When you see fitness trainers at the gym, in class, or in online tutorials, you might think they look as toned as they do because of all the time they spend instructing. But the truth is that most trainers put in the greatest efforts off the clock. Here’s how they stay so fit:
1. They work out on their own almost every single day.
Certified personal trainer Alex Silver-Fagan, a fitness instructor at CrossFit Solace and CityRow in New York City, teaches and trains clients at least a dozen times a week. “While I am moving during my classes, mentally, they are not my workout,” she says. It’s why she spends time doing her own exercise every single day.
She’s not the only one: On top of training clients for up to eight hours a day, Los Angeles-based Instagram fitness star and certified trainer Massy “Mankofit” Arias wakes up early almost every day to spend at least 90 minutes doing her own workouts. Sarah Beth, a YouTube fitness star and certified vinyasa yoga teacher based in Colorado, also clocks her own exercise sessions off camera and outside of class time. “Even if I were teaching 20 classes a week, it still wouldn’t keep me fit because I don’t do a lot of demonstration,” she says. Her sculpted physique is the product of the high-intensity interval training workouts she does three times a week, plus two yoga sessions at home, one formal class, and one weekly hike.
2. They hire their own personal trainers.
“Teaching SoulCycle has become my base cardio,” says Kym “Nonstop” Perfetto, who pedals through 11 indoor cycling classes a week. But she doesn’t count class time towards strength training. For that, she’ll hit the gym to work out with celebrity fitness trainer Mike Donavanik.
3. They train for competitions.
A competitive cyclist outside the SoulCycle studio, Kym will take 60-mile bike rides on top of her regular classes to train for races.
4. They max out their workouts with high-intensity training.
“Everyone thinks we work out on the beach for a living,” wrote Tone It Up Instagram fitness stars Karena and Katrina in an email. They actually work crazy long hours, spending at least eight hours a day at their desks with even more computer time on weeknights and weekends. To stay fit despite all the time they spend sitting on their butts, they squeeze in workouts before work or between work and dinner, then focus on high-intensity workouts, which take less time to deliver results than steady-state cardio, and toning exercises, which build lean muscle that burns calories even after you stop moving.
5. They do their best to eat healthy on days when they can’t exercise.
Every week, New York City-based certified trainer Bianca Vesco sees about 50 clients and teaches some 13 classes, which means she doesn’t always have time to work out on her own. “If I eat healthy and on time all day, it won’t matter if I can’t get a workout in,” says the trainer, whose biggest struggle is making time for meals.
6. They take recovery Very Seriously.
Even on days when she’s pressed for time, Massy Arias says she never skips her post-workout stretch, which hits the hips, hamstrings, quads, calves, and shoulders. She also swaps her regular workout for a full 90 minutes of stretching and foam rolling one day each week.
7. They clock extra core work.
Although SoulCycle classes involve special crunches performed on the bike, Bevin Prince, a SoulCycle instructor who teaches upwards of 17 classes a week in New York City and New Jersey, says she also performs planks every day.
8. They drink ridiculous amounts of water.
Kelsey Lee, a certified personal trainer based in Orange County, California, where she films fitness tutorials to post on her popular YouTube channel, drinks 20 ounces of water first thing in the morning.
Karena and Katrina of Tone It Up drink water with lemon while they check their Instagram feeds.
“Sometimes I’ll really go for it and make a big pitcher of lemon and cucumber water for the day,” says Melody Scharff, certified personal and group fitness trainer at The Fhitting Room in New York City. All or nothin’!
9. They take classes where they teach.
Melody sometimes teaches up to 10 classes a week, but she also attends class as a student at least three times a week.
10. They try all the things.
“I mix up my training throughout the week so that my body is always guessing,” says Alex Silver-Fagan, who can be found spinning or taking yoga classes when she’s not lifting weights or taking classes at her studio.
11. They fill their Instagram feeds with fitspo.
"Not only do I follow body builders with physiques I can hardly imagine the training it takes to achieve, but I follow other girls who are trainers in the city,” says The Fhitting Room’s Melody Scharff. “It’s fun and inspiring to see how much everyone is crushing it and what people are accomplishing individually.”
12. They make mental health a priority.
The majority of trainers mentioned in this article said they start every single morning with at least five minutes of meditation—and swear it reduces stress, helps them make better eating decisions, be more appreciative, and feel happier.
13. They eat mindfully.
“I love to eat, so I have to be conscious of what I am putting into my body in order to feel balanced,” says SoulCycle instructor Bevin Prince. “Before I reach for something, I slow down and breathe in it. I sit for a few seconds, take a few deep breaths, and ask what my body is really asking for.”
15. They stay off their phones during workouts.
Every day, Massy Arias films workouts to post on Instagram to keep herself accountable. But she doesn’t mess with her phone between exercise sets or breaks. “I turn off my phone during my workouts so I never get distracted and maximize my time, especially when I don’t have much of it,” she says.
16. They plan ahead for hunger.
“I prepare my meals for the day before heading to work and never skip a meal, which usually leads me to eat whatever is in front of me because I’m so hungry,” Massy says.
17. They give themselves a break.
“I never try to 'fix' the choices I previously made,” Bevin Prince says. “If I overeat, eat foods that make me feel terrible, or simply late-night eat a whole pizza, I let it go. Ruminating on it, over-exercising, or not eating the next day will only lead me to make the same decision again and again. [So I] make a new choice at my next meal, and know my body will balance out.”
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.