Exercise is something we all need. Regardless of your weight, height, or age, if you're relatively fit and mobile, incorporating exercise into your lifestyle is a must if you want a more healthy and fulfilling life.
Of course, with work, family responsibilities and general tiredness often getting in the way, just getting to the local gym can prove an insurmountable task which is often why we turn to personal trainers for motivation. However, while they won't admit it, personal trainers know deep down that you don't actually need their service so long as you know a few fundamentals.
With that said, we've come up with 30 gym hacks and tips personal trainers won't ever tell you at your local gym.
1. A good pair of socks goes a long way
It seems pretty weird to start a personal trainer article by writing about socks, but believe it or not; we're going somewhere with this. Many trainers will wax lyrical of how important a comfy pair of socks are.
Sure, footwear is important, but if your feet aren't feeling the right comfort, your exercise routine is going to be disrupted.
2. Quality, not quantity
Most gym newbies can overdo it when they first start. But instead of a 2-hour sweat-soaked session in the weights room, a 30-minute session can be just as effective (and cheaper if you're training with a PT).
In most cases, hour-long gym sessions are unnecessary and result in a lack of effort due to tiredness, so it's better to stick to the age-old adage, quality, not quantity.
3. Before and after is more important than the session itself
This may seem odd considering the workout is the most active part of the exercise process, but a lot of work goes on behind the scenes. This includes a healthy diet and a rigid discipline in many facets of life that help aid an effective exercise routine.
So if you think you can simply tough it out for an hour a couple of times a week and then go back to your old habits, you're unlikely to reap any results- no matter how much effort you put into your workouts.
For those wanting to lift heavy weights and bulk up to a reasonable standard, investing in a tub of liquid chalk will help you in your quest for that perfect beach body.
You can pick them up in your local Walmart or online at a relatively cheap price. Even if you're not keen on hitting the weights, having a good grip is essential to getting the most from your workout.
5. Never train on an empty stomach
When we're operating on an empty stomach, our heads tend to be lighter, and our overall awareness gets depleted as our body craves food. So don't waste your time rocking up to the gym with no food in your stomach.
While it isn't advisable to eat moments before your session, it's good you eat at least a couple of hours before to give yourself the necessary energy.
6. Super shakes
There's a reason most of those Grecian-like PTs possess amazing figures- and it isn't just because they live in the gym. Nope, rather than just lift weights and crunch their stomachs to within an inch of their lives, they also consume nutritious shakes throughout the day.
A simple and effective recipe used in PT circles consists of any vegetable, coconut, milk, cinnamon, and water.
7. Gyms: A playground full of germs
Gyms aren't typically associated with wonderful smells. Sure, many people look great, but they are sweating up a great big stink, and with that comes a whole host of germs and bacterias.
With those realities in mind, it's of little wonder PTs bring their own towels and mats. We strongly suggest you follow suit.
8. Don't reveal your New Year's resolution
If there's one gym-goer PTs and gym regulars can't stand, it's the cohort of January members that sign up on January 2nd. Speaking to Mental Floss, a personal trainer described them as his "pet peeve."
And that's understandable. They take up a lot of space, and most disappear by February. So if you want to make a good impression and be taken seriously, it's best you don't reveal your health goals were spawned from a New Year's resolution.
9. Many trainers will let you dictate things
Sounds pretty counterintuitive, right? Yes, more often than not, PTs can be so obsessed with building up an extensive contact book and rapport with their clients that they go easy on them for fear of scaring them away if they go too hard.
If you want to get your money's worth, you want to avoid people like this at all costs, so it's best you suss out a few trainers before splashing the cash on one particular individual.
10. Always ask for a discount
The majority of fitness trainers don't make much money, and as they have to pay a fee to the gyms for the simple privilege of using their space, many are open to negotiation. Whilst their prices can seem excessive, it is always advised you ask for a package of workouts or even split your sessions with a friend.
If you offer to pay cash upfront, they may even knock a percentage off the final deal as most are self-employed and as cash allows for a "no paper trail" benefit, it's well worth an ask.
12. Make exercise a daily habit
Aim to do exercise every day even if it is only for a small amount of time. This may sound like hard work but finding that time every day it means you aren't likely to be derailed by unexpected plans.
If you know you've got to do it every day, you will.
Whether you realize it or not, you have a routine in how you get up and prepare for the day to when you go for lunch and aim to get home.
The most successful exercisers manage to slip their exercise into this routine seamlessly. If you're waiting for a bath to run, why not do 10 minutes of yoga or sit-ups or whatever exercise is best for you. There's always time in the day if you're smart about it.
13. Trigger a cue
A physical reminder or cue will often force your hand into exercising whether that be laying out your workout clothes the night before to putting your equipment in a certain place. These mental triggers will help you maintain focus.
14. Make sleep your best friend
It can be hard to turn in early when you really want to read another chapter of that page-turning novel or tune into another spellbinding episode of Game of Thrones, but research shows that a lack of sleep is correlated with an increase in weight.
Michael Breus, PhD and author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep, believes the loss of only 30 minutes sleep can lead to a fluctuation in weight due to an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, which can cause a person's appetite to rocket.
15. Eat foods high in protein and rich in fibre
Carbohydrates are great energy boosters but are slow to digest. Protein, on the other hand. is practically fat-free and not only promotes muscle growth but also keeps you full and away from gorging on weight gaining foods.
Even a juicy burger or a grilled kebab is a better option than carb-heavy foods such as pizza and pasta. The fibre found in fruits is also another great option due to its ability to speed up your digestive system.
16. Don't let your body get too hungry
While your weight may be because of excessive eating, eating too little to save yourself for a feast later can be much worse.
Your blood levels will lower if you do so and your body will go into starvation mode, meaning it will slow the metabolism down for as long as it can to preserve every ounce of fat.
17. Always keep on the move
If you don't want to burn those calories off in the gym, then you're going to have to be prepared to do a whole lot of walking. It could just involve choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or, if you work in an office, make sure you at least stand up and walk around once every two hours. If you want to buy some milk in town, walk it.
These are small changes but in time, you'll be surprised how bigger change they'll bring to your body.
18. Make sure portions aren't excessive
It may be somewhat obvious, but a big portion for one person might be tiny for another.
To avoid confusion, make sure you take out snacks from the bag and put them onto a plate so you can visually see how much you're consuming. Buying smaller plates will help with this.
19. Eat a piece of dark chocolate for dessert
While dark chocolate can taste incredibly bitter, your digestive system will soon get used to it.
So instead of raiding the cookie jar, try eating a bar of dark chocolate after every meal. The healthy fats contained in dark chocolate have been known to fasten the metabolism.
20. Get into the habit of drinking at least 2 litres of water a day
Just one whole glass of water can make you feel instantly refreshed and even fill you up for a few hours, preventing your body from overindulging in snacks.
A quick tip to help get used to drinking more water is to always carry a bottle with you. Even if you run out, you can ask someone at a cafe to top you up.
21. Swap certain condiments and dressings
While salads are healthy options, the dressings drizzled on them can be quite the opposite.
So instead of a creamy dressing, which will no doubt be laden with carbohydrates and sugars, go for a vinaigrette or lemon oil option.
22. Avoid certain drinks
Many diet followers usually focus on foods without giving much thought to the drinks they are consuming. A glass of wine, for instance, contains more calories than most beers, while a cheeky soda now and then should be out of the question. Water, water, water is the way forward.
And for those needing a bit of help at weaning their way off sugary drinks, try flavoured waters.
23. Workout at home
Okay, so you probably weren't expecting this one, and personal trainers will be keen to tell you that you won't reap half the benefits, but hear us out.
If you invest in just a few simple dumbbells and an abdominal roller, you can do many exercises within the comforts of your home. Even if it's for only 20 mins two times a week, your body will begin to tone.
24. Find a gym partner
Who needs a PT when you can have a best friend for company? You're killing two birds with one stone.
You can have a laugh and a catch-up while also helping each other. Better yet, you can push yourself further, especially in the weights section, knowing you have someone on hand for support.
25. Listen to a great album
Going to the gym without a good album can be quite a dull experience.
So keep your headphones and iPod/smartphone with you at all times, and regularly update your playlists to keep the music fresh and exciting.
26. Dress to impress
Most of us like to look good on smart and social occasions, and the gym should be no different.
It may not be smart, or even social, but you should still take pride in your appearance- as the best personal trainers do. If you workout and see yourself in a fresh pair of shorts or a cute new workout top, chances are you'll be more inclined to keep coming back and pushing yourself.
27. Always exercise before work, not after
The merits of exercising before or after work have long been debated. And while neither has been proven to be more beneficial than the other, most agree that a morning workout is better for those prone to quickly giving up. So get up an hour earlier and get your workout in before work.
That way, you'll feel more energized and less likely to throw in the towel after a hard day at work.
28. Don't compare yourself
Unsurprisingly, gyms are full of people with seductive bodies and beautiful faces, and for many, that's enough to have them running for miles. But don't fret. Even PTs have insecurities, and most will probably encounter a colleague with bigger arms, more prominent abs or a more desirable face.
But don't let the looks of others put you off. Just because they look good, it doesn't mean you can't too!
29. Evaluate the cost of giving up your workout goals
It can be easy to fuel yourself with pride merely for signing up to an exercise plan, but once a few weeks pass, many are prone to falling back into their old ways. The sofa is comfier. The weather is cold. Lifting and running require energy.
But ask yourself what makes you happier. An hour's work in the gym, with a rush of endorphins and another step to an improved body? Or yet more time on the sofa feeling guilty for not working out? These questions alone should be another of an incentive, and in all honesty, you shouldn't invest in having a personal trainer tell you what you already know deep inside.
30. Mix it up
Workouts can get boring. After all, no one likes repetition, so challenge yourself like the pros. If you've been going to the gym a while, you'll notice that PTs feed of creative exercises, as opposed to doing the same repetitive activities.
You could lift a heavier weight or run an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill. Even just researching YouTube for new workouts is an excellent way to keep things fresh and exciting.