Here are the two most important lessons I learned as a trainer in 2014:
1) Recovery, recovery, recovery.
2) Balance, balance, balance.
The importance of recovery and a balanced training regimen aren't new, but too often the fitness field simply pays lip service to them. Activities like running and boot-camp classes are considered "real" exercise, and stretching, sleep and foam-rolling are thought of as self-indulgent and therefore great "extras" when time allows.
It is important to keep in mind that exercise stresses the body. It can only be a positive effect if you give your body the ingredients it needs to recover properly.
Don't get too excited – I'm not suggesting you sit on the sofa and eat chips. A good recovery protocol has a lot more to it than that.
Prioritize sleep and eating well/ Your body recovers while you sleep, and a healthy diet helps your muscles and connective tissue repair and become stronger. Schedule time to stretch and get regular body-work like massages, or use a foam roller.
Also make sure your training is balanced. Way too many people prioritize cardiovascular exercise like running over strength- and mobility-training. Endurance cardio puts a huge stress on your hormones and you immune system, not to mention your joints, tendons and ligaments.
Learn from my mistakes: I have traditionally been a running and biking junkie and am only now making my own routine more balanced. I shortchanged my recoveries and prioritized my endurance training for too long. I'm hopeful that I learned these lessons early enough that future Kathleen doesn't have to have a double hip replacement!
Lastly, don't rationalize sitting for 14 hours a day or lying on the sofa all weekend because you do three cardio workouts a week. Balance includes getting up regularly from your desk and weaving movement into your daily routine.
Trainer's tip: Do not shortchange yourself of sleep. Did you know a good night's rest helps control your weight? The less you sleep, the more ghrelin hormone your body produces, which means your appetite will increase. You will also produce less leptin, which is the hormone that helps your body feel satiated.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for over 10 years. Her website is kathleentrotter.com.