Things fitness instructors wish you knew

We've all heard the saying, "It takes four weeks for you to notice you body changing, eight weeks for your friends and family to notice, and 12 weeks for the rest of the world to notice," but those first four weeks can be some of the toughest as we navigate our way around this change and new lifestyle.

While many of us may hire trainers or nutritionists to help us work through the tough parts, it's more common that we try and go it alone which may lead to a much bumpier and longer path than we originally planned.

I'm a big proponent of having a team and community surrounding you, whether you're just heading down the path of a healthy and active lifestyle, or if you've been here for awhile but your goals are changing and thus, your approach while at the gym. One of the big players on that team is a personal trainer or group fitness instructor as they are a wealth of knowledge, support, and guidance. If you do choose to go it alone, at least to get started, take the guidance from these fitness instructors and you're sure to be headed in the right direction.

What are you hoping to achieve?

Before getting down to the nitty gritty details of how to get the body or life you're dreaming of, you have to actually know what it is you're working toward. Sure, we all want a beach body come summer time, but what does that actually look like for you? Does that mean losing ten pounds by your July vacation? Or maybe it means feeling confident enough to wear a bathing suit at your local community pool.

Whatever it is, you need to start by knowing what you're hoping to achieve. Personal trainer Diatta Harris said it perfectly, "Be realistic about your goals and get your mind right to work hard for them."

We all know that working out isn't going to be easy so once you have your goals set, take the time to prepare yourself mentally. We all have limits but we also have to push outside of our comfort zone if we hope to actually see and make a change.

Be clear and honest with your trainer

While we are setting our goals, we also have to remember to share them appropriately with our trainers. Otherwise, how are they supposed to be able to help us?

Road Runners Club of America certified running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer said it best, "Be clear and honest about your training goals, your training history, and your lifestyle. Personal trainers are very good at reading clients, but even so, we aren't mind readers. If you are in it to lose ten pounds and you tell us that you walk to work every day, but work happens to be your home office—well, you get the point," she said.

Lemmer went on to add, "Did you stay up all night because your best friend came up to visit? Let us know if you drank a ton, or if you were on your feet all weekend. We might need to come up with a different plan for you for that session, but it is better than getting hurt."

There's more than one way to get fit

We live in a world full of options and while at times it may seem overwhelming, it's actually a very good thing, especially when it comes to our fitness. So many of us head to the gym and bee-line it for the elliptical or treadmill, but when we find ourselves easily bored, we hop off, head home, and wonder why we have no desire to go to the gym. But why aren't we exploring all the available options?

Personal trainer Lindsey Fazendine told me, "There is not one way to getting fit. Everyone is different and what works for some will not work for others. Spend some time finding out what work for you and you alone! It may take extra time but finding your perfect workout and your perfect way of eating will pay off big time. There's no magic pill. Take the time and learn you!"

Instead of whining about how much you don't like exercise, next time you should try something else! Check out your local CrossFit affiliate, yoga or pilates studio, or see what classes your gym offers. If something doesn't seem fun to you, no problem, try something else.

It's not an overnight fix

In the era of social media and smartphones, we are so used to getting things automatically or at a moment's notice, but that's not how fitness works. Sure, you can quickly Google a bunch of gyms or fitness studios in your area, but just because you did 50 sit-ups, it doesn't mean you'll wake up tomorrow with a six-pack.

Group fitness instructor, Heather Brown said, "It's not an overnight fix—give the classes time to work! Stay committed and have fun. If you don't have fun, you're not likely to continue." She added, "Come early, introduce yourself to the instructor, and never be ashamed to start with modifications!"

Remember that we all have to start somewhere so you should never compare the first chapter of your fitness journey to someone else's fourth chapter.

Don't forget strength training

For years I called myself the "cardio queen" and, for years, I thought this was a good thing; I enjoyed running and biking and reading a magazine while I was on the elliptical (yes, I was that girl!), but I was never quite seeing the results I hoped to achieve. That is, until I threw my fear of the weight room aside and allowed myself to discover the wonderful world of strength training.

Personal trainer Molly Pappas said, "Strength training can burn just as much as, if not more, fat than cardio. Yes, cardio can shrink you down. But this shrinking includes not only fat but muscle. Strength training yields a high EPOC (or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). To put it simply, this means that your metabolism is revving. If done correctly, your EPOC can stay elevated anywhere from 24-48 hours after your strength training session."

Not only is that metabolism boost a beautiful thing, but speaking from personal experience, the confidence you gain from learning that you can lift weights, and as you are able to increase those weights to numbers you never knew possible, is truly amazing and empowering.

Be mindful of your form

We are all living super busy lives and while we may be trying to squeeze our workout in at 5 a.m. before heading to the office, or after work before getting home to prepare dinner for the family, it's important to not rush our workouts.

With that said, personal trainer and author of Chasing Freedom, Sarah Grace Spann reminds us, "Quality and good form is so much more important than quantity or speed." While I'm a big believer that we don't need to spend hours at the gym every day in order to see results and I love short and sweaty circuit workouts that get my heart rate up but don't take all day, it is important to remember good form as this will ensure you're activating the muscles properly and help keep you from getting injured.

Don't forget nutrition

We all know that fitness is a huge aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and achieving our weight loss goals but as trainer Christel Oerum pointed out, "proper nutrition is 80 percent of success, no matter what your goals are."

It can be so easy to get caught up in the fitness side of things, but as the cliché goes, "you can't out-exercise a bad diet." While I'm not about depriving ourselves and I'm totally supportive of the occasional treat and fully intend on a little cake and ice cream on my birthday, I also know that I can't have pizza, cookies, and wine every night if I hope to achieve my goals and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready for the day, let alone prepared for a sweaty workout.

It's a lifestyle change

Even once you achieve your short term goal, whether losing ten pounds or feeling confident at the beach on your next vacation, it's important to emphasize the idea that this isn't a quick fix. While particular diets and fitness trends may come and go, a healthy and active lifestyle is just that, a lifestyle.

You won't always be working toward the same goal, but as you change and evolve so will your health and fitness goals, even if it just slides into the goal of maintenance. Besides, once you find the fitness that works best for you and you truly enjoy, you'll find the lifestyle a whole lot easier and more fun.