror for exactly one week and see how it made me feel about my body. I’m not sure if the two are related but last week there was something inside of me that said. “ Take the week off from the weights. Stop your training program and see what your body feels like doing, and then Do That Thing.” I try to impart these lessons onto my clients, so I know it is important to check in with myself regularly, and make sure I am practicing them. Even for the most experienced trainers and wellness experts, mindfulness is an active pursuit, and if you don’t routinely check in with your mind and your body, it is easy to become distracted with day-to-day demands and stressors.

Every time I found myself with the breaks in my day ordinarily slotted for workouts, I listened to see what my body wanted. Whatever by body told me it needed, including rest, I did it. It turned out, that week my heart thumped – Yoga and WalkWalk and Yoga. So, I spent my week trying new classes and studios all over the city, as well as walking to all of my clients and appointments instead of taking the subway or catching the bus. Some yoga classes were restorative, some vigorous. Suddenly close friends were reaching out to me and asking if I had time to take a class with them, something that they rarely do, because my schedule often does not allow it. The social aspect of exercising and sharing a joyful challenge with a friend brought a whole different dimension to my workouts, which truthfully I had been lacking. As the week went on I began craving green juice, and so I drank it. At the end of seven days, I was actually feeling tighter and lighter.

The anxiety of going off of a program (be diet or exercise) can be frightening and daunting. The insecure thoughts of not “burning enough calories” or “not consuming enough protein in a meal” can derail individuals from listening to their body and checking in with what they feel their body needs or wants. Leading up to the week I broke the mirror, I had been putting an immense amount of pressure on myself and my body, as a professional and as an athlete. It is so easy to slip into the comfortable panic of over restricting and overworking our bodies. But pulling back the reins can often have the exact opposite effect you think it will. Once I let go of my routine, I felt that the universe was presenting me with opportunities to try new modes of movement – this inspired both my own workouts as well as my personal training and wellness practice.

What I took away from this week was to reminder to not neglect the strive for balance that all of us crave. I continued to devote my time to my body, but leaned in and listened a bit more. There were definitely times I had the pangs of “Oh crap, I should be doing this or that”, I let these thoughts pass over me with the reassurance, the proof, and the knowing that all acts of wellness are just as beneficial to your body as exercise. Nutrition, movement, and self-awareness work together to create the symphony of healthAs I move into the upcoming weeks, I plan on taking this lesson to heart. Knowing that I have a plan and a program to follow, but also that I am in control and can choose to make a change at any point if that is what my body tells me when I tune in and take a moment to really listen.