How to be your own personal trainer.
In an ideal world, like professional athletes and celebrities, we’d all have a personal trainer working with us daily to achieve our fitness and health goals. But trainers come at a cost and not everyone can afford the luxury—at least not on a full-time basis. When we hire a personal trainer, regardless of our fitness level or experience in a gym, we typically hire them for a few reasons: to create a personalized exercise plan or fitness goal, to ensure proper technique, to keep us motivated, and to hold us accountable. Most of what a good trainer does is manage the mental side of getting fit.
A trainer is a coach—like the legendary gravelly-voiced boxing coach Mickey in the famous Rocky movies—the one person in your corner that tells you to push through it and give it your all, even when you’re face down on the mat, drenched in sweat, exhausted.
If you’ve convinced yourself that without a trainer you would never get out of bed to hit the gym, follow through with your workouts or get results, I’m telling you that is just not true. In fact, to be successful, with or without a trainer, you need to coach and develop a winning mentality within yourself and learn to be your own Mickey— because only you can make the changes you want to see in yourself—whether it be big gains at the gym or simply establishing healthier routines. You can be your own personal trainer with a few practiced and proven techniques. Best of all, it’s absolutely free!
A wise person once said, “how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” With that in mind, be present during each workout—don’t bog yourself down with the number of workouts ahead in the week or month. Focus on today, right now, this workout, this exercise, this set, this rep, this breath. Not only will you feel more focused on the exercise itself, but also you’ll be practicing for what all good trainers provide you with—the right mindset and motivation.
Set your personal goals
Why are you exercising and what do you want to accomplish? What are your fitness goals? These are some of the first questions a personal trainer will ask you at an assessment or consultation and are the most important questions that need answering. If you’re showing up at the gym on daily basis and just floating from machine to machine without a fitness plan or goal, you’re essentially out-driving a car without a destination. Sure, the scenery might be great and it beats sitting at home, but without knowing where you want to go, you will never get anywhere. Whether it’s decreasing fat, increasing lean muscle, increasing energy, toning, and tightening, or all of the above, it is essential that you write out what it is you want to accomplish and then map out how you will
Plan your workouts
In the digital era, comprehensive workouts, meal plans, fit tips, and proper technique are just a click away. Look up some of the fitness pros who inspire you and who resonate with your lifestyle or values, and follow them on social media. Many top fitness experts post daily exercises that target all parts of the body on Instagram— save these workouts, jot them down in the notes section of your smartphone, and watch them at the gym during your warm-up for an added dose of inspiration and how-to
Customize your program
Most importantly, you should do what works for you. Curate your very own workout plan from a variety of online sources and pros. Working out like a celebrity trainer only requires a smartphone. If you do have some money to put toward professional help in your quest to get lean, surprisingly, it might be best spent outside of the gym. Fitness coach and registered holistic nutritionist Cindy Johnson agrees: “Most people have a hard time with nutrition and it is the largest part of any fitness equation, whether your goal is to build muscle or reduce body fat.
Hiring a registered holistic nutritionist who specializes in the results you’re after is a good investment. You can work out until the cows come home but if you’re not properly nourishing your body it won’t do what you want it to do. You can’t out-workout a bad diet. And having this mindset creates an unhealthy relationship with food.”
Get in the right mindset
You’ve heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” The same applies to fitness. You can lead yourself into the gym, but unless you have the right mindset and mental focus, you are not going to get the most out of your workouts. Step two is showing up physically, but step one is definitely showing up mentally. Being your own personal trainer means stepping up to the plate for yourself—owning your role in success and failure. “I believe we can manifest our own success. If you’re thinking negatively you will likely get a negative result. Same as waking up in the morning with a bad attitude—what usually happens? You hit every red light driving to work, you spill your coffee… basically, everything snowballs from our approach, positive or negative,” says Johnson. She suggests that one of the best ways to improve your chances of success at the gym is by tackling fitness bit by bit. “Focus on getting through one day at a time. The end result can be a little bit daunting especially when motivation is running low. Understanding that each successful day adds up. Be patient and give yourself time,” she says
BE REALISTIC. One of the main reasons for failure in achieving one’s goals is setting unrealistic expectations. Can you train for and enter a fitness competition? Yes! Can you do it in four weeks? Not if you want to take home any ribbons. Do some research on what it takes to achieve the kinds of goals you are after and set yourself up for success by mapping out how you will get there.
BE SPECIFIC. Schedule your workouts into your calendar as if they were doctors’ appointments— non-negotiable. Treat your plan with respect and take the time after each workout to acknowledge the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from showing up for yourself in such a meaningful way
Try this Mindset Exercise
Our thoughts have been scientifically proven to physically affect our well-being and performance. Nothing triggers our resistance and procrastination instinct more than being told or forced to do something (cue thoughts of Mom telling you to clean your room as a teen). If you are putting off your workouts maybe it’s because you’re telling yourself that you “have to” work out, therefore setting yourself up for a negative experience. Instead, try replacing that thought with one that puts you in control and makes the choice yours,
such as “I want to work out.” Follow that thought up with a few sentence finishers that highlight the benefits and
rewards of doing so:
- I want to work out because I feel so good afterward
- I want to work out because I love feeling strong
- I want to work out because it’s my time to focus on me
- I want to work out so that I can build a healthier life for myself
Notice the difference in how you feel about replacing “have to” with “want to.” You can use this technique at the
gym during your workout when you want to give up or don’t feel like pushing yourself to try harder. Instead
of lumbering over to the abs machine with an “I have to do abs now” mentality, try walking to the machine with
purpose and think, “I want to do abs because I love how a strong core feels.” When it comes to endurance, nobody knows the importance of mindset and grit more than Navy Seals. They famously follow the 40-percent rule for peak performance; it states that whenever you think you’re done physically, you’re really only 40 percent done. That means that you can always push yourself a little harder—just as your personal trainer would. If you’re doing 10 reps, add two more. If you do a seated cable row with 60 pounds of resistance, try 65. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish when you give yourself permission to be stronger, better, and more powerful.
As you train yourself, take pride in the new knowledge that you will gain along the way and celebrate your successes and gains. Regularly revisit and reassess your fit goals and remember to push yourself—because
true strength comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t do, not from doing the things you