23 Fitness Secrets From the World's Best Trainers


In fitness (and in life), arming yourself with the best information available can help you conquer any goal -- often in less time and with even better results than you imagined. And there’s no better resource for that advice than the health and fitness pros whose careers depend on getting people results. To help you reach your potential, we asked top experts to share the very best tips, mantras and motivation secrets they’ve learned along the way.

1. Forget About the “Fat-Burning Zone”

Young man and a young woman exercising on treadmills
credit: iStock / pixdeluxe

“Stop worrying about the exact percentage of fat you burn during exercise (i.e. staying in the 'fat burning' zone), and instead focus on the total calories burned from fat (which include the calories you burn after an intense strength session). To burn more fat over a 24-hour period (and not to mention, get in great shape), go as hard as you can, as long as you can.” — JC Santana, owner of the Institute of Human Performance (IHP) in Boca Raton.

Related: 20 Fat-Loss Secrets

2. Get Fit From the Inside Out


“Instead of only looking to the scale and the mirror for feedback, focus first and foremost on how exercise makes you feel -- more energetic, healthier, and less stressed. Cosmetic changes will naturally occur if you seek out and adopt a fitness plan that you enjoy and take to heart.” — Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery and creator of the “Perfect Legs, Glutes & Abs” DVD.

Related: 4-Minute Tabata-Inspired, Fat-Blasting Workout

3. Start Your Day With Exercise


“Has your busy schedule taken over your workout routine? Fit in fitness first thing. Research shows that people who work out first thing in the morning work out more often. Why? Because you're less likely to make excuses when you get it done before something else can get in your way.” — Elizabeth Burwell Hendrix, co-owner of High Performance NYC training facility in Manhattan.

Related: The Best Morning Exercise Routines

4. Make Time to Meditate

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credit: iStock / pixdeluxe

“Learn how to incorporate meditation into your daily routine, no matter how brief. So much of our suffering, pain, insecurities, and struggles are caused by a disconnection with ourselves and our source. Meditation costs nothing, requires nothing, and can be done anywhere. In order to change your body, you need to change your mind and the way it is hardwired.” — Jennifer Galardi, owner of LivWhole in New York City.

Related: 15 Stress-Reducing Techniques

5. Do What You Love


“If you try something and it doesn't work, try something else. If you're injured, switch gears and focus on another aspect of your fitness until you heal. Never stop searching for the right workout and schedule until you create exactly what works for you. When you find it, don't be swayed by fads, the opinion of others or even the experts. Doing what you love is the surest way to ensure you will be fit for life.” — Liz Neporent, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise and author of Fitness for Dummies, 4th edition.

Related: Workouts for Couples

6. Put Parkinson's Law Into Practice


“Parkinson's Law states that the perceived complexity of a task expands to fill the time you allot it. So if you don't set hard deadlines and timelines, you're not going to be as focused or productive as you could be. Instead of wasting time at the gym, create hard deadlines for your workouts: estimate how long your session should take and enforce that you finish in that amount of time or less. Create a negative consequence for not sticking to it. Once you begin to create and enforce deadlines, the BS gets toned down and the results increase dramatically.” — John Romaniello, a New York City-based coach, writer and owner of Roman Fitness System.

Related: The Weight-Loss Mistake You’re Making (Over and Over Again)

7. Pump More Iron


“One of the best tips I can give to anyone who wants to change the shape of their body is to lift weights. Specifically, lift heavy weights and perform multi-joint exercises such as deadlifts, squats, and push presses. If your goal is to look toned and lose belly fat, combine 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio and 20 minutes of strength training for your workout -- you’ll be finished in just 40 minutes and be in the best shape of your life.” — Marta Montenegro, an exercise physiologist and adjunct professor of exercise and sports sciences at Florida International University.

Related: How to Get Started With Weightlifting

8. Listen to Your Body, Not Your Mind


“Your body knows better! On days when you don't feel like working out, that's your mind talking. Your body yearns for movement, circulation, and healing. When I'm having one of those days, I'll take a few moments just to breathe well, and invariably, my arms want to stretch and I might press my hands into a wall and lengthen my spine -- anything. And it always feels better.” — Elena Brower, founder of ViraYoga in New York City.

Related: 13 Reasons to Start Yoga

9. Remember That the Juice Is Worth the Squeeze

Young boxer just won a fight
credit: iStock / Geribody

“Back when I was boxing, my trainer put me in for 'hard' sparring against a pro fighter from Guyana. I landed a few shots, but he proceeded to knock me bloody and senseless for five rounds. The next day, I told my trainer I doubted about my ability as a fighter, and he told me I was too concerned with the destination -- enjoy the journey. Then it hit me: He stuck me in the ring with this guy because he felt I could learn from it. I mean, how many people have been able to go five rounds with a former world champion? Always answer the bell and enjoy the hard fought journey -- the juice is worth the squeeze.” — Clay Burwell, co-owner of High Performance NYC training facility in Manhattan.

Related: 14 Moves to Build the Strength and Stamina of an MMA Fighter

10. Begin With the End in Mind


“Start with the end point of your specific goal in mind, and then work backwards to plan out your training program. That way, you'll know exactly what you need to do to reach your goal, keeping you motivated and moving forward. For example, if you want to be able to run a marathon in 16 weeks, then in eight weeks your training program should build up to doing a half marathon, and in four weeks you should be able to do a 10K.” — Rachel Cosgrove, author of The Female Body Breakthrough and co-owner of Results Fitness.

Related: One Technique That Will Help You See Exercise as Easier, Literally

11. Make an Emotional Connection


“Most people don't truly enjoy exercise, but studies show that when you connect with something you like — whether it’s a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, fitness video, or piece of equipment — you make a positive emotional connection and are significantly more inclined to stick with that exercise routine. Find a way to create a positive emotional connection [to your workouts] to stay engaged and wanting to come back again and again.” — Linda LaRue, RN MEd, ATC, creator of the Core Transformer workout program.

Related: 12 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back

12. Work More Muscles in Less Time

Suspension training
credit: iStock / Jacob Ammentorp Lund

“When it comes to exercise selection, focus on compound moves, not isolation exercises. A compound movement is something that engages every muscle in your body -- such as pull-ups, pushups, or planks- whereas isolation exercises focus only on one muscle group. Compound movements will make you stronger, more explosive, and more toned than anything else.” — Tamal Dodge, an international yoga instructor and star of the “Element Yoga” DVD.

Related: 16 TRX Moves for a Full-Body Workout

13. Aim High But Stay Realistic

Mid adult woman, writing to do list
credit: iStock / ferrantraite

“One thing my Olympic track coach used to say to me whenever I would hit a plateau was, ‘Rome was not built in a day.’ I find that even the most competitive and knowledgeable athletes set expectations that are often too high, and it’s natural to get disappointed when you set an expectation and fail. It’s good to have goals, just make sure those goals are smart, achievable ones.” — Samantha Clayton, former Olympic athlete, personal trainer, and corporate fitness consultant in Malibu, California.

Related: 10 Essential Fitness Goals and How to Achieve Them

14. Use Your T-Shirt to Check Your Training

close-up of a young man sitting on a fitness ball
credit: iStock / PeopleImages

“The seams of your shirt can be a good indicator of strength imbalances between your chest and biceps (anterior) and your back (posterior). Next time you’re wearing a t-shirt, stand in front of a mirror to see if the stitching from the neck to the shoulder forms a straight line (this a good indicator that you're incorporating proper posterior work). If the lines turn slightly inward from the neck to the shoulders (anterior tilt), you may want to focus more attention on developing your posture and back.” — Jay Cardiello, SHAPE Magazine fitness editor at large, author and creator of JCORE.

Related: 17 Songs to Make You Sweat

15. Shift Your Focus to Your Feet

wearing running shoes
credit: iStock / yuran-78

“I like to remind my clients that support begins at the bottom, meaning be conscious of what your feet are doing. Most people get caught up in the movement of the exercise and forget about the importance of proper foot placement. Understanding that our feet are the foundation for all of the body parts above will help to create overall balance and proper spinal alignment, making each exercise that much more effective.” — Andrea Leigh Rogers, certified Pilates instructor and creator of the Xtend™ Barre Workout.

Related: Focus on Your Feet to Prevent Running Injuries

16. Share Your Goals With Others

Multi-generational women talking in kitchen
credit: iStock / BraunS

“Talking about and sharing your goals with other people is a great way to hold yourself accountable for taking action. It will give you a greater purpose, as you’ll find that you want to follow-through on what you've told people, and it will help you create a support network. You may even find that other people have helpful suggestions based on their own experiences, expertise, or personal and professional networks.” — Matt McGorry, a certified fitness and performance specialist in New York City.

Related: 10 Ways to Get Back on the Fitness Wagon

17. You Can’t Out-Train a Poor Diet


“I am always amazed at how people sabotage all their incredible efforts in the gym by overeating junk and under-eating nutrient-rich foods. If you commit to a diet of clean food -mainly all colors of plants, lean quality proteins, good healthy fats, and grains like quinoa and amaranth -- and limit processed food, fast food, sugar, super starchy grains, and trans fats, you can see tremendous results in your body.” — Suzanne Bowen, owner of Barre Amped in Nashville, Tennessee.

Related: Does the 80/20 Rule Work for Everyone?

18. Kick Up the Intensity


“A lot of people put the time into their workouts but completely fail when it comes to their intensity. Bottom line: If it doesn't feel hard, it isn't. Learning this drastically changed my fitness level and my ability to coach my students to new levels.” — Amy Dixon, an exercise physiologist in Los Angeles and star of “Breathless Body 2: The Edge” DVD.

Related: 5 Common Myths About High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

19. Stick With the "Two-Day Rule"

Mature men doing exercise on fitness ball in gym
credit: iStock / pixdeluxe

“Since I travel so much for work, I am sympathetic to how hotels and crazy schedules can foil your workouts. That’s why I stick to the two day rule: Never go more than two days in a row without a workout. It's a game I play with myself, and I can't lose. I have to do something, whether it's getting outside for a run, using the hotel gym (no matter how gross), or doing a bodyweight workout in my hotel room -- I just do it. And I haven't broken the rule in as long as I can remember.” — Chris Freytag, a health and fitness expert for Prevention magazine, author and national speaker.

Related: 10 Workout Shortcuts to Build Muscle and Burn More Calories

20. Make Small Changes

Man walking dogs down sidewalk
credit: iStock / pixdeluxe

“Nothing changes overnight, so make small changes for lasting results. Most people feel results in two weeks, but can see results in six. Try this small change: Walk for 10 minutes before and after each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). It adds up to a 60-minute walk, or 420 minutes of exercise every week.” — Andrea Metcalf, a celebrity lifestyle expert in Chicago and author of "Naked Fitness."

Related: Small Diet Changes that Yield Big Results

21. Plan Ahead

fit and healthy
credit: iStock / vgajic

“Every weekend I spend a little bit of time planning my workouts for the upcoming week. In my experience, I’ve found that if I plan and schedule the workouts, then I’m committed to them and follow through on a greater level. This is especially true when I travel. I make sure I know what equipment the hotel has and will often travel with my own equipment -- like the TRX -- to guarantee that I can stay on track.” — Pete McCall, exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.

Related: 10 Healthy Make-Ahead Meals

22. Think of Food as Fuel

Family barbeque party
credit: iStock / MarkSkalny

“Think of your food as fuel and not as a reward or something to satisfy your taste buds or cravings. Eventually, what you are eating (fruits, veggies, etc.) will taste much better and satisfy you even more.” — Cari Shoemate, fitness expert and trainer for the NBA Rockets Power Dancers in Dallas, Texas.

Related: 20 Best Muscle-Building Foods

23. Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Group of runners crossing finish line
credit: iStock / leekris

“Always have a goal in place to keep yourself motivated. It can be anything from a short-term fitness goal like going to the gym three times in a week, to getting in shape for your high school reunion, to running your first 5K. Knowing where you’re headed will keep you moving in the right direction.” — Stephanie Vitorino, Equinox group fitness manager of the year (2011) and star of the “VBody” DVD series.

Related: 9 Essential Strength Benchmarks for Men

What Do YOU Think?

Woman at gym conversing with personal trainer
credit: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Have you ever followed any of this advice? What was the result? What other words of wisdom do you live your life by? Have you heard a great piece of advice from personal trainers or nutritionists? Share your thoughts and experiences with the Livestrong.com community in the comments section below!

Related: 20 Top Trainers' Favorite Motivational Quotes

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In fitness (and in life), arming yourself with the best information available can help you conquer any goal -- often in less time and with even better results than you imagined. And there’s no better resource for that advice than the health and fitness pros whose careers depend on getting people results. To help you reach your potential, we asked top experts to share the very best tips, mantras and motivation secrets they’ve learned along the way.


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