Your favorite instructors are great teachers, but they're still students, too. "Just like my clients, I oftentimes need to be told what to do when it comes to my exercise routine," says Annie Mulgrew, program director at CityRow in New York City. "I'll take a class at my studio or another studio with an instructor friend," she says. "I always feel better afterward!"
Mulgrew says group fitness is more than just a workout, but an opportunity to see what other instructors are doing and get new ideas. "We're still consumers of group fitness."
Treat yourself every day
To stay on track with a healthy, balanced diet, Mulgrew says she gives in to temptation one time every day. "If I allow myself a treat, I'm way less likely to overindulge or binge," she says. "One glass of wine is perfect, but a whole bottle? Derailing."
This smart eating strategy is the reason many authorities say trendy or restrictive diets simply don't work. You end up craving the self-banned food even more, increasing your odds of binge eating or falling off the wagon completely.
Pump up the jams
Music can be an incredibly powerful mood booster. In fact, research has shown that listening to happy or sad music can actually directly alter the way you perceive the world—powerful stuff!
Los Angeles-based personal trainer Astrid Swan harnesses the power of music to get her ready to take on the world. "No matter what the situation is—an early wake-up call, sprints on the treadmill, or just having a life moment, music brings me back to me," says Swan. Need a quick jolt? She says to turn up the dial "on the volume and on your workout." One song that always works for this fitness pro: "Stronger" by Britney Spears.
Give yourself a pep talk
Whether it's a family member's words of encouragement that have stuck with you, or lyrics from a familiar song, keeping a mantra, catchphrase or motto handy when you need a boost of confidence or determination can work wonders.
For Swan it's simply "Let's go! I've got this." "If I'm going into a meeting, or totally dying during a workout session, I'll say it [to myself]," she says. "I say it to my clients, too! 'You've got this. You just have to believe'."
Plan a post-workout meal
Having a food in mind for your post-workout nosh will motivate you to crush your sweat session. Erin Bulvanoski, trainer at KORE New York, says it helps her really work for that snack she's craving. "I love finding a great smoothie shop after class," she says. "It's something I get excited about." That said, don't overdo it—remember these tips for avoiding a post-workout binge.
Connect with friends
A workout buddy holds you accountable for the time and effort you put into your workouts—research proves it. Plus, socializing as you sweat can make exercise more fun.
Bulvanoksi says she enjoys staying connected to and touching base with her favorite clients. "I love inviting my friends to join me in class, too," she says. "The more people I have to look forward to see, the more I feel motivated to be at the top of my game."
Practice being mindful
The art of being in the moment, blocking out all the external day-to-day stressors that can get in the way is sometimes easier said than done, but this kind of mindfulness is something Daniela Iannone, personal trainer and instructor at Prime Cycle in Hoboken, New Jersey truly believes in and follows.
"For many people in my class, the 45 minutes they spend with me is the only time during their day that they have to themselves," Iannone says. "I tell them to give that to themselves and focus on the task at hand. Where your mind goes, your energy goes with it."
Surround yourself with positive people
Mulgrew says spending time with positive, hard-working co-workers and friends makes her want to follow their lead. "If I'm having a rough day, my team keeps me focused on the good, and helps me power through," she says.
It's nice to surround yourself with friends who have similar interests, but Mulgrew says it's just as important to be with people who are doing things you want to be doing. If you see other people living healthfully, those actions could become habits for you, too. "If you have someone helping you to stay consistent, it's a game-changer," says Mulgrew.
Listen to your body
Your body could be telling you things you may not want to hear. Mulgrew says that sometimes her body wants to push her out of her comfort zone. "So I look around at other people at the gym or in class and tell myself if they can do it, so can I."
Other times though, your body might be warning you to stop. "There's nothing wrong with taking a break, and there's nothing less motivating than an injury," says Mulgrew. "If my body feels too fatigued or I feel discomfort in my muscles or joints, I back off. Staying safe and healthy allows for longevity, and that's really what it's all about."
Get in those steps for the day
You signed up for spin class only to realize it was at the location across town. Instead of dreading the commute, make good use of that time! "Sometimes to get motivated for class, I force myself to run, walk, or bike there instead of taking the subway as a way to get my blood flowing and endorphins up," says Bulvanoski.
Studies have shown that exercising outdoors (or in this case, taking the scenic route to class) offers bonus benefits like improved mood and, weather permitting, an extra dose of vitamin D.
Think about what you can accomplish right now
You might have a larger goal in mind—dropping pounds, training for a marathon—but it's crucial to remember all the baby steps it takes to get there.
During her high-intensity classes, Bulvanoski asks clients to set goals for themselves that they aim to complete during the hour-long class, and she sets one for herself, too. "Tangible things to achieve are always a stronger motivator to be at your best," she says.
The floor-to-ceiling mirrors surrounding most studios are not there to torture you. Sure, you may feel a little awkward while you're getting the hang of a particularly challenging move, but looking in the mirror can help perfect your form over time.
The mirror helps show Bulvanoski just how hard she's working. "Seeing my muscles work is a huge motivator," she says.