Personal Trainers' Habits Put To The Test

Personal trainers. I stand in awe of their dogged pursuit of healthy living.

They exercise consistently, they eat well, AND they motivate others to do the same thing. Sometimes, I find myself wondering, “How do they do it?” But, after being around them for 2+ years, it’s easy to see that it’s their everyday habits that set them up for success. Find out what happened when I put their health habits to the test.

Rob Whittaker

Habit observed: healthy lunch on autopilot

I’ve sat through enough lunchtime meetings to notice one thing about Rob—he eats the same thing for lunch… every single day. At first, I was just admiring his lunch in an, “Oh that looks good. I should try that sometime,” kind of way. It didn’t take me long to realize that Rob brought the same sandwich, the same snacks, the same brands, the same everything with him for lunch. You might be thinking, “Doesn’t he get tired of eating the same thing?” I thought about it, too. But, the answer is no.

A big part of the reason why? His healthy lunch is on autopilot. That’s one less thing he has to think about in the morning. Akin to the Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs’ of the world who own an endless supply of black shirts, Rob doesn’t have to make decisions about what he’s going to eat, or buy, or cook this week for lunch. He already knows.

What Rob eats

“The secret to my lunchtime is really nothing special… it’s more just a super-proven habit that I avoid breaking. I make it so that each day, I never have to think about it. My daily lunch includes 1/2 sandwich usually with either roast beef or turkey (quality meats—no nitrates, GMO’s, etc) and real cheese (typically muenster or colby jack… not low fat, and never a “cheese product” like American, Velveeta, etc.). I use a sprouted grain bread from Trader Joe’s. In a small baggy I put in a serving of sugar snap pea pods and a few carrots and celery sticks. I include an apple and consume about 16 oz of water with my lunch. It takes me about 5 minutes to prepare it each morning or the night before. I have been in this habit since 1992. ;) Additional snack items for my day include a V8 Fusion (8 oz. can), trail mix I make myself (only nuts and dried fruit), a Baby Bell cheese thingy and Trader Joe’s beef jerky. I’d say that another reason why my “unremarkable lunch” works so consistently is also because I eat through the day (snacks above) and consume lots of water. I avoid excessive hunger and thirst like the plague.

I put his advice to the test:

Eating for one makes bringing in the same thing for lunch *kinda* difficult. Things like a loaf of bread or lunch meat go bad before I can get through them. BUT, Rob’s ways inspired me to make big batches of a lunch/dinner recipe on a Sunday and eat it consistently throughout the week. 

Woah guys—the quality of my lunches went up like 8,000%. It was so nice to eat real food that I’d cooked vs. yet another TV dinner. Rob also inspired me to pack more fruits and veggies (more snacks!) so I don’t get hungry during the day. Yum yum!

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Ellen Penn Berry

Habit observed: self-love / balance 

I knew Ellen “online” before I’d ever met her in person. Creepy? Sort of… but I’d heard about her awesome Instagram annnnnd we work for the same company, so I followed her. It didn’t disappoint. Ellen’s perspective on health and wellness is an incredibly refreshing one, especially in a culture that values #before&after and #results vs. overall well-being. “From past experience, I’ve realized that you can work as hard as you possibly can to work out and eat to be optimally healthy, but if you don’t love yourself and enjoy life (including days off from working out and DONUTS), none of it is worth it.” Diet culture is real, and Ellen isn’t here for it, which I appreciate so much.

So, I wondered, how could I embody Ellen’s healthy & balanced vibe?

The answer was in my Instagram feed. “Completely revamp what and who you follow on social media,” she said. “Unfollow any #fitspo, #thinspo, or anything that makes you feel bad about your body or yourself. Start following more body-positive accounts. One of my favorites on Instagram is @noairbrushedme.” Her advice made me take a good hard look at who I was following on Instagram and what their messages were. By and large—and somehow I didn’t realize this before—these users were defining what healthy meant and looked like. It was their way or the highway. Do this, don’t do that. Count this. Give up that. Exercise more. No mention about balance or being yourself. I felt like I’d been duped! Ellen’s words inspired me to define what *my* healthy looks like. Healthy isn’t simply a goal—it’s a lifestyle.

Her other piece of advice was to, “Start keeping a daily journal where you write something you like about your body or ‘reframe’ one ‘negative’ thing about your body into a positive each day.” I’ve really enjoyed “thanking” my body for what it can do. All too often, we’re caught up in what we can’t do or what we don’t look like but wished we did. The practice of giving thanks says, “Hey, body. Thank you for doing what you do,” and it is incredibly powerful.

Follow Ellen:

Instagram: @eehpuhbuh


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Rachel O’Neill

 Habit observed: drink lots of water

 Rachel is a water drinking pro. If ever there was someone who would DEFINITELY know the benefits of drinking water, it’s her. She always has the cutest reusable water bottles (#jealous) with her at all times, so I knew she’d be the perfect person to go to for advice on upping my water intake.

Here’s what she said: 

– Remind yourself WHY: “I drink plenty of water because it keeps my brain and muscles from getting cranky!”

– Carry a water bottle with you everywhere: “Choose one that makes you happy. The wrong container can be counterproductive. If it has a funny smell, or is difficult to open/close, or doesn’t fit in your cup holders, you won’t use it!”

– Don’t forget to refill: “Depending on the size of the container, aim for refilling it 3 times a day!”

I put her advice to the test:

Oh man—water, water, water! The first thing I had to do was find a container that I liked. That wasn’t hard. I walked into Starbucks and had to stop myself from buying five different ones. Now for the water drinking part. Water and I haven’t always gotten along. I love Diet Coke too much, but thankfully that habit has declined since college. I know that I *should* drink more water but, for whatever reason it’s tough for me to sip on it throughout the day. 

Here’s what I found worked for me:

– don’t drink *too much* of it: getting up to go to the bathroom every 30 mins isn’t fun. Like Rachel said, I tried to find a balance between enough and too much by aiming to refilling my 20oz container 2-3 times during the day.

– find what temperature you like: I like my water like the Europeans do – no ice. I found that I drank more water, more often when I let it “warm up” from the fridge or the water fountain.

– taking gulping breaks: see above. Sipping on water throughout the day has never been something that I’ve been good at. If I sip water, I never meet my water intake goals. I improvised and started drinking 2-3 gulps every time I picked up my new favorite water bottle. It ensured that I was getting my water intake for the day and avoided constant sipping.

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Leigh McCready & Shannon Johnson

Habit observed: having a workout buddy

Shannon and Leigh are like clockwork. Almost every weekday, you can find them on ellipticals next to each other in the early afternoon Sometimes other people join them; regardless, they always make sure to get in a workout for the day.

Here’s what they said:

– Buddy up: “Having a workout buddy is the best! It’s super helpful in a lot of ways, but especially helpful when you don’t feel like working out! Even personal trainers need to be held accountable and having a friend to encourage you is invaluable! It helps pass the time, makes the hard parts easier and the easier parts fun.”

– Touch base: “Shannon and I usually just touch base in the morning at work or via text and find out when the other is working out—see if we can match up our times!”

– Be consistent: build your workout into your day, like you would schedule any other meeting or appointment.

I put their advice to the test

Finding a workout buddy can be tough. I know, I know—I work at acac, this shouldn’t be hard. But schedules, fitness levels, and favorite activities—all the same challenges one who doesn’t work at a gym might face—still apply. I used it as an excuse to get other people around me moving. Like, hey, if I need to workout regularly, you need to, too!

Here’s what I found:

– significant others: my boyfriend already works out regularly, regardless of whether or not he has a buddy with him. I just hopped on that train.

– parents: my mom and dad are always down to go on a walk and good, old Central Virginia is full of hills. A walk = solid cardio.

– siblings: are they around? Are you going to visit them? Grab them for a workout!

– friends: commit to a time that works for both of you at least twice a week. If more than that isn’t possible, you can do other things on your own. At least you’ll know you have a buddy for two of your four-five weekly workouts!

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