We tapped women in the health and fitness industry for their best wisdom.
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On the outside, it usually looks like health and fitness pros have an effortless, well-balanced attitude toward wellness. On the inside? Sure, they might be in a great place now, but even the healthiest, most no-BS women have struggled to find balance. (Here's why the 80/20 rule is the gold standard of dietary balance.)
While it may seem like there's always a new, 'best' way to be healthy—not to mention persistent societal pressures to look a certain way—it's completely normal to need some trial and error before landing on a health and fitness routine that works for you as an individual. Luckily, we found some super fit women who were willing to share the hard lessons they've learned, in the hopes that you might be able to avoid their same mistakes.
Here's, 10 fitness pros share what they wish they understood about health and fitness a decade ago.
Different things work for different people, and that's okay.
"I wish I could have told my younger self that we all have different bodies and different things that drive us," says Andrea Speir, 34, owner of Speir Pilates in Santa Monica, CA. "Your best body is not going to look like someone else's best body, and individuality is more beautiful than all looking the same. Find the fitness style that makes you get a thrill out of life, then be compassionate with yourself." (Check out Speir's 7 Prenatal Pilates Exercises to Safely Strengthen Your Core During Pregnancy)
Go ahead, take the rest day.
"I would tell my younger self to vigilantly guard her days off," says Bria Tavakoli, 40, a yoga and Pilates instructor in NYC. "I'd tell her to actually take days off. I'd also empower her to prioritize her own self-care and relaxation, and realize that those rituals can, will, and should change, as she grows and changes. I'd make sure she knew self-care isn't selfish. In fact, it's quite the opposite, as we cannot give to anyone from our deficit." (FYI, we think combining self-care and fitness is the healthiest wellness trend.)
Health isn't a look, it's a feeling.
"I spent so many years working out and dieting in order to 'look' the way I thought healthy was supposed to look," says Renee Canzoneri, 31, a yoga and meditation teacher based in Los Angeles, CA. "What I began to see, though, was that if I ate well (and in a balanced way—I definitely enjoy dark chocolate and pizza on occasion) and exercised in a way that's nourishing for my body, that is healthy. However my body looks when I do that is what a healthy body looks like for me."
You don't have to go all out every workout.
"I would tell her that workouts shouldn't be a near-death experience," says Corey Phelps, 38 a trainer in the Washington D.C. area and founder of Cultivate 365. "Exercising at an insane intensity and for unreasonable amounts of time is counterproductive and leads to inflammation, often injury, hormonal spikes, and extreme fatigue." (Related: The Case for Calmer, Less Intense Workouts)
The results of lifestyle changes are worth the wait.
"Overall, I'd like to tell my 21-year-old self to be patient, and that there are no quick fixes—just positive lifestyle changes," says Betina Gozo, 31, a Nike Master Trainer based in Portland, OR. "The 21-year-old me thought that doing crunches and planks, eating sandwiches with only lettuce and cheese on them, and stressing out about all the things that did not matter was the way to be healthy. Ten years later, I've changed my outlook. Though exercise is very important, I also prioritize recovery and sleep. Stress is real as you get older, but prioritizing mindfulness and mental health has been a game changer."
Sometimes, less is more.
"I used to kill myself at the gym, wondering how I would ever have a career and family with the amount of time I put into my workouts," notes Stacy Adams, 37, owner of Fitness Together Central Georgetown in Washington, D.C. "Now, I've scaled back, and I'm not only fitter but healthier and happier, with one third of the time I used to spend in the gym." (Related: I Started Exercising Less and Now I'm Fitter Than Ever)
Focus on what your body can do, not what it looks like.
"Approaching fitness as a way to build strength or develop new, measurable skills will help you appreciate your body and what it is capable of," says Andrea Levine, 32, a wellness coach based in NYC, of what she would tell herself 10 years ago. "I spent most of my adult life battling eating disorders and suffering from severe body dysmorphia. No matter how thin I got, no matter how many times I purchased the smallest size of a clothing item, I still wanted to be smaller. When I started focusing more on strength-based workouts, and fitness skills (like balance and agility), I was able to see progress in my capabilities and be proud of something when I looked in the mirror—even if I didn't see a six pack or thigh gap."
Work with the body you have today.
"This phrase has given me freedom to explore and connect with my body on a deeper level," says Lindsey Mathews, D.C., 35, founder of BirthFit. "It has also given me permission to show my body compassion when I may not have in the past. Through my personal training objectives—intentionality, efficiency, and sustainability—I embrace the body I have today. As women, we go through a radical amount of changes monthly. We are not designed to eat and do the same movements every day. Our bodies want variety. Our bodies adapt and evolve. However, we must embrace a growth mindset to remain curious and work with the actual body we have today, in this moment."
Throw out the scale.
"I used to weigh myself a dozen times a day," says Amy Jordan, 42, founder of Wundabar Pilates. "I wish that were an exaggeration, but it might have been even more. When I woke up. After I went to the restroom. With clothes. Without clothes. After a workout. It sounds absurd, but I know I'm not the only one who has done it and am glad to be beyond this particular damaging habit. As women, we can get really attached to a number on the scale and tie it to our own worth as a human. I refuse to get on a scale now. Do you feel good? Strong? Alive? Good—start there." (For more of this perspective, scope these 3 weight loss success stories that prove the scale is bogus.)
Your body doesn't dictate your happiness.
"I wish I had considered that my body—what it looked like and what size it was—had nothing to do with my success or happiness," says Petra Kolber, 54 a longtime trainer and author of The Perfection Detox. "When I understood that my body is the vessel and not the end game, I was able to move and celebrate who I am today instead of working out to try to be or look something different tomorrow."