Train and Work Out Like a Professional

Finding time, energy, and motivation to exercise is not easy. However, using some of the same tools professionals use in their workouts can make the average exercise routine a little easier.

Did you know that when we go to the gym, the aerobics class, or head out on vigorous walk or bike ride, we're doing something considerably more difficult than what a professional athlete does?
Think about it. Professional athletes have a coach tracking their progress and giving expert advice; a trainer watching out for every strain and providing physical therapy at the first sign of injury; possibly even an audience of adoring fans cheering them on. Oh, and did I mention someone is paying them to sweat?

And then, there's us. We're heading out wearing baggy t-shirts and worn sweat pants, clutching a bottle of water, with one of the kids or the spouse yelling "When are you coming back? We want to eat early tonight." And we're wondering if the ankle pain that bothered us the last few times is going to flare up again.

When I started exercising two years ago, I decided to try working out like a pro. I assembled a team and equipped myself for success, much the way I tackle a project at the office, or a major remodeling project at home. I'd noticed that I was successful at work, and had a very attractive new kitchen, but just couldn't seem to get rid of all the extra inches I'd put on in my 40s.

Start with a "coach." Work out not with a similarly timid beginner but with someone who's already gotten into a regular exercise groove. They know what it's like to start a program and can offer advice and (even more importantly) serve as an encouraging example. They'll probably be flattered that you asked! You can also find activity groups that pair up beginners with experienced folks. One friend of mine has recently started a bike riding program, and found a local biking group that provides mentors for people new to the sport.

Get a "trainer." It might be your massage therapist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist or someone who does a form of "body work." (I use a massage therapist.) If you think your form of exercise is aggravating an injury, or creating a problem, call or visit your "trainer" immediately and ask what to do. They can help you spot the difference between the healthy ache of muscles getting back in shape and the warning pain of repetitive stress injuries. The "trainer" is a critical component in making sure that you don't give up and stop exercising.

When I started doing yoga, I was at the massage therapist's office once a month, asking a lot of pretty dumb questions. My massage "trainer" answered them all very seriously and I know he's one of the reasons I've been successful with my workouts.

Find a "fan." Somebody out there is impressed with your efforts. It might be the elderly guy across the street who waves when you're heading out on a walk after dinner, a friend at the office who also exercises, or your youngest child who's intrigued with the fancy orange yoga mat. Tell that person how much their encouragement matters, and report your successes to them. You need someone cheerful and positive who says things like "Good for you!" and "Wow, you look great!" (If you have a spouse or partner who does this, you're already on your way to the winner's circle.)

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