How Do You Choose a Trainer/Coach?

I get asked this question at least once a week. Finding the right trainer for YOU does require some trial and error, but there are some guidelines that will help narrow your search.

Here are some great questions to ask yourself when choosing a Trainer/Coach:

1. Do I want an Online Coach or an In-Person Trainer?
There are several things to consider in this choice. An online coach is oftentimes much more affordable than an in-person trainer. An online coach will design your training program for you and generally ask you to check in with progress photos on a certain schedule. Many are available via email, Skype and texting, BUT they will require YOU to push yourself in the gym. An in-person trainer will design your plan and guide you through your workouts. They will be a physical presence that holds you accountable when you have training sessions with them.

2. Does the Trainer/Coach specialize in the goal I am pursuing?
Many trainers are proficient in general weight-loss, but some coaches specialize in certain niches. There is no sense in training with a Coach that specializes in bodybuilding contest prep if you want to be a power lifter and vice versa etc etc.

3. Does the Trainer’s lifting style mesh well with the way you like to train?
Now read carefully! I am NOT saying find a Coach who doesn’t challenge you and train with them. I AM saying if you hate plyometrics, but love classic bodybuilding style training then it probably isn’t going to be very motivating training with a Coach who loves to put their clients through plyometric circuits daily. We ALL have to train in ways that we sometimes don’t completely enjoy, but do not sign yourself up for failure.

4. Does the Coach’s nutrition philosophy work with your own views?
There is no sense in having a Vegan Coach write your nutrition plans if you love to eat half of a farm daily. Nor does it serve your purpose to work with a Coach who utilizes flexible dieting/IIFYM if you are a junk food binge eater and cannot control your portions.

5. Do they produce quality athletes?
If you are looking for a Coach to help you achieve a specific athletic goal research their athletes and their own personal competitive success. I really appreciate that my own Coach is still a competitor. He has achieved professional status in bodybuilding and it allows me to really appreciate all that he teaches me because it comes from personal experience.

Remember, this is YOUR journey. Include those that will push you to be stronger and happier, make room for sources of positivity and cast out the negative.

How do you overcome a training slump?

Regardless if you are an elite pro athlete or a novice, training slumps and lack of motivation are a natural part of the lifestyle. Rest assured, this is a very normal part of training and you are not alone! There are several tricks that I use to kick-start my enthusiasm when I’m in the middle of a lull.

1. Change your scenery.
Every gym will offer the option to purchase a one day pass. Take advantage of this opportunity to try someplace new!

2. Get a new piece of gym gear.
Who doesn’t love a fresh new outfit?! Try something fun and different from your normal. Admire a certain gym style? Give it try!!

3. Change your music.
There is no denying the power of music, it can evoke emotions in all of us. Set the tone for new grind. I enjoy using Pandora because I can easily customize the type of music for the day. Go crazy, no one can hear what your listening to with your headphones!!

4. Change your training.
Switch up the days of your training split, repetition can become stale and boring! Work in new movements. While I don’t change my movements often, I do like to change my grip or angle.

5. Find a training partner.
Working with someone can be great motivation. They can push you to try new weight limits. The can verbally encourage you through a set. It can also be the source of a friendly competition!

What are your Top 10 Tips for Competition Prep Happiness?

There is a unique challenge in competition prep. It tests you both mentally and physically and there is a fine line between giving it the appropriate attention/time it requires and letting it consume your every waking moment. My first prep absolutely became all consuming, every breath I took had something to do with competing. This past prep I was committed to finding a reasonable balance between prep, my family and work. Here are some survival tips that really helped me:

  • Decide how much time your reasonably need to train.
    Stick to this time limit and plan accordingly. Do not spend your training time socializing and dragging your gym sessions out unnecessarily.
  • Batch prepare you meals at the beginning of the week for the whole week.
    This avoids skipping meals because of time constraints or lack of desire to cook.
  • Invest in copious amounts of food storage containers, ice packs and a good lunch box.
    If you have appropriately prepared your meals at the beginning of the week, packing for a day out should not take longer than 15 minutes.
  • A 7 day, multiple daily dosing pill minder will be your best friend.
    While you are batch preparing your meals fill your supplement minder for the week as well.
  • Create a schedule.
    This should include meal, training, and supplement times. The structure will remove guesswork and the constant obsessing over “what is next”.
  • Remain social.
    Yes, it stinkaroonies to be around fun party food when you are prepping. However, what is worse is feeling completely isolated. Do I recommend going on all night benders, no, you need your sleep! There is no reason though that you cannot invite friends and family over to play board games, go to a park or go bowling.
  • Remember this was YOUR CHOICE.
    No one is forcing you to compete. There will be times when you are “hangry”, but learning to recognize your emotions will help you to accept them as part of the process and not take them out on everyone around you.
  • Enjoy the journey.
    This is supposed to be exciting and challenging, NOT a punishment. Contrary to what is often promoted, you do not need to be in constant misery hating life. Naturally there will be days that aren’t your favorite, but the majority of days should be a day of personal development.
  • Breathe.
    Yes, the contest is important and you’ve invested a significant amount of time, money and effort into your prep. However, remember that the contest is only a moment in time- IT DOES NOT DEFINE YOUR SELF WORTH, YOUR EFFORT OR YOUR PERSONAL PROGRESS.
  • Do not compare yourself to others.
    Social media is a great way to network. It is also a great way to send yourself into a tailspin of panic and despair while searching other competitors contest and progress pics. Do not compare yourself to another’s highlight reel. Your true competition is yourself, work to be an improved version of yourself each day and you will always step on stage a winner.

How do you plan your meals while having two kids and a husband?

My meal prep has definitely evolved over time. My first year competing it felt like food prep was all that I ever did. Leaving the house meant waking up an extra hour early, packing 4 bags and enough containers to keep Glad in business for a year. Things are much simpler these days and I can have the entire family packed for the day within 15 minutes (the container collection has however grown).

During contest season there is not much meal planning required for me. My nutrition schedule does not change unless my physique warrants it (although flavors and textures change frequently!). My off-season is structured too. The fact that everything is planned allows for me to batch cook my food weekly and weigh/portion it into ready to grab containers.

My husband, while not a competitor, follows this lifestyle as well. This definitely makes life easier as we just batch cook enough food for both of us. The children get different meals each day.  Some weeks we fly by the seat of our pants for their meals and others we will chose 3-4 recipes. We work on learning healthy choices, but by no means are they on a strict structured nutrition schedule.

This lifestyle is absolutely made easier with a bit of organization and planning. Furthermore, it is a process. Any changes regarding food seem to take time to evolve and become the norm. Remember, it’s going to be a little frustrating in the beginning, you are making changes to one of the biggest necessities in your life- it’s going to feel a bit overwhelming at first. Push forward and take each day at a time. Oh, and a microwave and toaster oven might be some of the greatest inventions ever ;)

How do you track your gains and progress?

There are four main ways that I track my gains and progress:

Workout Log
This ensures that I am actively pushing myself. Generally speaking I try to beat my previous training session in several ways. Either in number of reps, sets, or actual weight pushed. As an example oftentimes I fail out at a weight, the next week I will try to beat myself by using the same weight but not failing out.

Progress Pictures
These photos allow me look back at my journey. They are especially helpful on those low motivation days! There are many day to day changes that are easily unnoticed, but they can really be highlighted in a progress picture! I recommend taking them at the same time and day, under the same conditions. If they are weight-loss photos every other month is a good time period; if they are contest prep photos I suggest weekly pictures.

Scale
Use with caution!!! This tool, when used appropriately, can be incredibly helpful. During the beginning of contest season, the scale absolutely needs to move. I have real weight to lose, the only way that will be reflected is in a lower body weight. Towards the end of my prep, the number on the scale will tend to hold steady but I will still tighten up a great deal.  I place a much higher value on the changes in my progress pictures/physical appearance over a change in the scale.

Trainer
A good trainer will track your progress, watch your physique and coach you mentally. My trainer will always give me his open, honest opinion. Any physically changing journey can and will be emotional. It is incredibly beneficial to have someone who will be truthful with you in both directions- encouraging you when you don’t see the changes that you’ve made and being straightforward when changes aren’t happening and you need to be held accountable.

 

What is the one thing you would tell anyone thinking about fitness?

This is an incredibly difficult question because I obviously have a lot to say. (Have you seen all my blogs?! lol) I’ve been marinating on this question for a couple days now, thinking back to the myriad of conversations I’ve had and I’ve finally come up with my answer. The one thing I would tell ANYONE thinking about fitness would be simply to START.

I’ve noticed that many of my fitness conversations involve talking through all the reason’s why someone feels exercising isn’t feasible for them. All the things that have to happen first or pan out a specific way before they can begin exercising- they have to make more money, they have to finish eating everything in the house, they have to get the kids in xyz grade, they have to find a new job, they have to get a certain type of dog…blah blah blah. These are excuses. This does not have to be a difficult, convoluted thing.

Start with what you have, start with what you enjoy, start with what you will actually do. Something is absolutely better than nothing.  A client came into the store last night and shared his weight loss success story of 125lbs!! How did he do it? He loves video games, so he started playing Dance Dance Revolution. He started with what he had, what he enjoyed and he changed his life. I promise you will not regret starting. I promise EVERYONE can find something that will make them just a bit more physically active. Make the decision to drop the excuses and START, it’s the most potent thing you can do for your fitness journey.

How do you keep an eye on those extra condiment calories?

I LOVE condiments. Seriously, I love the little heavenly bursts of flavor they add to my meals, but WOW can those calories add up quickly. There are several habits I have developed that help keep me in check.

  • Measure out a serving size into a container. Not only will it keep you from over indulging, I sometimes challenge myself to see if I can make it last for more than one meal.
  • Choose lowfat and/or low sugar options of dressings. Be sure to read the labels though and compare, even though it is lowfat or/low sugar it may still be a poor choice.
  • Use prepackaged dry rubs or dressing mix packets. I love using the ranch dressing packet mixed with a little water or Franks Redhot (<–most definitely NOT a low sodium option, but a great way to enjoy buffalo chicken without all of the calories!)
  • Utilize sodium free spice mixes for flavor. I really enjoy all of the Mrs. Dash mixes and find that they add an incredible amount of flavor.
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative. A chopped up or crushed fresh vegetable mix can add a surprising amount of juicy flavor, mix in some Mrs. Dash and you have your own custom blend!