When it comes to putting your fitness goals into action, it helps to have guidance from the professionals. Best Health regular contributor Amanda Vogel, a certified fitness instructor, turned to some of Canada’s top fitness experts. Here’s what she discovered.
Our panel of fitness experts
‘ Mike Bates, owner of Refine Fitness Studio in Windsor, Ont., and a teacher in the department of kinesiology at the University of Windsor.
‘ Barb Gormley, owner of Toronto-based Custom-Fit Personal Training and a master trainer for the Nordic walking company Urban Poling.
‘ Maureen Hagan, Toronto-based author of GoodLife Fitness: 6 Weeks to a New Body, vice-president of operations for GoodLife Fitness clubs and director of education for Canadian Fitness Professionals (Can-Fit-Pro).
‘ Rick Kaselj, a registered kinesiologist in Surrey, B.C., and author of Core Stability of the Back.
‘ Marc Lebert, a certified personal trainer in Mississauga, Ont., and creator of The Lebert Equalizer, a multi-purpose piece of strength-training equipment.
‘ Fraser Quelch, Canmore, Alta.-based head coach and director of training and development for Fitness Anywhere.
‘ Cat Smiley, three-time Canadian Trainer of the Year (from the International Sports Sciences Association) and owner of Kick Ass Workouts in Whistler, B.C.
‘ Helen Vanderburg, owner of Heavens Fitness in Calgary and recipient of the Instructor of the Year award from IDEA Health and Fitness Association, a leading worldwide organization of health and fitness professionals.
1. Dig deep
Feeling good about sticking with an exercise program is a powerful motivator, says Bates. So delve into the emotional reasons behind why you want to shape up. You may hope to drop pounds to feel good in your clothes. Or you may want to stop feeling embarrassed about not keeping up with your on-the-go kids or friend.
2. Make an impact
Resist taping messages on the fridge. ‘You’ll become desensitized,’ advises Quelch. For a powerful shot of inspiration, place messages where you’ll see them right before a workout, such as next to your fitness shoes.
3. Check your expectations
‘People get discouraged when they don’t see a better body right away,’ Hagan says. However, it can take four to six weeks before physical changes from exercise appear. To avoid getting derailed, follow this six-week approach: In the first three weeks, expect mental and emotional changes’more energy or a confidence boost. Expect to start seeing a slightly slimmer, tighter body after three weeks.
4. Prep your home
If you exercise at home, think of it not only as the place where you eat, sleep and hang out, but also as a place for exercising, Lebert says. Keep fitness DVDs in a home office to screen on a computer, or put equipment in a room where you can see it.
Use your time effectively
5. Make a commitment
Book gym appointments, hire a trainer and set a schedule. Prepare for the next day’s workout the night before. ‘Sounds crazy,’ says Gormley, ‘but in winter, I wear my sports bra and workout T-shirt to bed so it’s super-easy to get out the door on cold dark mornings.’
6. Be selective
You can get a tough workout in as little as 10 minutes. ‘Instead of doing 12 exercises that isolate one body part at a time, try five or six that work multiple muscles,’ advises Vanderburg.
7. Try "supersets" in the weight room
‘This means working either the same muscle group or an opposite muscle group without resting between sets,’ explains Smiley. Try alternating a set of biceps curls (for front upper arms) with a set of triceps extensions (for back upper arms) without taking a break between each set.
8. Step up your effort
Skip the hour-long moderate-intensity workout in favour of a 30-minute calorie blast, advises Quelch. After warming up, cycle, row, walk or stair climb at an intense pace for three minutes, then go easy for another three. Do this five times.
Make the most of the gym
9. Know what you want
Focus on buying what you want most, such as step classes, child minding, a pool or nutrition services. And, says Hagan, find out what your fees include so you don’t miss out on any benefits.
10. Be a sleuth
‘The first time you enter a gym may be the best service you receive, so let that be a measure,’ says Kaselj. Introduce yourself to the manager, as he or she sets the tone for the club, adds Gormley. Snoop around the locker rooms, too. Spotless showers are a sign that the club has good hygiene standards.
11. Get support
How much time will staff spend with you in the critical first six weeks? Are equipment tutorials from qualified staff included in the fee? If not, what are your options for getting proper guidance? ‘The more support you get early on, the better your chances for long-term success,’ says Bates.
Hire the best trainer
12. Check qualifications
A personal trainer keeps you accountable and helps you see results faster, but be sure you know who you are hiring. Most are certified by a recognized association, such as Can-Fit-Pro or the American Council on Exercise. Each province also has its own certifying body. The problem, says Bates, is that some trainers let their certifications lapse (most must be renewed every year or two, and include CPR and first aid). Ask potential trainers for proof of up-to-date certification, and find out what they have done in the past year to stay educated, such as attending conferences or workshops. Finally, ask for references from other clients.
13. Consider a specialist
More personal trainers are becoming specialists versus generalists, according to Kaselj. While specialists may charge more per session, their focused knowledge may help you reach your goals more effectively. Specialty areas include weight loss for women, strength training, sports performance, exercise rehabilitation and pre-/post-natal fitness.
14. Look for savings
Most trainers charge between $50 and $100 per hour, but you can get package discounts. Or, says Bates, inquire about a half-session’a 25- to 35-minute workout allows you to cut costs while still getting the benefits of a trainer.