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28 Trainer-y Tips From My 28 Years

So I turn 28 on Wednesday and I can’t lie: I’m going to miss 27.

27 has been the best year of my life so far, and this blog has been a main contributor to my happiness over the last few months.

Never in my life have I felt so sure that I’m on the right track, so thank you for supporting me in this journey. I couldn’t… well wouldn’t… have done it without all of you.

But it’s taken me 27 years to find this feeling.  Over my lifetime, I’ve learned to love myself, treat myself right, and prioritize my health, and now I teach others how to do it as well.

Today, I’m going to go over some of the most important lessons from all my years on this earth so that you can find your thriving life, too.

1. Sleep is the most important factor when it comes to health.  If you don’t get enough, your body won’t be able to recover from even a sedentary lifestyle, let alone an active one… which, if you’re on this site, you’ve gathered is the only way to achieve complete health and fitness.

2. Move every day. Even if it’s a walk around the block, get your blood flowing! It will benefit more than just your physical health- aerobic exercise will help keep stress at bay, stave off depression and other mood and anxiety disorders, and increase your natural energy.

3. BREATHE. A deep breath is my answer to many things- in stressful situations, when you’re feeling disconnected, when you are faced with big decisions… Breathing will help slow down your heart rate and your fight or flight systems so that you can think with a clear head.

4. Take time for yourself. Schedule it in! Find time to do something solely for you- read a book, write a book, go for a drive, go for a walk, etc. Do something by yourself that brings you back to your center and allows you to re-energize.

5. Get rid of your Biggest Loser expectations. In order to lose weight and keep it off FOR GOOD, do not expect losses in the double digits every week. The people on The Biggest Loser train at least 6 hours a day on a massively restricted diet. Expect a loss of .5-2 pounds a week if you’re losing the right kind of weight (body fat, not water or muscle) and want to maintain the loss. Even better, go by body fat percentage and lean mass.

6. Don’t trust your weight. I am a size 4-6 right now, but I weigh about 5 pounds more than when I was a size 6 five years ago. You know why? I’m buff now. ;) Not really, but kind of. I am denser, so I know not to go by weight too much because it so often fluctuates and can get you frustrated for no reason. Stick to how your clothes feel and how YOU feel.

7. Lift heavy. After years of trying to lose weight and get toned with cardio classes, long sessions on the elliptical, and eating a ridiculously low amount of calories for my activity level, I realized I didn’t want to feel like a zombie in order to be “fit.”  When I started lifting heavy, I discovered it was easier to stick to a diet plan (not low calorie, but clean) without feeling like I was starving, and I gained muscle while losing body fat.

8. Lift no more than 30 minutes. This goes along with lesson 7- if you’re lifting intensely and heavy, you should be spent at around 20-30 minutes.  THIS IS A GOOD THING. The systems that help you become a fat-burning machine work best when you go balls-to-the-wall fast and heavy until the body just plain doesn’t want to anymore.

9. Train your ass ON. One of the most important lessons I learned while training with my guru trainer, Yaw of Peak Performance Fitness, is that the butt is the key to everything working right in our bodies. In our sedentary society, it is way too common that our butts simply turn off because of constant sitting. In order for our bodies to function correctly (and to get that Jessica Biel silhouette), you have to turn your butt back on and keep it on through constant training.

10. If you’re only going to do one move for a flat stomach, CHOOSE PLANKS. The simple plank from your elbows works your entire core musculature, butt, shoulders, and cardio system… and you don’t even move! Start with 15-20 seconds, pulling your abs in and not arching your back. As you get better, work up to a minute for three sets with no more than 20 seconds rest in between! It burns, but it strengthens your body and your mind to push through it. Washboard abs anyone?

11. Spinning is not the be-all, end-all. After getting my corrective exercise certification, my theories have been proven. Spinning tightens all the muscles that a sedentary person is already tight in. Imagine someone hunched over a computer. Now imagine said computer guy hunched over a bike at high resistance, straining to get up that “hill.” Super-rounded back, hunched shoulders, crunched hip flexors, and aching lower back. In the end, it’s not worth the trouble it causes. I’d opt for running/walking or swimming.

12. Sprint! Instead of those marathon rides on the reclining bike reading a newspaper, do something that’s actually going to benefit more than your knowledge of today’s Family Circle. Sprinting is the best form of cardio to burn fat during and after the actual session, making you a literal fat-burning machine.

13. Find something you like to do. It doesn’t matter if so-and-so got amazing results with P90X; if you hate it, you won’t do it. Find something you love and experiment with other things, but focus on the mode of exercise that makes you happy, and you’ll be sure to work out more often.

14. Try new things once in a while. Though you should make sure you’re enjoying your workouts, mix it up every now and then to avoid plateaus and boredom! Look at local classes or races that can help liven up your routine, if only once every few months!

15. Wear clothes that make you feel confident while you work out. If you’re trying to lose weight, chances are sweats and a baggy t-shirt aren’t going to motivate you to get in the gym and show off your slammin’ duds. Get some workout clothes that you can’t wait to put on. They can be an investment, but think of them as extra motivation.

16. Music can be your savior. I used to exercise without music when I first started working out and now I can’t even imagine trying to get through a long run without it. All the zen people here will say, “you don’t need music- just enjoy the moment.” Well, my zen friends, I don’t find anything more enjoyable than listening to a power song on the last leg of a hill after already having gone 5 miles. It can fuel you by being another source of motivation and inspiration.

17. Find someone to be accountable to. Whether it’s a trainer, friend, family member, or coworker, find someone that wants to achieve the same goals that you do and stay accountable to them. If this person is going after the same things, you can both keep each other in check to make sure that you don’t stray off plan.

18. Remember that the people that are good at whatever mode of exercise you aren’t, started right where you are. Some people have natural talents for certain sports, but most of us begin at the bottom and work our way to comfort. Running is especially hard to get comfortable with. Give it time and patience. You’ll get there.

19. Be gentle on yourself. If you’re body isn’t recovering fully, you’re exhausted, or your time (for runners/swimmers) or strength is deteriorating, rest. Your body is trying to tell you something. You only get one, so make sure to listen to it!

20. A trainer offers more than just exercise programs. After hiring a trainer myself, I realize just how much they can help. They can see from the outside what you’ve been struggling with inside for years, and give you one simple tip to correct it. The good ones offer moral support, nutrition advice, and can even snap you back into reality when you’re about to quit because it’s “too hard.” My trainers are worth the money I pay them and more.

21. There’s a “diet” for everyone. If you read The 90% Principle: How NOT To Go Insane While Dieting, You know that I hate the word, “diet.” That’s because I don’t think anyone should ever have to go on a diet- you should be eating clean for life and energy, NOT to lose weight fast. Everyone has different carb sensitivities, protein needs, and fat needs, so no one diet is going to work for every BODY. Test different ways of eating and see what makes you FEEL the best.

22. You don’t necessarily need grains as part of a balanced diet. A few months ago, I cut out grains from my diet (except for that 10% of the time and right after intense weight training workouts). After the first couple weeks, it’s not hard to stick to, and I don’t experience that afternoon lull and sugar craving that I used to. Like lesson 7 states, however, this may not be for everyone- some people need more carbs to feel energized, especially if you take part in endurance sports or are a vegetarian.

23. Go off your “diet” 10% of the time. I don’t know what I’d do if someone told me that to be healthy I could never eat pancakes again… actually, I’m pretty sure I would pull all my hair out and quit personal training because I know I would be a failure at this so-called diet. There is no reason to deny yourself the things that you love 100% of the time, unless it’s a food allergy or intolerance. Allow yourself to go off-plan 10% of the time (3-4 meals/week) to avoid binges and plateaus.

24. Write everything down. I combine my food journal and my workout journal so that I can track everything in one glance. Whether you combine or not, I recommend that you keep track one way or the other. You can see what’s working, what’s not, and it’s a great way to stay accountable to yourself.

25. Prioritize protein. I have yet to train a client that has made protein the focus of their plate and NOT lost body fat. Lean protein from chicken, turkey, fish, or some vegetarian sources are great for keeping you satiated and raising thermogenesis, and thus, calorie burn in the body. This happens more with protein than it does witch carbs or fat.

26. Diet sodas are the devil. Even sodas without calories lead to sugar cravings and reactions in the body akin to the full-cal versions. Stick to water and unsweetened iced tea or coffee whenever possible, unless you want to count a sugary drink as one of your 10% meals.

27. Be happy with what you’ve got. Whether you’ve just started out on your quest for health and fitness, or you’ve been doing this for years, look at the things you have accomplished. Just started out? Congratulations! YOU made the choice to change your life as millions of people sit around waiting for someone else to do it for them. Been doing this for a while, but are stuck in a plateau? Look at all the things you have accomplished and be grateful for those, then pick one small thing to change and start with that. It may just be enough to kick you past that plateau and into even more results.

28. …YOU TELL ME: What is the best piece of advice for health and fitness that you can leave for me and the rest of the Strong Inside Out community? Don’t be shy! Think of it as my birthday present. ;)

Can’t wait to hear the best tips you have for me!

To your thriving life,


photo 1 by visualpanic, photo 2 by peasap, photo 3 by Helga Weber, photo 4 by usagede, photo 5 by TedsBlog, photo 6 by Mr. Kris, photo 7 by Sadie Hernandez
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13 responses to “28 Trainer-y Tips From My 28 Years”

  1. Vic Magary says:

    Happy Birthday, Amy! You seemed to have covered all of my “best” fitness advice (lift heavy, sprint, sleep, write everything down), but I can’t go without contributing as a little birthday present. :)

    So my #28 is to unplug. For a while I was in the habit of completely unplugging each Sunday – no computer, cell phone, television, stereo, NOTHING! The silence and lack of distractions can allow important thoughts and questions to percolate that normally get drowned out by all of the electronic noise. I’ve gotten away from this habit, but will be returning to it this week.

    • Amy says:

      Ooh! Good one, Vic!

      I usually leave my phone at home on Sundays, too, but now that I have an iphone, that hasn’t really been the case. As awesome as the internet is because of all the opportunities it provides us to connect with people we never would have (I would never have gained your friendship without the world wide web!), it’s important to take that time away to reconnect to your surroundings.

      Thanks for the birthday tip, Vic!

  2. Maria says:

    Hi Amy!

    Happy Birthday! It seems that our blogs are not the only ones who have close birthdays. It’s us too! My birthday is in 10 days!

    My 28 would be…to do what you want to do, vs. doing what you think you should do. Dragging and pushing yourself to do more does not work on the long term. So take it easy..:)

    • Amy says:

      Thanks Maria! Scorpios unite! ;p

      That’s a really good point. Doing what you love to do–even when you are told you should do something different– is bound to keep you exercising more in the long-term than forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy.

  3. Dawn says:

    I love plank…it’s an awesome pose.
    What I have learned is that the number on the scale doesn’t actually equal the look. I was 135 and a size 6. I’m now 150 and a size 8…a smaller leaner me is what I want…not matter what the number is on the scale.

    • Amy says:

      Definitely, Dawn! Strong lean is usually what people ask me for; not frail and skinny. Strong lean just plain weighs more, so you can’t get attached to what that scale says!

      So great to see you back!

  4. Vishnu says:

    Scorpio!?! I’m terrified. Hope you have do have a great birthday though:)

    I agree with many of your tips Amy and try to do many of them without having really thought about it – no to sodas, yes to sleep, protein, breathing and moving. my achilles heel – sugar!?! and chocolate!?!

    And biggest challenge – consistency!?! Stopping every few weeks and having to start again.

    • Amy says:

      Me too, Vishnu! Sugar is most definitely my achilles heel. That’s why the 10% rule can be so helpful- know that you’re allowed to eat it 3-4 times per week so you don’t overindulge or binge after restricting yourself for long periods of time.

      I should have linked to the post that talks all about this actually, so here it is (albeit a bit late):

      The 90% Principle: How NOT To Go Insane While Dieting

  5. Vishnu says:

    Thanks for sharing – I’m at about 35% sugar lol joking but somewhat not.

  6. Benny says:

    It’s Wednesday so Happy birthday!! Wow 28….you’re so young! Want to switch ages?

    Your list great workout tips. I like the point about not worrying about the scale. I have to remind my wife that muscle is heavier than fat. So don’t worry about the scale saying she weighs the same. Just go by how you feel!

    I love planks but only can hold them for 30 secs. That seems to be my max!

    One advice I would add is to have a plan when you go to the gym. If I’m lifting weights, it’s bad to go to the gym and not know what muscle groups I’ll be working out, how many sets, how many reps, and how long to rest between sets.

    So i like to know what I’m going to be doing at the gym that day so stay focused.

    Again, Happy birthday! What did you do to celebrate?

    • Amy says:

      So good to see you around these parts again, Benny!

      Tell your wife (how exciting is it that you can call her “your wife” now?!) that a lot of my clients run into the same thing and it’s COMPLETELY normal. The way her clothes fit is a much better indicator of the progress she’s making.

      Awesome tip! When I first started out, having a plan for my workout helped me stay focused and made sure I included all the muscle groups I wanted to hit.

      A 30-second plank is an accomplishment! Start adding just 5 seconds on- it’s mental at that point! Know that you won’t die and just hold it! :)

      Dude, I’m in Costa Rica at surf camp for my birthday! 7 days of surfing and Pura Vida= AMAZING.

  7. Katie says:

    To add to #17 – MyFitnessPal has really been working for me for accountability. The network is nice because people are there 24/7, like Facebook, around the world to support each other and discuss health issues with – and it’s totally acceptable to make new friends there, so no worries if you don’t know anyone. :) Just jump in! I’m loving it. :)

    • Amy says:

      That’s great! I haven’t tried an online community besides LiveStrong’s MyPlate. It’s so helpful to have that support from people that are going through the same thing!

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