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Excuses Busted: How to Be Your Own Personal Trainer

Monday, January 26, 2015


I've always kind of had this thing for designing my own workouts. I enjoy workouts I make up the most, get frustrated with the rigidity of workout plans (I cannot for the life of me last a week on the Blogilates calendar!) and get really obsessed with combo moves and supersets to the point where I want to design my own workout. I'm such a fitness nerd, I know. It's taken me a lot of research to learn how to design the most effective workouts, so I thought I would share some of what I've learned. Becoming your own personal trainer is a really useful skill: it helps you avoid excuses like "I don't know where to start" or "I don't have money for a gym." With the right expertise, you can design an effective workout using your own body. Let me show you how!

Determine your weekly schedule.
You've all probably heard of the dreaded "leg day," but you can split up your days however you'd like. Whether you'd rather have a couple of full-body workouts a week or do a different muscle group everyday is up to you (just try not to train a muscle group two days in a row to avoid injury.) One technique I've seen from Jillian Michaels is to train the muscles on the back of your body one day, and the muscles on the front of your body the next, since they require similar movements. 

Determine your goals.
Depending on your fitness goals, you'll want to use different kinds of training to achieve them. I wrote an extensive post on that here.

Gather your expertise.
I am willing to bet that  you already know a couple ways to train certain parts of your body. In fact, I am going to quiz you. 

How do you work...

your biceps?
your hamstrings?
your abs?

You came up with at least one exercise for each body part, didn't you? Even if you didn't you've probably heard and done the most basic moves before. How do you work your biceps? With a bicep curl. Your hamstrings? Squats and deadlifts. Your abs? Crunches, leg lifts, planks. Yes, there are tons of other options as well, but these are some of the most basic and the most effective. Add any exercises you know and love (and maybe a couple you don't love) to your personal "exercises database" for creating your workouts.

Gain more expertise (optional.) 
If you're relatively inexperienced in the fitness world, it's a good idea to try out a couple of different workouts to see which styles you like and find moves you enjoy. I'm a sucker for combo moves (i.e. a lunge with a bicep curl or a sumo squat with a shoulder press) but you might want to incorporate yoga or Pilates into your workout routine instead (I actually incorporate both of these here and there.) You can also always look at exercise databases (like the one on bodybuilding.com) to get ideas or find moves to work specific muscle groups.

Build your workouts.
Using your weekly plan (the "days" we talked about) and your "exercise database," decide on what workouts to do each day. It can be as simple as a 30 minute run or a yoga DVD somedays, or you can build your own circuits for each day using the exercises you're familiar with.

My tips for building circuit workouts:

Start with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. Do some light cardio and dynamic stretching to get your heart rate up slowly and prevent injury, and stretch at the end.

Keep the intervals short. I do each move for thirty seconds, rest for 30 seconds at the end of the circuit and then repeat it (doing any one-sided moves on the other side.)

For more of a work-out, alternate standing moves with floorwork. For example, instead of doing squats, then lunges, then crunches, do crunches in between lunges and squats so you'll have to get up and down more.

There's a lot more to the health and fitness world, but this ought to get you off on the right foot! If you ever have any fitness or health questions, feel free to email me or drop me a comment. I don't know everything, but I can always direct you to credible sources to help you out. Thanks for reading!

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