Photo: Dirima / Getty Images; Graphic by Valerie Fischel
"Mind over matter." "You'll surprise yourself with what you can do." "Pain is temporary." Chances are you've heard these rallying cries before about halfway through that last circuit of burpees and jumping lunges. The little nuggets of motivation work, we say them to ourselves for a reason. But what do the pros — AKA the people who burpee all day, every day — tell themselves when they need a little extra push?
Here, 13 top trainers share the best piece of workout advice they've ever received. Let their wisdom fuel your workout fire today.
1. Do what you're not-so-good at.
"I love this advice because even as a fitness professional, I totally fall prey to this! It's not always fun to suck at something, but in order to avoid plateaus and continue to see improvement, we have to focus on what we don't excel at." —Liz Barnet, Uplift Studios, LizBarnet.com
2. Get strong in the gym; get lean everywhere else.
"This reinforces that the key to being healthy is to move all day, not just in the gym. I make sure my Fitbit has at least 12,000 steps a day. It really liberated me from gym — instead I walk more, take the stairs, move more all day long. Plus, it reminds us that eating well is also an essential component to getting lean." —Harley Pasternak, celebrity trainer and best-selling author of The Body Reset Diet
3. Remember that every once in awhile, the lumberjack needs to shut down and sharpen his ax.
"I was given this advice by an old coach when I was 15 years old, and it always stuck with me. I've struggled with this because I love exercise and need it in my life all the time, but unfortunately, more is not better with training. You have to train smart and listen to what your body is telling you. It fuels me now because it forces me to pay attention and allow my body to recover. The more I benefit from recovery, the more I can push in the gym, which I absolutely love to do." —Don Saladino, Drive 495
4. Ask yourself: how do you want to feel when you're done?
"I'm not sure where I first heard this, but it has stuck with me and I repeat it to my clients during almost every class. If you change the reason behind your workout from being about looking a certain way or just feeling like you have to sweat, and instead focus on the accomplished feeling you want to achieve at the end, you are bound to push harder. It's changed my game and I hope it changes my clients, too." —Alex Silver-Fagan, CityRow and Solace
5. Take a complete day of rest.
"Not a 'I'll go for a hike,' rest or a 'I will just do a yoga flow class,' rest — actual complete rest! Mentally it's hard to adapt to in the beginning, but your body and your muscles respond better when they're rested as opposed forcing them to workout out everyday!" — Astrid Swan, celebrity trainer
6. "It never gets easier. You just get stronger."
"We use it so much, we trademarked it. Just as with life, training only gets more demanding and challenging as you progress with your goals. The only thing you can do is roll up your sleeves and get stronger. These words fuel me when I think I'm too tired to get my own workout in after seeing 12 clients in a row. My work schedule isn't going to change anytime soon, so it comes down to me being able to endure more." —Gregg Miele, Heart & Hustle Gym
7. Find your workout soulmate.
"I heard this at a fitness blogging conference I went to when I first became an instructor. I love this advice because it's exactly how my career unfolded. Pilates is my soulmate. It opened my eyes to the world of fitness and completely changed not only my body, but my life and my relationship with working out. Instead of being something I'm supposed to do, now exercise is something I can't wait to do. It's become advice I give a lot when people ask me how to stay motivated to exercise or where to start. There are so many ways to exercise, so find what you love doing, that doesn't feel like a chore but rather something you are excited about." —Jenn Seracuse, Flex Studios
8. More is not always better.
"This is something I had to learn the hard way. When I got into fitness, I was training multiple times a day because you tend to see a lot of progress when you first start out. Unfortunately, it's not because you are getting better and stronger, but rather that your body is getting acclimated to a new routine. Eventually, you beat yourself down so much that not only do you not progress, but you also get injuries and end up burnt out." —Nick Lobotsky, Hudson Valley CrossFit and Poughkeepsie CrossFit
9. Take a day off from pushing your body through a workout and do something that fuels your heart and mind.
"My mom gave me this advice when I was in college and she noticed that I was beginning to burn out physically and emotionally from pushing myself too hard. Now, every week I dedicate my Sunday to restoring my body and relaxing and challenging my mind. It has changed my game, and I start my Mondays revved and ready to take on the week with renewed energy." —Anna Kaiser, AKT
10. Don't have $100 shoes and a 10-cent squat.
"American powerlifter Louie Simmons said this and I love it because it's a funny way of saying that substance is always greater than flash — timeless advice that I find more relevant than ever in the age of 'social media.' It's also advice that extends beyond the gym and into every area of life. There's simply no replacement for hard work, consistency, and dedication." —Adam Rosante, celebrity trainer, C9 Champion brand ambassador, and author of The 30-Second Body
11. It is important to refuel properly after you work out.
"Carbs and protein post-workout help to replenish glycogen stores, repair muscle tissue, and reduce cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone responsible for many things including the storing of body fat around the middle area. Exercise is a perceived stress to the body, so the reduction of cortisol post-workout helps you receive results much faster." —Michelle Lovitt, Lovitfitness Gym
12. Just because you show up at a gym or class, doesn't mean you're training.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger has a famous line where he makes fun of people texting during training time, calling it 'Mickey Mouse stuff.' But what he really means is: focus. You have to be present when you're working out. There's something called the 'mind muscle connection' that states if you actually focus on the work you are doing — thinking about contracting the muscles and how they are working synergistically to complete an exercise — your workouts will be much more effective, both mentally and physically. I've seen the best results when I'm committed, present, and ready to push myself to the uncomfortable levels necessary to reach my goals. If you can teach yourself that discipline, every workout you do will be much more beneficial." —Noah Neiman, Barry's Bootcamp
13. Play the long game, not the short one.
"New York City physical therapist Corinne Croce gave me this advice. I love it because it's extremely practical, but so often overlooked as we get caught up in workouts themselves. I love to push myself physically and I have fun doing it but for me, focusing equally on the other pieces of the health equation is the hard work that will make an athletic lifestyle sustainable long term. Diet, sleep, and balance are just as important in reaching your fitness goals as the training itself. In order to achieve long-term success — and to avoid injury, fatigue and other setbacks — we must care for our minds and bodies outside the gym and studio, and that especially includes how we choose to fuel up and recover." —Kate Champagne "KC", SoulCycle