How to stick with your fitness routine

How to stick with your fitness routine

This was originally published back in 2011 … I’ve updated it and guess what? It’s still true!

It’s a roller coaster many of us have ridden …

You’ve been spot-on with your clean eating. Your workouts have been pretty stellar. Basically, you’re killing pretty much every area of your program.

And then … pizza happens. Or maybe an extra glass (or two) of wine. And then you miss a workout or two.

Suddenly, you are a failure. You suck. You can’t stick with anything. So, you do the only thing that makes sense. You throw up your hands and give up. 


That’s an example of black-or-white thinking, and it never works. I’m gonna help you stop that, now.

How To Stick With Your Fitness Program

A while ago at a wellness class at my gym, we talked a lot about food and what/when to eat.

One thing that struck me is how we think that there are mythical humans – human who are NOT us – who always eat “perfectly” and who never indulge and/or are rarely tempted.

That person doesn’t exist. That’s a robot. Everyone slips up now and then, and it’s the way that we THINK about those slip-ups and manage them that makes all the difference.

Sometimes there’s pizza at work, and it shows up at the exact wrong moment – when you’re hungry or tired (key times when we are at risk), or when you least expect it. 

Let’s not forget about the times you’re at your wits end: stressed, emotional, too busy, and just plain “over” everything. Or your friends/family are pestering you to JUST GIVE IN this ONE TIME.

These are not the result of any intrinsic weaknesses in YOU. They are problems/hurdles/obstacles that we all face.

And the way to solve them isn’t to point the finger at yourself … instead, look at the situation and try to figure out how to fix THAT.

I’m going to outline a few real problems/situations from my own life, and how I (mostly) work around them now.

Riding The Struggle Bus

First of all, it’s hard for me to talk about being on the struggle bus because I am afraid I’m letting people down. They always seem so disappointed to know that there’s not going to be a day when they magically wake up and poof! all of these little struggles disappear. 

Wouldn’t it be great if there was hope for this? Yes, it would. 

The good news is that avoiding struggles gets easier the more you practice certain habits. But even then I find myself circling back around to a few key problems.


I get up really early because I go to work really early. But I don’t want to get up any earlier than I have to. I really, really, really don’t.

Even though we’re hearing all about the powers of intermittent fasting, studies continue to show the importance of eating breakfast, and I know if I don’t eat a good meal early in the day, I’m gonna be hungry later.

Well, I don’t want to prepare a full meal in the morning. And I won’t. I know this, because several times I planned to cook breakfast and it didn’t happen and I ended up grabbing something in a rush, which wasn’t the best way to start the day.

So now I cook my breakfast the night before. 

Some nights (like last night) when I get home after 7 p.m. and then the phone rings and the dog starts barking and I have a gazillion things to do, I don’t want to precook my breakfast.

But I cook it anyway (last night I scrambled 3 egg whites, 1 egg, and a cup of broccoli, adding in some goat cheese). It’s in the fridge waiting for me, and will be microwaved and eaten with a slice of Ezekial bread as soon as I press the “publish” button this post. (Note: I’m on a med that requires me to take it first thing in the morning and to wait an hour before eating, which is why I didn’t eat it as soon as I woke up. 🙂  )

Running Out of Food Mid-Week

This is embarrassing to admit, but every Thursday night I found myself going through the drive-through for supper.

And I was doing this while still sweaty after teaching a high-intensity group exercise class. My stomach would be grumbling and I’d be mad at myself for putting crap into my body, even if it was from the “healthy” and “low cal” menu.

Sometimes when voice on the drive-thru speaker asked, “Would you like some nachos with that?” I would answer, “yes.”

Driving home, I’d be hating on myself. I would be all, “WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO THIS? WHYYYY?”

And then I realized: hmm. I always do this. Why?

Duh. I was out of food at home. I was hungry. I needed to eat something immediately after class. Why didn’t I already have something on-hand?

There was a reason.

See, I tend to rock my lunches and dinners all week long …  until Thursday. I work late both Wednesday and Thursday nights, and by Thursday all the proteins I precooked for the week on Sunday are gone.

And I am HUNGRY when I leave work Thursday night because I cap the day off by teaching a group ex class. Here’s a formula that will also apply to you.

Hungry Wendy + No Food In The House = Danger

Planning = Winning

What I do now is plan ahead for this. I find time during the day on Wednesday or at lunch Thursday to make sure I have food for later. Nothing that requires much prep but is more than a salad-bar salad. Yes, it’s a pain to find that time, but that little bit of pain is worth it in the long run.

Perhaps that’s a big “duh!” but it’s that kind of silly little problem that often derails our plans and makes us think we’re failures with no willpower and that we should just give up.

Look closely at the times you tend to slip up on your eating plan, and see if there’s a pattern. And if there is one, come up with a strategy that helps you work around that problem.

  • Maybe you eat on Friday nights because you’re lonely or it’s become a form of entertainment for you. Entertain yourself with something else!
  • Donuts at the office on Tuesdays? Bring something else, something healthier and lower calorie, to eat instead. And avoid being them around them, if at all possible.
  • Weekends – always an issue. Have a plan in mind.
  • Eating out. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about eating out that makes it feel like an “occasion.” But if you do it a lot, it actually is just another meal. Think about what  you’re going to eat and how you’re going to ask for it to be prepared before you get to the restaurant.

It’s not so much about willpower as it is about identifying the problems, and then solving them.

Now, off to enjoy my eggs. 🙂

Are personal trainers “rent-a-friends”?

Are personal trainers “rent-a-friends”?

I’m tidying my website and found this article I wrote for the Bangor Daily News in 2011. I wrote it after a fitness franchise banned trainers from its facilities. 

I considered deleting this but I have an even stronger belief that if you want to get fitter and stronger, you’ll benefit from occasional tune-ups with a good trainer.

Should you hire a personal trainer?

It definitely won’t hurt and it probably will help. You might not need long-term training, but when you’re lifting heavy weights or performing specific exercises, you’re challenging your body. You need to know how to do that correctly so you get stronger and fitter, not injured. This can be invaluable whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting your fitness journey.

I’m a trainer and I love working with other fitness pros to get stronger and better! They keep me honest and working to my potential. 🙂 

Bucking the trainer-as-friend trend

By Wendy Watkins, Special to the BDN

A while ago, making a big splash in the fitness industry, one of the bigger gym chains decided to ban personal training.The CEO said trainers were basically “rent-a-friends” for clients.

I’m a personal trainer and I admit it: Sometimes I have to nudge a few of my clients to chat less and exercise more during our sessions. Some talking is important because it helps the trainer judge how hard the client is working, plus we get to understand the stress-causing factors in a client’s life that might be affecting their bodies. But trainers are there to help clients safely challenge their physical limits, not to be a therapist or confidant.

Is one-on-one training really necessary? It depends.  (Click for the rest, which coincidentally explains how I ramped up some clients’ results …)

13 Motivational Videos To Get You Pumped Up and Back On Track

13 Motivational Videos To Get You Pumped Up and Back On Track

Looking for a jolt of inspiration? 

There’s nothing like a good motivational video to get you fired up for your day.

I know that when I’m feeling a little off (or lazy, uninspired, or like chucking all my goals), it can be hard to pull myself back on track. I have lots of little tricks – journaling, getting outside, working out – but sometimes even those tricks don’t work.

That’s when I go in search of motivational videos. 

If you’re having one of those days, at least one (and maybe all) of these videos will help pull you back on-course.

1. Make The Choice For Toughness

Lesson: when it comes right down to it, success is a matter of heart, and if you have the heart, you have the will to succeed.

Duncan Keith definitely exemplifies this. He trains hard (mind, body, and spirit), eats clean … and he shows that he definitely pushes past the pain/discomfort to get the job done.

It’s all about making good choices, whether or not things are going your way.

2. Change Your Thoughts to Change Your Life

Do you lack motivation? Or find it hard to stay motivated?

What if motivation isn’t the real issue? Our brains are not wired to like change – in fact, change might even go against our survival instincts.

Here’s how to make a mindset shift and retrain your brain for success.

3. Define Your Strengths, Define Your Life

Misty Copeland is the first African-American female principal dancer for the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, after overcoming early rejection.

Her story is always so compelling!

4. A Single Choice Can Change Your Life

How Henry Rollins went from being an assistant manager at a Haagen-Dazs shop to becoming the lead singer of Black Flag.

“I don’t have talent, I have tenacity,” he says, adding that he knows he has to “watch, shut up, and learn” to succeed.

5. Be The Hero(ine)

There are so many great Joe Rogan motivational videos it was hard to pick just one, but this is a classic.

Your life is a movie … be the hero, not just a supporting character.

6. Be Good, Treat Others Well, and Treat Yourself Well Too

You already know what you need to do.There’s no magic involved.

Just do it. 

Still not sure? Joe breaks it down for you in simple, easy-to-follow steps.

7. Destiny Is Calling You: Are You Gonna Answer?

This compilation from Oprah teaches that “failure” isn’t really failure. Instead, it’s an opportunity to correct your course so you can move closer to your best life.

She says each feeling of failure, loss, or unease is a cue to move in another direction.

8. Here’s Where You Find Your Motivation

Most of us wait for motivation to strike, but here’s the thing: it rarely just shows up for us.

Retired Navy SEAL and podcaster Jocko Willink says you can’t just “turn on” motivation, drive, or passion.

Instead, he says it boils down to your reason why, and he outlines how to discover that.

9. Find Your Greatness 

What is greatness, and who can achieve it?

Where does greatness live, and what does it look like?

Here’s a series of playful videos from Nike. (Don’t try the pogo stick trick. Ever!)

10. Still I Rise

In this video, tennis great Serena Williams reads the powerful poem “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou.

11. Be Unconventional

Uncommon habits, unpredictable results.

Skiing legend Bode Miller talks about how he pushes his limits through unorthodox means.

12. Celebrate Your Life

In this compilation video, women from across the world talk about finding pride and self-confidence in the face of adversity – often when their cultures didn’t encourage it.

They share inspirational stories of overcoming amazing odds.

13. The Power of the Solitary Traveler

This video talks about the challenges of solo endeavors, of overcoming and achieving goals on one’s own.

Using inspirational quotes, it outlines how the hardest walks lead to the highest destinations – and if you work hard,  the right people will show up in your life, and you won’t always be a lone wolf.

What are YOU going to achieve?

How do you stay motivated? Do you have any favorite videos? I’d love to see them.

If this post pumped you up, I’d appreciate a like or a share. 🙂 Thanks!

Why do leg days hurt so much?

Why does leg day hurt so much?When I walked down the stairs at my place this past weekend, I swore with every step.

Not under my breath. Out loud.

My quadriceps — the muscles along the front of my thighs — hurt like hell.

And I had no one to blame but myself, and even while I was incurring this damage during my leg workout on Friday, I knew it was going to hurt like this. But still: ouch.

Why do leg days hurt so much? Not necessarily during the workout, but after?

It happens to everyone

Basically, it’s like this: When you tackle a strength training workout, you are damaging your muscles, causing microscopic tears.  The healing process makes them inflamed. But big muscles = big inflammation = big pain. Leg muscles are big. That’s why the DOMS — or delayed onset muscle soreness — hurts so much when it strikes them.

Mine hurt to touch and rolling over in bed at night woke me up.

But even though I complained, I knew that the DOMS was actually a sign of progress. That’s because when your body heals, the muscles will be stronger and maybe a little bigger. (Obviously, acute sharp pains are *not* DOMS and are signs of injury, requiring medical attention.)

The DOMS pain happens to workout newbies, to people returning to their workouts after a layoff, and even gym rats who mix up their routines by doing new exercises (which is what I did).

At my gym, I always feel kind of sorry for the people who try BodyPump class for the first time and end up shocked by the leg DOMS they get from the squat and lunge tracks. Sometimes they tell me they don’t dare to take class again, but that’s the worst thing they can do.

Why? Because generally you only have one first super-ouchy time. The next time it won’t hurt so bad, and the time after that it’ll be even better. You don’t want to through that first-time pain again, do you? You have to keep going.

And after a while, you will look forward to DOMS (as long as it’s not too bad) because it’s a sign of progress. Training clients always tell me they are happy when they feel it the day after their workouts.

What do you do to combat DOMS when it strikes?

First, depending on the level of severity, you could rest those muscles groups from more weight-training workouts until the DOMS subsides. You could ice the muscles to take down the inflammation or stretch them out.

What did I do? I went for some walks. It helped loosen my muscles up and get the blood flowing, and that made a big difference.

And today, four days later, I’m going to train them again, doing some different exercises, which likely will cause slightly less DOMS. I hope. But a little is OK, because that’s how I know I’m making #gains.

What do you do when your muscles are sore after a workout? Does it make you feel discouraged, encouraged, or something else?

How to save money when buying supplements

I am about to save you a lot of money.Save money.Eat healthy.Be a sexy beast.


Because I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.

Until you get your diet in order, you’re wasting your money if you’re using a bunch of supplements like preworkout, BCAAs (branch chain amino acids), fat burners and mass gainers.

Now, I’m not saying all supplements are worthless (although some are). And I’m not talking about any supplements your doc might have recommended for health reasons (like Vitamin D or magnesium, etc.). What I am talking about here are the supplements that claim they’ll boost your performance, cut your fat, build tons of muscle and generally turn you into a strong, ripped, super-sexy beast.

Your money and effort is better spent toward laying a healthy foundation by eating a nutritious, balanced and varied diet. Then, when you get that nailed down, you can get fancier if you want (but I’m guessing you won’t want as much you think you might).

I see people cart bags of supplements into my gym on a regular basis, and I hear them during their workouts, talking with their friends about their eating/partying escapades, and can’t help but notice the disconnect.

And if you spend much time leafing through fitness magazines, you really can’t blame the disconnect because they are filled with images and claims. Important reminder: many fitness magazines are funded by supplement advertisers.

If I have one regret when it comes to health/fitness, it’s that I didn’t figure out how vital nutrition was to our workout results sooner. In my own defense, I grew up in the heyday of the high-carb, low-fat diet (Snackwell cookies, anyone?). And when you’re young it can be harder to feel/see the difference in how your body feels when when fueled one way versus another.

But now that I’m older and wiser, I can tell you firsthand that when you eat a healthier diet your body functions better, right? (duh). Your body is primed to perform better. You have less inflammation. You can work out harder and longer. And you hurt less.

What does “eat a healthier diet” mean?  This is a loaded question because everyone’s system is different (as, more importantly, are their beliefs about diet), but there are some basic rules. Cut back on the sugar. Ditch overly processed foods. Eat more vegetables, lean proteins, fruits, starchy carbohydrates (especially after your workout) and healthy fats.

And for those looking for the fast track to being a super-sexy beast, I know that’s not very sexy advice. But saving money and having a healthier body is pretty darn sexy.

If you need a preworkout boost, have a cup of coffee or green tea.

If you need a postworkout meal, make your own (it’s easy and cheap!). If you’re trying to lose weight, come up with something that’s 2 parts carbs to 1 part protein (maybe with 30 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein). If you’re trying to muscle up, take that ratio to 3 parts carbs to 1 part protein (45 grams of carbs to 15 grams of protein). Keep the fat low in both cases.

You could drink some fat-free chocolate milk (that’s an old standby recommendation). You could eat rice cakes and sliced turkey or chicken. Have an apple or banana and cottage cheese or nonfat plain Greek  yogurt. Heck, if it’s postworkout, I could even make an argument for flavored Greek yogurt (in small amounts, from a low-sugar brand).

Back when I was writing the Fit for Duty fitness column for the military newspaper Stars & Stripes, I interviewed a nutritionist who suggested people ditch mass gainers and instead eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread, washed down with a glass of 100 percent percent fruit juice.

Once your diet is in order, you can start laying in the supplements that you believe will help you get to your goals. Before you take them, though, do some investigation to make sure they are worth it both in terms of the cost and your health.

I’m not affiliated with this site but it’s my go-to source for supplement info — it’s science-based, takes no ads and its writers/editors examine human research studies to explain the benefits (or not) of supplements.

Protein powders can be helpful if you have a hard time getting adequate protein in your diet (I use them). Creatine can be helpful for many people when it comes to improving performance in strength training. And if you have health issues, ask your doctor what s/he thinks about what you’re taking — I’ve brought a bag of supplements to my doctor before and I saved some cash (and I also walked out with recommendations for replacements for what I was taking).

That old saying is true: you can’t out train a bad diet, and you also can’t out supplement one, either.

Do you take supplements? What are your go-tos, and why?

How much exercise do you need?

People frequently ask me how much they “should” be working out.

For the record, I hate “shoulds” because they sound like punishment.

Exercise isn’t a punishment — movement is a gift and the more you do it, the better you (generally) feel! If you hate a certain form of exercise, find something else that makes you happy.

I created the infographic below to outline how much exercise experts recommend we get each week for general health.

You might look at the numbers in the chart and feel overwhelmed, but it’s not that much, I swear.

Basically, go for a brisk 30-minute walk 5 nights a week, do two total-body strength-training workouts on nonconsecutive days and follow them up with some light stretching, and you’re DONE! (click the image for a larger version)

If you want extra credit in terms of even greater health benefits, the Centers for Disease Control suggests upping the moderate intensity cardio (like brisk walking) to 300 minutes a week or the vigorous activity (like jogging) to 150 minutes per week, or an equivalent combo of the two. The weight training recommendations stay the same, at two or more sessions per week.

What do you think? Does that sound doable? Yes? No? Maybe?