Personal Trainers: Sorting The Good From The Bad

how to choose a personal trainer 

Ugh. Bad personal trainers. They’re everywhere. On t.v., in magazines, on YouTube in the gym. I hear them giving bad (sometimes dangerous) advice and I see people, all the time, heeding the advice of these misguided trainers because what most people don’t know is that not all trainers are created equal. A great personal trainer help you reach a level of fitness you didn’t even know was possible, but a bad trainer can cause you harm leaving you with injuries. Before you hire a trainer, you should talk with him or her to make sure that persona is the right trainer for you. I love seeing people succeed and I’ve seen so many people succeed with a knowledgable, motivated trainer. I want you to succeed to so I’ve put together a some guidelines to help you choose a trainer:

No crunches
Ask the trainer if he use crunches. Crunches are outdated, harmful for the back, and create over-dominance of the wrong muscles putting you at higher risk for injury. A knowledgeable trainer will use newer and more effective exercises that strengthen your core. 

As the saying goes, if you’re not assessing, you’re guessing. A trainer who is invested in your success will want to track your progress and make sure that the program you’re following is working for you. If your trainer can’t quantify the results, then he’s just just guessing at whether your actually getting stronger or not. Ask the trainer what method they use for assessing progress. Oh, and if the scale, BMI, or inches lost is their only method of assessment… find a different trainer.

A trainer’s first priority should be making sure the exercises are being performed correctly. If you aren’t doing the exercise correctly, you’ll actually be making parts of your body weaker, which puts you at a much higher risk for injury. A knowledgable trainer will stop you in the middle of your reps to make sure you’re moving correctly. And NOBODY moves correctly 100% of the time so you should be hearing corrections throughout your workout. You should also be hearing what you are doing right. If your trainer never corrects your movement or goes an entire set without correcting you, get a new trainer. Fast.

No pain = No gain A great thing
No pain, no gain is a myth. The truth is pain=injury and injuries impede progress. If you have consistent pain, you’re trainer should refer you to a physical therapist or at the very least consult with a PT before working with you. Your trainer should know what exercises will help you and which will cause you further injury. If you have an injury and the trainer is asking you what exercises you are able to do, don’t hire that trainer! It’s ok if he asks you how an exercise feels, but the trainer should not be relying on you to tell him what is safe and what isn’t.

Look for a trainer that engages with his or her clients. Your trainer should be invested in your goals and progress. He or she should be focused on you and excited to see your progress. Avoid those trainers who look bored, checked out, or seem more interested in socializing than training you.

Certification & Education
The top three certifications are NSCA, ACSM, and NASM. There are too many other certifications to list, but at the very least, the certifying organization should be NCCA qualified.

If your goal is weight-loss or muscle gain, your trainer should know that nutrition plays a bigger role than exercise and sharing that information with you. Your trainer should either have a nutrition certification or refer you to a nutrition coach. And beware of trainers who try to encourage you to follow rigid diets. 

A good trainer is always prepared
Your trainer should show up to every session with a written plan and he or she should be documenting your workout as you go. If they aren’t documenting your workout, they can’t be tracking your improvement. If your trainer doesn’t have a plan, your workouts will be random preventing you from achieving long-term adaptive response. What does that mean? Well, imagine you wanted to learn how to skateboard, so I took you out for an hour to skateboard. And then the next week we spent an hour playing football. And the week after that we spent an hour riding a unicycle. And then the fourth week we went back to skateboarding. How much progress would you have made with your skateboarding? Probably none at all, right? That’s exactly what happens to your muscles with random workouts. They never get a chance to progress because you’re always focusing on something different.

Hiring a personal trainer requires a financial investment and an investment of your time and I hate seeing people wasting their money on a trainer who is wasting their money. The right trainer will lead you down the road to success. The wrong trainer will waste your time, money, and put you at risk for injury. So take your time, do some research, and invest in the trainer that is right for you.

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Super Quick BBQ-Chicken Salad

BBQ Chicken Salad

Despite all of my planning and prepping, some nights I just don’t have time to cook a dinner. This BBQ Chicken Salad is our don’t-have-time-to-cook solution. In the colder months, you can heat up the chicken to make it a warm salad and in the warm months, it’s perfect dinner on a hot summer day. This salad also works great for lunches too.

Super Quick BBQ-Chicken Salad
A super quick BBQ-chicken salad for those nights you just don't have time to cook
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Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
  1. Trader Joe's Pulled Chicken Breast
  2. Red onion sliced
  3. Mixed berries (we use frozen berries that have been thawed)
  4. Granny Smith apple thinly sliced
  5. Trader Joe's Sweet and Spicy Pecans
  6. Blue Cheese
  7. Lettuce mix or spinach
  8. Avocado (optional)
  1. Combine all ingredients to make a healthy quick salad.
  1. If you're looking to add carbs to this salad, try adding a scoop of brown rice
Blooming T
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Why I Love Birthdays


Yesterday was my birthday. Happy birthday to me! I love my birthday. I love it because, as the saying goes, the alternative to getting older just isn’t that appealing. I’ve watched too many people I love face the prospect of not having another birthday and on my birthday, I am so grateful for another year of being alive. When I hear people complain about birthdays, act as though birthdays are a horrible thing, what I hear is ingratitude. I hear someone who doesn’t appreciate being alive. 

I’m not saying that every birthday needs to be a huge celebration. I know that divorce, illness, financial problems can all make it difficult to feel like celebrating. I’m not saying that you need to be happy on your birthday. There’s a difference between being happy and being grateful. What I’m saying is no matter where I am in my life, I am always grateful to be alive. Life is a beautiful, amazing thing and even when it doesn’t feel like it’s going our way, it is still an amazing gift to be treasured. So whether you celebrate big or celebrate small, always celebrate the gift of being alive.

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What’s Cooking in Our House

I am always on the lookout for recipes that are tasty, relatively easy, and of course, healthy. Here’s what’s been cooking in our house this week.

These steak tacos from Feasting at Home are high on our list of favorites. I’ll admit it takes a little prep time – usually Doug and I prep this one together – but it’s worth the small effort. The good news is most of the prep can be done ahead of time so you don’t have to do it all at the same time. I like to double the chimichurri sauce and the salsa to add to salads later in the week. This week we swapped out the steak for chicken breast and let it marinate for 24 hours so the chicken would be flavorful, which it definitely was.

Pan-Roasted Rosemary Chicken from Bon Appetit 
This was a new recipe for us, but it’s definitely a keeper. I’m not usually a big fan of chicken and even I loved this one. I think we’ll make it again next week. It was really easy to prepare and pretty quick. Next time I’ll make extra to add to lunches. I made a batch of quinoa earlier in the day and steamed some broccoli. While the chicken was in the oven, I  made a quick vinaigrette for the broccoli using the thyme, shallot, and garlic that I had for the chicken.

These chicken gyros from How Sweet It Is
This is another favorite in our house. I skip the whipped feta and make a quick tzatziki sauce instead. I just add garlic, dill, lemon juice, a splash of red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper to whole fat greek yogurt. I love that I can easily add spinach, leeks, and avocado to this dinner to make a balanced meal. If I’m watching my carbs, I’ll skip the tortillas, and mix it with rice or quinoa instead.

Having a list of go-to, tried and true recipes is a key step in healthy meal planning for our family. Do you keep a list of favorite healthy recipes?

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Your No-Fail New Year’s Resolutions

This weekend my daughter decided she was going to build a Lego helicopter. She doesn’t have a Lego helicopter set or instructions for one. She had to use her existing Legos and figure out how to build it herself. Her first attempt was pretty spectacular (I might be a tad biased), but it didn’t quite turn out the way she had hoped. So, I told her “Of course you failed. I knew you would. You should never have even have tried that the first place!” Isn’t that what any good parent would say?

Of course not! And no, I didn’t really say that to her. But here we are, only five days in to the New Year, and I can’t believe how many people are assuming that you will fail your New Years resolutions. I see the headlines in my Facebook feed, in magazines, on blogs. Everywhere I look, I’m seeing articles about why you shouldn’t even attempt New Year’s resolutions because you’re just going to fail anyway. Even the so-called motivational gurus are trying to rain on your New Year’s resolution parade – already declaring you a failure. But I know they’re wrong. I know you won’t fail at your resolutions because the truth is you can’t fail at your New Year’s resolutions.

I acknowledge that you’ll likely hit roadblocks. I acknowledge that, often, people give up when they hit roadblocks, but you won’t. You might feel like you’ve failed when you don’t meet your own expectations, but you won’t give up. You know better than that. You know that roadblocks do not equal failure. Giving up equals failure, but you won’t give up. Roadblocks are just your cue to take a step back, identify why your plan isn’t working, and change it. 

When my daughter’s first attempt at building a helicopter was not what she had hoped for, failure didn’t even enter her mind. Either did giving up. She took a step back, thought about it a bit, and found a new way to achieve her goal. And she did it. So if you get to the point a few weeks from now where you are feeling like you failed at your goals, remember that you didn’t fail. You simply found out that your original plan didn’t work. In my daughter’s case, she hadn’t fully thought through the details. So take a step back, think about why your plan didn’t work, and see if you can’t find a new path to your goal. If you have trouble figuring out why your plan didn’t work, here are some likely reasons:

1. It was too big. Maybe you bit off more than you can chew. This is a great problem to have because all you have to do is scale back your goal. How easy is that? Read this post from last year on how those little changes can add up to big results.

2. You didn’t have a plan. You might have declared you would go to the gym five days a week, but if you didn’t get specific about when you would go, you missed a key step. Get specific about how you will achieve your goal.

3. You picked the wrong goal. Maybe the reason you aren’t going to the gym five days a week is because you’ve realized you hate being in the gym and you’d rather be outdoors. So change your goal. If you’re motivation is to get fit, then focus on doing activities you actually enjoy.

I love New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s fantastic that people all across the country are starting the year with a commitment to improving themselves in some way. How could anyone be down on that? I hope you have phenomenal success with your resolutions. I love seeing people succeed. But just in case you don’t have phenomenal success, remember that you have not failed at your New Year’s resolutions. Let me repeat that. You have not failed! What you’ve done is learned that your original plan did not work. Your plan needs some tweaking. 

As for all those Debby Downers trying to rain on your resolution parade? I’m guessing they’re a bunch of quitters who give up at the first sign of an obstacle. Lucky for us, we know better.

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2014 Kicked My Ass… Just Like I Needed It To

years that ask2014 kicked my ass. In 2014 I failed. Multiple times. In many ways. In 2014 I was on the receiving end of rejection and animosity – the likes of which I haven’t seen since middle school. Many times I found myself surrounded by negative people and feeling responsible for their negativity. I was often surrounded by people trying to blame me for their mistakes. I spent much of 2014 licking my wounds barely finding time to heal before the next bout. But I asked for it and now, at the end of 2014, I’m glad it happened. 

I start every year by asking myself if this will be a year that asks questions or a year that answers them. As 2013 was coming to an end, I was feeling like I had lost my way a bit (more like a lot) and I needed to find the path back to my authentic self. I had fallen into the trap of people pleasing, trying to fit in, trying to be the one everyone could count on, trying to be everything to every one, and I had lost myself along the way. I wasn’t happy. I was resentful and I knew something needed to change but I had no idea where to start. I was lost. I knew that in 2014, I needed answers. So at the start of the year I asked the Universe to help me find my way back and because I never seem to learn lessons the easy way, the Universe taught me lessons I can never forget.

It seemed like every time I turned around I was dealing with people who were mad at me, disappointed in me, flat out hating me, expecting more from me, and really mad when I didn’t meet their expectations. I’d like to be able to say that I rose to the challenges and met them head on with strength, grace, and dignity but that isn’t how it happened. I met the challenges with fear, self-loathing, hurt, anger, resentment, guilt and, at times, a strong desire to change my identity, move across the country, and start all over. But I knew why these negative experiences kept coming up over and over again. I had asked for answers and I knew that every challenge was also an opportunity for growth. I knew I could choose to be defensive and play the victim or I could choose to acknowledge my role in the situation. I started the year crumbling when faced with adversity and with each new challenge, I learned a little more, cared a little less (about what others thought), and listened to my instincts a lot more.

I learned so much about myself this year. I learned that when I am honest about my expectations and my reasons for doing things, I really don’t care what others think. I learned that when I am true to myself, some people won’t respond well, but most will appreciate the authenticity. I learned that not being honest and vocal about my expectations guarantees disappointment, which then leads to resentment. I learned that focusing on gratitude is far more rewarding than focusing on expectations. I also learned that life is so much more enjoyable when I focus my energy on people I actually like. Most importantly, I learned that I, and only I, am solely responsible for my happiness. Which means that I, and only I, am solely responsible for my unhappiness.

This in not a look-how-much-my-year-sucked post. My intention is not to evoke empathy. My intention is to say 2014 kicked my ass and I am so glad it did because I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. I found my way back to me and, as it corny as it sounds, I’m kinda loving me. So 2015 watch out. Because this year it’s my turn to kick some ass.

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12 Days of Christmas Health – Day 4

12 days health 4Today my goal is to meditate. I’ve gone through periods when I meditated daily and then I let other things take priority and I stop meditating for long periods of time. I don’t know why I do that because I always feel so much better when I meditate. One of my goals for 2015 is to get back into a meditation routine so starting now seems like a good idea. I’m being realistic though. I’m only committing to meditating for two minutes today. It may not sound like much but I’ve learned in the past that even two minutes of meditation can make a big difference in my day. And no matter how busy my day gets, I can surely find two minutes to meditate.

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12 days health 3What I love about these small daily committments is the reminder of how much better I feel when I’m taking care of myself. My energy is so much better when I’m staying hydrated and I crave sugar so much less. Yesterday’s workout didn’t even go that well – my brain wanted to focus on other things – but it reminded me that a mediocre workout is better than no workout at all and motivated me to make it to the gym again today.

My goal for today is to get to bed early tonight. I am a night owl by nature, but being a night owl doesn’t really work well with being a parent. The past couple of weeks I’ve gotten in the cycle of staying up well past the point of feeling sleepy, being exhausted in the morning, relying on coffee to get me through the day, and then repeating the cycle again the next night. As much as I enjoy my nights to myself, I really hate the way lack of sleep leaves me feeling foggy headed and disconnected during my days.  So tonight I am getting to bed when I start feeling tired. I will get a great night of sleep and tomorrow morning I will wake up feeling rested and ready for my week. 

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12 Days of Christmas Health – Day 2

12 day of health 2My goal for day 2 is to get to the gym. I don’t really feel like I have time for this and I could easily think of a million other things I should do instead, but I’m committing to just 20 minutes. Because no matter how busy I am, I can squeeze in just 20 minutes, right? Of course I can. 

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12 Days of Christmas Health – Day 1



12 days of Christmas healthThe holiday rush is here and the days are getting busier and busier. This time of year it’s easy to start focusing on my long to-do list and forget to focus on my health. As I look for ways to make my to-do list less daunting, self-care tends to be the first thing deleted off the list, and then I feel guilty for not taking care of myself. Instead of focusing on the things I don’t have time for, I’m going to focus on just one small healthy goal every day. The goal could be eating one healthy meal, taking 5 minutes to meditate, getting to bed on time instead of staying up late, taking a walk (even if it’s a short one). The goal is to set aside just a few minutes a day to make my health a priority.

Today my goal is to stay hydrated. I’m terrible about drinking water when it’s cold and rainy. So today I’m going to focus on making myself some herbal tea and staying hydrated. What are you going to do for yourself today?

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