Good personal trainers do more than just teach you about exercise: They make sure that every visit to the gym counts, monitor your goals, keep your workouts at a steady pace and offer of the motivation when you begin to run on fumes.
Follow these tips, and you'll be on the way to becoming your own personal trainer:
Set very specific, targeted, achievable, motivating goals
Ask yourself the following: What exactly do I want to achieve with my routine? Lose weight? Feel better? Walk longer? Run 5 miles?
Once you have that goal, you need to figure out if it is achievable. Make sure your goals are “doable” within the time frame you've allotted.
Also, read this on goals: www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/getting-smarter.
Write out your exact workout
There is no messing around if you have your exact workout written down. Bring a chart to the gym to check off each and every workout, or use a phone application. Use a stopwatch for exercises that involve time.
Review every week
Goals should be measurable, so you know if you're on the road to success. For example, weighing yourself once a week tells you if you're heading in the right direction. Write it down, or use an app to keep track.
It's really important to look at measurements, in addition to the number on the scale. Most good personal trainers will take body measurements during your first session. No reason why you shouldn't do the same. Measure neck, abdominal, waist, shoulder, hip, chest, mid-thigh, arms, blood pressure and resting heart rate.
Take these measurements every month to track your progress. Again, keep a log and write it all down.
When you're developing your fitness program, ask yourself a few key questions:
A. Where do you prefer to exercise?
B. What time do you like to exercise?
i. Early Morning
v. Late Afternoon
vii. Late Evening
C. How many times per week can you exercise?
D. How much time can you spend daily on exercise?
E. What are the best days for you to exercise?
This assessment will give you clues about how to organize your workout schedule.
Take a fitness assessment
Take a look at www.shapeup.org/fitness/assess/strength1.html for a variety of fitness assessments. Take these every six weeks and note your progress.
Learn to do a routine correctly
There are many websites that have fantastic instructional videos. One of the best video libraries is from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Check out their library of great exercise resources: www.acefitness.org/acefit/exercise-library-main/. If you want to add yoga to your routine, go to Yoga Journal's extensive library here: www.yogajournal.com/video/level/beginner.
Keep a training log
Write down everything you're doing and take a look at the numbers every four weeks. The best tools on the market right now are the apps for your phone. According to PC Magazine, “MyFitnessPal is one of the best all-in-one calorie counter and exercise trackers for the iPhone.” I also like Fitocracy as a tracker. It's free and loaded with wonderful features, including a social media component.
Plan as you rest
Use the time between sets to start planning your next move. Grab the weights you'll be using next, etc.
Become a real personal trainer
Put pressure on yourself
Money can be motivating. Bet with your friends, or go to one of the weight-loss betting sites, such as www.Stickk.com. Register, choose your goal (weight loss, exercise more, etc.), pick what's at stake (e.g., money), get a referee and you're done. Some sites, such as www.makemoneylosingweight.com, allow bettors to challenge one another.
Ward off distractions at the gym
Having a trainer is the best way to keep people from interrupting your routine, because people are less likely to chat when they see you're busy. To achieve that same “I'm-too-involved-in-my-workout-for-the-likes-of-you” look, try listening to music on your smartphone. It might be a great idea to sign up for a music service such as Pandora or Spotify. That way you can always listen to music you love and create uplifting song lists just for your workout.
Buy fitness equipment from online classifieds
You can get a very good treadmill, elliptical, bike or any workout gear by looking at sites like eBay and Craigslist.org. Do your research to find good quality units, and make sure to test one first. Recently, I was able to buy a $4,000 treadmill for about $600.
Try an at-home (no equipment) workout
I really like the idea of getting in shape without using any equipment. Try these: www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/home-fitness-8-exercises-you-can-do-right-now.
Use a heart rate monitor
You should be aiming for your target heart rate zone, which is the minimum and maximum number of times your heart should beat during one minute of exercise. Find your target heart rate at the American Heart Association's website, http://goo.gl/6fuMx. It's recommended that you exercise within 60 percent (even lower for beginners) to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Keep it fresh
Change your exercise routine and shock your body. Your body adapts to repetitive training stimuli. Change your routine every two weeks.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.