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Top 10 Tips From a Personal Trainer

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Personal fitness is one of my ongoing challenges to balance in life. Last week, I wrote about how I am a "workout flunkie" and my pursuits of neighborhood fitness - with the help of personal trainer, Terry O'Hara. Most of us can't afford a personal trainer, yet the ideas, support and insights are real gems that have me rethinking the investment!

This week, I want to share her "Top Ten Tips" - and I'll bet you will be surprised they have nothing to do with money, struggle or pain:

1. Your mental image of yourself defines what you will work toward. What is your reason for getting out to exercise in the first place? Is it so your clothes fit better, or to be able to ski this winter without dying on the slopes? Developing a strong mental image that is specific and positive will help motivate and guide your decisions.

2. Nobody eats enough good food. This one is huge, as most of us are on a perpetual diet, and pride ourselves by not eating, or skimping along with a minimal meal in order to splurge later. Wrong! "By 1pm, you should have already eaten breakfast, a snack, lunch, and be getting ready for another small snack," said O'Hara. "You need to take a counter intuitive approach to your diet and until you start eating, the diet cycle can trap you."

3. Your body adapts to everything. This applies to your diet and exercise, or lack of it. If you start walking a route in your neighborhood and think you can just do that forever- wrong! Ever noticed you start on new cardio equipment at the gym and it is hard to get through 20 minutes, but after a month you are hardly out of breath? That means it is time to mix it up and do something new. Try rowing, or stairs.

4. The word "Carbs" is a misnomer for dieting. If you are taking all carbs out of your diet, you are depriving yourself of one of the four necessary nutrients for your body, as well as vital B complex vitamins and critical fiber. Complex carbs contain valuable nutrients responsible for energy production. Cut out the simple processed carbs like cookies or crackers, and replace with plenty of whole grains, oatmeal, or brown rice.

5. Memories dictate bad habits. Ever wonder why you buy the same things over and over again at the store? Do you buy chocolate Oreos because your mother did? "Time to change up the menu," says O'Hara. "Replace those frozen waffles with homemade with fresh blueberries, or forget the top ramen and make a quick soup that is simple and delicious."

6. Face up to your personal statistics. This one really woke me up. Rather than just knowing your weight on a scale or your size of clothes, do you know your body fat percentage, your basic heart rate or the number of maintenance calories you should be eating for your age? "For less than $100, you can hire a personal trainer one time, to help you assess exactly what you need to know," said O'Hara. Or, for absolutely free, O'Hara steers clients to the website: sparkpeople.com to get all your info and ideas on exercises to do. Check it out and get informed!

7. All or nothing exercise gets you nowhere, (or hurt). Lots of people are like me; the pants just get WAY to tight, so we all fired up about working out again, go out and buy new sneakers, and start running everyday like we are old pros. Then after a week, shin splints kick in, and then we quit. Others may hear about a new type of exercise, and try it without building up first, and get injured. O'Hara encourages starting with a solid, organized plan that can keep your progressing and organize a workout schedule you can use for the rest of your life.

8. We are not supposed to get weak and incapacitated as we get older. It is not true that we should stop being physically active as we age, but continue with cardio, resistance training and core building for a lifetime. Tennis, swimming, golf, yoga and power walking can be done forever.

9. It's all about PUSHUPS baby! Come on, be honest, how many "proper" pushups can you do? "If you can't do a push up properly, it means you lack core strength," explains O'Hara, "and that is the most important area to maintain for posture, back support, and ongoing health." For the ultimate challenge (and one that I am going to start myself) check out the One Hundred Pushups website for a full six week program to help you reach the seemingly impossible goal of being able to do 100 consecutive pushups. Wow!

10. There is a fountain of youth!
"Strength in life is the fountain of youth," said O'Hara, "strength in keeping the muscles strong and building them, strength in what you choose to eat, strength in your character - it is the absolute secret to a long life."

Next week, to complete the three part series, O'Hara and I will talk about why "French women don't get fat" and more on the power of simple strength. What are some of your "Top Ten Tips" for the workout flunkies to get motivated, and inspired? Love to hear your comments below! Join the conversation, and click on "Become a Fan" to receive weekly updates of this post, and share on Facebook and Twitter.

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