With 35,000 hours of personal training under her belt, there’s no question that Ashley Borden knows a thing or two about helping people get stronger—especially considering her client roster. Borden trains people like Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Gosling, and Khloe Kardashian, to name a few.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to getting stronger, according to Borden, making a few lifestyle tweaks can do wonders for your mood and overall fitness level. Here are the ones you need to know about.
Eat more of the right foods and less of the wrong ones.
Showing up to each workout feeling energized is key to reaching your fitness goals, and if you’re loading up on sugar, you won’t exactly have a lot of stamina—and you probably won’t see much progress on the outside, either. “Avoid sugar. That includes alcohol sugar,” says Borden. “Sugars are inflammatory and trigger more sugar cravings, along with increasing inflammatory cortisol levels, which cause belly fat.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, what does she recommend her clients load up on? “Choose vegetables that are all the colors of the rainbow and focus on dark-green veggies, too,” she says. “These give us phytonutrients, which have many antioxidant assets that can put a stop to cell damage, which helps strengthen our immune system, prevents cancer, has a positive effect on our hormones, and improves our overall health and vitality.”
Make sleep a priority.
Next time you set your alarm to go off at 5 a.m. despite going to bed after 1 a.m., consider this: Borden says that when you’re looking to reach a fitness goal, sleep is more important than exercise. “I always tell my clients that I would rather them get sleep instead of working out on four hours of sleep,” she says. “Studies have shown that between seven-and-a-half and eight hours of sleep every night helps the body repair itself and regulate inflammation in the body.”
Another thing lack of sleep has a negative impact on? Our metabolic process. “This produces a higher amount of the inflammatory stress hormone, cortisol,” she says. “Cortisol has its time and place in our bodies, but not at night. Cortisol heightens our alertness, the last thing we need when we crave sleep.”
In other words, not getting enough sleep becomes a vicious cycle and is harmful to the body. Make sure you get enough of it!
October weather is gorgeous, and Borden suggests taking advantage of the perfect temperatures to take your workout outside. “The number of outdoor workouts [you do each week] really depends on the person and her or his preference, but getting outdoors for even 10 minutes provides the body with a natural dose of vitamin D,” she says. “Being outside also provides amazing mental stimulation. I have taken clients out for power walks with a backpack full of mini bands and bands with handles to create a hillside neighborhood circuit workout. Afterward, they’ll say, ‘Wow. I realize I really enjoyed being outside. I would have never done this otherwise because I’m so ingrained in my gym habits.'”
And here’s an unexpected benefit of outdoor exercise: lack of mirrors. “I like to take people’s training away from mirrors,” she says. “Nature can free you from your mirror obsession and connect you to the movement that your body is capable of instead, thus evoking more physical gratitude than criticism.”
Want more tips from personal trainers? Here’s the one thing this trainer says to anyone who needs workout inspiration.