6 Ways to Exercise Like a Fitness Pro

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Personal trainers are experts on exercise. They know all the best ways to burn fat, tone up and build muscle, which is why a personal trainer is a hot commodity—something on the wish list of many. Celebrities have them. "Biggest Losers" get them, too. And all the rest of us regular people who aren't movie or reality TV stars just wish we could have them. But do personal trainers exercise differently than you do? If you could find out their secrets—free—perhaps you could reach your goals without paying for a trainer yourself.

I recently came across an article from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) that talked about the top nine fitness tricks that professional trainers use to stay fit. Being a fitness pro myself, I thought it'd be interesting to see how many of these things I do, too. And since all of you want to be fit people, you can benefit by incorporating these tips into your workouts.

Here are some of the best tips from the article:

1. Wear a heart-rate monitor and follow the two-day rule. Working out without my heart rate monitor is like working out naked! I'm so used to relying on it that I can't believe I went to long without using it. I consider it a must-have tool for every exerciser. This "two-day rule" means never go more than two days between workouts. This is actually a great piece of advice, not only because taking too many days off can make it harder to get back on the wagon, but also because taking more than two days to recover can actually decrease your fitness level substantially.

2. Schedule the time for your workouts.
I've actually blogged about this one before—I think it's a great tip for any exerciser, especially when you have trouble fitting in your workouts.

3. Enter competitions.
Last summer, I ran my first 5K. It was so motivating, that I plan to do another one—and maybe even a 10K this year. Entering a race or other competition is a big motivator. After you pay your entry fee and mark your calendar, you have no choice but to train for the event.

4. Do circuit training with minimal rest periods to increase the intensity of the workout.
I also use this trick. I NEVER spend time just sitting around or waiting at the gym, not even between exercises. I move from one exercise to the next, never sitting still. Not only does it keep my heart rate up, which increases calorie burn, but it also makes your whole workout go by faster so that you spend less time exercising.

5. Try all the latest fitness trends.
Now, I wouldn't say to try ALL trends. Some things are short-lived trends for a reason. The new trends to try are usually new workout classes and DVDs. When it comes to trends, my advice would be to avoid new fitness products until they've been proven safe and effective.

6. Cross-train, including many different formats of exercise throughout the week.
This is something that anyone can follow! When you cross train, you prevent plateaus, keep your muscles guessing, and improve your overall fitness level better than if you just did a single form of exercise. For example, I love Spinning class, but I always try to do a different form of cardio at least twice a week, such as walking, running, using the elliptical trainer, or doing an aerobic workout DVD at home.

Check out all nine of ACE's tips here. Turns out, I incorporate seven out of these nine tips into my fitness program (I don't commute to work or do much speed/agility work). I guess the pros do know a thing or two!

How many of these tricks do you use? Which ones would you like to start using?

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SNUZYQ2 1/19/2021
Great tips! Thank you! Report
YMWONG22 10/1/2020
Great Report
I want to add swimming for cross training Report
This is great information. Thank you for sharing it. Report
USMAWIFE 6/24/2020
thank you Report
Great Report
Great article! Report
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Good info Report
Thanks for the info! Report
thanks Report
Thanks for the helpful article! :) Report
Thanks for another great blog, Nicole. I follow most of the suggestions, except the Competitions, which I would like to try someday, and the Heart Rate Monitor, which I mostly likely will not. I once read that doing cardio without a HRM was like lifting weights without knowing the poundage. But that still doesn't convince me. Like ARCHIMEDESII, I prefer using Perceived Exertion. Report
terrific article - thanks Report
I do pretty much everything except wear an HRM. Yes, I have one and have used it in past. However, I prefer using RPE instead. That's worked better for me.

an HRM is a great tool, but a person doesn't need one in order to lose weight or be healthy.

I am a big believer in cross training. I think it's important to challenge our bodies in different ways. I also think it's important to change up a routine. That's why I do like trying new classes at the gym.

I joined SP last March, and was consistently doing the elliptical trainer through December. However, I started to feel the boredom set in, so my New Year's resolution was to mix things up. Now I do Zumba, Step, Step Burn & Firm, Yoga and the elliptical trainer. Boy, what a difference that has made in my fitness level and my attitude. I always get a kick of trying the new fitness trends. And, yes, Paulalalala, I remember "sliding." That water thing though, I'm drawing a blank on that one. :) Report
I don't do #3, I'm too competitive. If I don't win I won't be able to just enjoy the ride.

I also don't follow #5, the latest fitness trends. I don't follow the latest ANY kind of trends, it's just not me. Report
I definitely do No 1 - wear the HR monitor - an essential piece of equipment and I never go more than 2 days (unless really sick) between workouts...I do No 2 - schedule - it's always on my daily "to do" list and I usually put out the DVD I will be doing the night before or I write it down on my "to do" what the exercise will be...this year No. 3 is my goal - I will run a 5k!...no 4 and 5 I haven't yet incorporated and trying to do better at no 6 - I tend to be a person our routine so when I find something I like I tend to do it too much but I know and understand the benefit of cross training. Report
Thanks for the wonderful advice:-) Report
I've started scheduling my exercise sessions and this has helped me become more consistent. Thank you for this suggestion! Report
Great advice! Never thought about the 2-day rule before. I read the Ace article, & I agree w/ the gal who said that from experience 2 days can easily turn into 2 wks! I live the 2 wk rule, haha. Keep the momentum going! 2 days, max!

Also thinking more about a HRM... So many gadgets & gizmo's. How many watches can one wear?? (Really want one of those watches that controls your iPod). Report
I wore a pedometer when I worked in the hospital; I easily walked 10,000 steps per day. Now that I'm more stationary, I don't wear it, as I rarely take full walking steps (tho I do a lot of twisting and bending). I've never used an HM but I'm a firm believer in cross training and of trying any new workout DVD on the market. My latest fixation: Flirty Girl Fitness. Oh, and HollyTyson64? My thanks for the link to the 200 sit-ups site! I've the video for BeachBody's Abs 200, but it's been a great while since I've popped that in the VCR. (Yes, my collection is vast and OLD.) I also pull out my TurboJam tapes still; I love Chalene's energy. Has anyone tried her new Extreme program? Report
I am buying a HRM this weekend. I am so looking forward to it. I have noticed that when I do different actitivites and use different muscles, it does keep me from getting bored. Report
The best fitness tips I've read in a LONG time. THANKS!! Report
Thanks I just got the omron pedometer that you can track your steps .. Going to keep track of my workout on line with it.. also going to start the 10,000 steps a day my friend that i do most all my workout with is getting her and we will start this on the same day..for now we do this 3to 4 times a week Report
Definitely need the cross training thing - keeps my body guessing. I was doing a 90 boxing class with a semi-pro boxer on Sunday's, as my gym is closed that day (Curves). I wasn't able to sign up for the current session since I am stage managing a play until March and have Sunday rehearsals around the same time. I miss it though, so this past Sunday I did Turbo Jam and then free weights for my arms; Monday I started www.twohundredsitups.com program. I have a stability ball at home; skipping rope; bicycle(won't will be back on that come spring); and DVD's for the ball; Pilates; Walking; dance; Turbo Jam; P90x.

Have signed up for a free Cardio-Core bootcamp trial class next month - but it is very expensive - hope the one class will kick my metabolism just a bit to get it started again.

Was thinking about the HRM - have to see how much they cost. Report
I've never used a heart rate monitor, but I never go more than 2 days between workouts. I take classes at the Y and on my no class days I'm there anyway because I like working out on my own sometimes and I help the instructor set up her other classes, so I do have scheduled workouts. We do circuit, cross training and strength training in our classes, so there's always a variety for us. I've never entered a competition and I doubt I ever will, I'm just not the competetive type, but I do like to compete with myself. Report
I definitely cross train. At the gym I alternate walking/running on the treadmill with the elliptical machine. There are two kinds of elliptical machines and I alternate those, too. If I don't get to the gym, I have a recumbent exercise bike at home. I try not to rest between weight machines, but after doing 1 hard set on a machine, I sometimes have to stop for a few moments to do the second set. Sometimes I have to wait for the last two machines on my list, too. All good advice! Report
Don't be misled by the formula to calculate heart rate (220-age). It is just a gross estimate based on statistical averages. If you are at max heart rate (according to the formula) but not working at maximum capacity, that obviously is not your maximum heart rate. I would recommend you go back to using your HRM. It is more reliable than the formula. You can do you own stress test using it to get a much better estimate of your own maximum heart rate and use that to guage your exercise intensity with. It is the formula you should be ignoring, not your HRM. Report
When trainers say they get buy with one workout a week, they mean one full body strength training session per week and if done to the point of temporary muscle failure on all exercises that is enough to maintain muscle strength for someone who is already fit. When I work with my clients I show them how to maximize the time they spend exercising. Exercise to improve fitness (whether for muscle strength or cardio-vascular endurance isn't about the time spent, it is about the intensity. Report
I used to use a HRM but gave up because my HR goes sky high - when I think I'm only training at about 60-70% I'll be at my max HR. I mix up my training a lot though by doing interval training for cardio on different equipment and use dumbbells or kettlebells for strength training.

I have a trainer who I go to once a month, not because I need the motivation but that I get to do boxing with pads rather than a bag which I can't do on my own and I don't have a partner to do it with. I also use my time with my trainer to get new ideas for training for the rest of the month - such as kettlebells (I love them) and tabata training which is what a lot of boxers do. Report
Thanks for the advice. Very, very helpful. Report
Wow! I am impressed with myself lol I do all but wear a heart rate monitor. However when I am at the gym I am constantly checking my heart rate when on a machine. When I do classes well...no luck :) Report
Great tips! Many of these I do, but this year I am really trying to mix it up and also add in weights...I get so stuck doing the same thing everyday b/c I love it, but I know that is a bit self indulgent as it does not produce the best results. Report
Interesting. Report
Great tips! I am just returning to exercise after a long layoff and I need all the tricks I can find to keep going. Thanks! Report
I can totally relate to the HM thing. I needed to replace my battery and was totally lost with out it! Report
I've never been a fan of trainers. I'm the kind of person who needs to do things on my own, otherwise I'm feeling "watched over" and that makes me self-conscious. These tips will be great with helping me to continue doing it on my own!! Thanks!

Sandy Report
I am a firm believer in heart rate monitor training...it tells me if I am not working out hard enough or if I am working out too hard. I have trained with mine for over 3 years now and would be lost without it. Report
I do all of these...plus:

have a plan. most 'civilian' gym goers show up and think, "what should I do today?" Trainers show up at the gym knowing EXACTLY what they're going to do that day.

Good tips. Report
oh goodie I am doing most of them except the heart monitor & competition. I am not one that does that. I work hard & track my minutes set a timer. If I am having to set any amount of time I do little mini exercises or couch exercises. Anything to keep moving. I work from home so every hour I get up and walk thru the house. Just my inside walking amounts up to 3000 steps. Then twice aday outside in my rather large back yard. I also set time for at least 3 20-30 minute workouts. Trying my best...

Hugs martha n tx Report
Thanks! I loved reading this because I already do everything except the signing up for competition events...oh and wearing my HR moniter for everything. I use it for all my cardio and like you said, feel naked without it! I love trying out all the new classes offered. We're lucky that our Y gets a lot of different equipment to go with the classes so that I get to try it out without having to purchase. I really believe having the multiple choices of fitness classes has kept me active all these years. And I agree--try them out! If you don't like it you don't have to go back. Some classes I've really enjoyed have gone by the wayside and are no longer offered. Does anyone remember "sliding"? You wore little booties over your shoes and slid side to side? OK--I bet NO ONE has ever done this one! We called it "flow motion" at our Y. The equipment was long tubelike sacks with water in them. Handles on each end. It was a very graceful exercise routine with many tai-chi like moves holding onto the handles and moving the water back and forth as you tried to balance the movement of the water from one side to the other.

But back to topic--This is all great advice for those who are interested in making fitness a permanent part of their lives.

Paula Report
These are great suggestions, they seem easy enough to remember and do! Report
You can get an Omron heart rate monitor at Amazon for about $35.

I just got one to replace the MUCH more expense Polar I had and I like it so much more! The reason I went with Omron is because I am SO impressed with the Omron pedometer that I have. Report
Personally, I think I would like using a heart rate monitor. Report
I always do supersets when doing my weight training. Jumping immediately from one exercise to the next with no rest in between beyond walking to the next machine or set of dumbbells.
I do find it interesting that all 3 trainers I've worked with swear they get by with only 1 workout each week. I'm guessing that all the time spent demonstrating proper form etc might give them the added exercise needed to maintain their fitness/muscle levels. Report
I do most of these as well!! Woo hoo! Report
I prefer to call them fun runs instead of "competitions." There is no competition in it for me. I'm not there to win. I'm not trying to beat anyone but myself. I absolutely love fun runs. I can't think of a better motivator for me. I've done about 30 events from 5Ks to a marathon and a few triathons.

I also do #2 and I'm planning to do more cross-training this year. Report
I don't commute, so I don't do the first one. I haven't entered a competition, yet, but I want to enter a 5k at some point. I don't try all the 'latest' trends. All the other things mentioned I do. Yay me! Report