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10 Workout Secrets I've Learned After Years as a Personal Trainer

These expert fitness tips will amp up your gains.
FACT CHECKED BY Christopher Roback

I am the co-founder and Head of Nutrition at Alta Coaching, a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition. I have been a personal trainer for 8 years working with a variety of clientele and over a dozen certifications in training and nutrition modalities. My passion for training others stemmed from an unconventional path to loving fitness myself.  I was not into athletics growing up and had intense struggles with body image and self-esteem. I began lifting weights in college and got hooked by how strong and confident it made me feel. I wanted to spread that to others so I became a personal trainer. Ready for another challenge, I started training Muay Thai in my mid 20's and it inspired me to train like an athlete for the first time. Currently, I lift weights and train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu multiple times per week. I had to shed a lot of negative programming to learn what optimal fitness looks like for me and my unique body. The tips below are some lessons I have learned along the way (mostly the hard way) and I want to share them to save you from making the same mistakes.


No Celebrity Workout Is the Right One for You


Following fad workout or diet trends can be temporarily motivating but isn't sustainable for the long term. I would do workouts I saw in magazines or Pinterest (pre-Instagram!) that typically had a celebrity or fitness model splashed across the front image. I didn't actually care about the workout, I just wanted to look like her. Once I started learning resistance training principles and program design, I started doing exercises with intention and purpose behind their selection. Now that I have been lifting for 10 years, I am very aware of what exercises and intensity work for my body and what don't.


Quality Sleep Is Non-Negotiable


Getting enough sleep is the most efficient way for me to feel great every single day. Once I learned that there are sleeping repair windows for physical (10pm-2am) and mental recovery (2-6am), it made me take my sleep way more seriously and I am healthier because of it. Poor sleep impacts everything from energy levels, cognition, mood and it even increases sugar cravings. Taking a deep look at your sleep hygiene to add even 1 or 2 hours to your nightly average could make a huge difference.


Eating Enough Protein per Day Is Crucial


If you want to be lean, have stable energy levels, feel strong and have no cravings then you need to build muscle. To support healthy lean muscle, you must be eating enough protein per day from quality sources. Why put in hard work at the gym if you are not fueling your body properly to rebuild and recover? Aim for a minimum of 25g per meal from sources like chicken, beef, eggs, turkey, Greek yogurt, or lentils.

Related: Top 10 Superfoods Every Woman Should Eat for the Best Body

Related: Top 10 Superfoods Every Man Should Eat for the Best Body


Stay in Your Lane, Not All Forms of Exercise Are Right for You

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As a trainer, I have experimented with every group fitness class at least once. It is fun to try something new and learn, but our bodies are not designed to be great at everything. The level of skill, coordination, conditioning, and even patience should be considered before picking the right exercise modality. Doing something that is attainable is most likely to stick.


Consistency Is Key, Being Perfect Isn't


This is by far the most important thing I reinforce with my clients. Building discipline happens with consistency over time. The more you do something, the easier it will be to do. For example, working out twice a week for a year will get much better results than working out every day of the week for 2 weeks and repeating that on and off.


Too Much Cardio Will Stunt Muscle Growth


Too many people are sabotaging their results by overdoing the cardio. Cardiovascular training is good for heart health but it does burn a ton of calories and your body won't build muscle if it doesn't have enough energy available. For yo-yo dieters or those who want to lose fat and build muscle, hitting the weights over the treadmill will lead to better results.

Related: I Lost 130 Pounds With Help From Indoor Cycling and Here's How You Can, Too


Clear and Measurable Goals Are Important for Progress


It is easy to set a goal, the hard part is actually getting there. It may seem silly, but this exercise of breaking down goals into habits is great for increasing self-awareness, the key is to keep it REAL with yourself. I worked out without specific or realistic goals for a while and it is not an efficient method. Having a specific goal like doing a pull-up or losing 10 lbs by following a 500 calorie deficit will provide a better road map for you to follow and see results.


Your Ability to Recover Is Your #1 Limiting Factor


I have learned this one the hard way on many occasions. Without proper recovery our bodies do not have the resources to perform. For anyone who loves to push themselves in the gym or is aggressive about hitting milestones, the secret to continual progress is in your recovery. Poor performance, lack of results, injury, joint pain, lack of focus, irritability are all some signs you need to focus on your recovery.


You Can't Ignore Your Weaknesses and Expect Them to Go Away


Low back pain? Aching knees? Sore wrists? They may go away when you rest, but come back the moment you are active again and set you back. The secret is to strengthen your weak muscles, tendons, and ligaments to reduce pain. I am passionate about corrective exercise and functional training and I've seen so many people flourish after they finally address the nagging injury or correct the dysfunctional patterns their body has been adapted to.


Find an Inspiring Environment


One reason I love going to the gym is I am inspired by others around me working hard and I pick up on the energy. I also belong to a martial arts gym for a close community that inspired me as well. If you are going to make fitness a routine part of your life, you need to find an environment you like to be in, otherwise you won't go.

Related: I've Tried Nearly Every Diet and This is the #1 Best for Weight Loss For Me


Final Word From the Trainer

Kat Best

The most important message here is that it's a lot easier to work out regularly, get in shape and maintain it if you keep it simple and focus on what works. At Alta, we have helped hundreds of people build habits, get results and change their lives by following just a few simple habits, consistently over time. If you enjoyed this article, don't miss out on my previous one titled The #1 Carb You Could Eat For Your Body.

Kat Best, NASM-CPT, NTP, BCHN is a co-founder and Head of Nutrition for Alta Coaching, Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition.

Kat Best is a Co-founder and Head of Nutrition for Alta Coaching, Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition. Read more
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