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5 tips to improve overall fitness, according to celebrity trainers

Editor’s note: Dana Santas, known as the “Mobility Maker,” is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports, and is the author of the book “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.”
CNN —
When you see your favorite actors looking fit on the red carpet, you might think their fitness level is unattainable for most regular folks — reserved only for those with opulent lifestyles and endless resources that seemingly add more hours to each day. But that’s not quite the reality.
In fact, according to their trainers, most celebrities face many of the same issues as the rest of us when trying to prioritize wellness amid the responsibilities of daily life.
To dispel the myths and provide practical advice anyone can use, I tapped five of my celebrity trainer friends to help share tips we wish everyone knew to improve their overall fitness.
Fitness is a balancing act for everyone
Like many people, celebrities also struggle with the demands of work and homelife schedules when trying to stay fit.
As a mobility and strength coach who works in professional sports, I can attest that even famous athletes, whose careers depend on their bodies, face the challenge of balancing family and fitness. When players return home after their seasons end, it’s not an easy task to maintain normal family life while trying to preserve their elite athlete physiques. These pros need to be strategic about the timing and efficiency of their workouts to avoid cutting into quality family time.
Don Saladino, a longtime trainer to Hollywood A-listers, including Ryan Reynolds and Anne Hathaway, said his clients often need to make time for workouts and recovery at odd, inconvenient hours due to work schedules. As an example, he shared how when he was training Liev Schreiber for his crime drama series “Ray Donovan,” the actor had spans of three days of shooting all day and then three days of shooting overnight. “That’s very challenging, yet very common. Their schedules are so volatile.”
Jen Widerstrom, best known as a trainer on the reality series “The Biggest Loser,” says that fitness should be “a daily conversation.” Scott Hubbard
Regardless of celebrity status, it takes effort for anyone to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle balance. Read on for tips to maximize your routine.
It’s a day-to-day effort
Money may give the rich and famous greater access to trainers and training tools, but it also affords more access to indulgences. That means less consistent schedules with more vacations, parties and dinners out — more of everything that can sabotage fitness without daily discipline.
“The most important thing that people need to know is that fitness isn’t one conversation you have at the beginning of a year, the beginning of a month or even beginning of a week. It’s a daily conversation,” said Jen Widerstrom, best known as a trainer on the reality series “The Biggest Loser.”
“You look at your day, you look at the changes, you look at the variables, and within that day you have an ongoing conversation about how to seek out wellness,” Widerstrom added.
She advised that you should be prepared to “move with your day but have the discipline to anchor those wellness characteristics that you know you’re not going to let your day end without.”
Mobility and strength coach Dana Santas does push-ups in the bathroom before showering as part of her morning routine. Courtesy Dana Santas
An easy way to add nonnegotiable daily wellness habits consistently to your lifestyle is by stacking fitness habits with other essential daily chores or hygiene. For instance, no matter the circumstances of my day, I do push-ups before showering and squats or wall sits while brushing my teeth.
Saladino, who has operated gyms for 15 years, stresses that discipline is important for making day-to-day adjustments. He said he rarely travels with his clients so it’s up to them to do their “homework” and adapt their fitness on the road.
Fitness should be fun
Brian Nguyen, a Los Angeles-based trainer whose clients include Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson, reminds us to tap into our inner child to help achieve our fitness goals.
“Don’t forget we all have an inner child inside that wants to play. Finding time to move, work out, train will be easier if you remember that you must play to stay young,” said Nguyen, who previously was head athletic trainer for the Arena Football League’s Los Angeles Avengers.
Jumping rope as a kid was always fun, so try incorporating this exercise into your fitness routine to add some playfulness to your workout. Cavan Images RF/Getty Images
Here are three ways to add some fun to your fitness:
1. Act like a kid. Remember skipping, jumping rope, playing tag and twirling a hoop around your hips? All those things you did for fun as a kid — and likely abandoned as an adult — are actual exercises. Try throwing them into your workouts for fun variety.
2. Turn up the tunes. Play upbeat music that you know lifts your mood to playful “wanna dance” heights. What’s more, science confirms that high-tempo music makes your workouts more effective.
3. Consider training with a partner for added fun and motivation. Partner exercise ideas abound on social media for you to try — just stick to safe ones that match your fitness level and always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Recovery is just as important as training
Too many exercise devotees experience overtraining syndrome, wondering why they aren’t improving their fitness. By giving yourself time to rest and recover, you are supporting the muscle-building and fat-burning processes that change your body composition and improve your fitness.
Recovery isn’t just about getting enough sleep; it needs to be integrated into your overall training program. This is something I remind my professional athlete clients all the time. There are many aspects, including days off, rest between sets, and soft-tissue strategies such as massage and foam rolling.
Los Angeles-based trainer Ashley Borden, who starred as a trainer on “Revenge Body With Khloe Kardashian,” said foam rolling is the No. 1 thing she wishes everyone knew was important for overall fitness. “It’s so overlooked. Foam rolling can help them take better control of their recovery and injury prevention.”
Borden said even when people do use a roller, too often they are “ignoring so many other parts of the body. … They roll their quads and call it day.”
With proper technique, you can foam roll all major muscle groups and more.
True sustainable fitness isn’t a superficial destination
No matter who you are, if you want to maintain a truly healthy lifestyle, your motivation needs to be about boosting your overall wellness. Widerstrom said you need to focus on your “wholeness as a person.”
“The most important thing for people to understand when getting fit and keeping fit is that fitness improves your entire life,” said Rudy Reyes, actor and head trainer in the celebrity challenge series “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test.”
“It goes far beyond the body. It goes far beyond the shell. It changes how you look at the world and how the world receives you. … It will empower you to have a true quality of life,” added Reyes, who is also a highly decorated former member of US Marine Corps reconnaissance.
Personally, I remember when I first started weight training. My goal wasn’t to look good in my clothes as much as it was to be able to carry my children to bed for as long as I could, climb trees with them, and continue to be active and strong as I aged … and that’s exactly what my own fitness has brought to my life.
Using these tips, everyone can approach fitness like a celebrity, which is to say — like a human being navigating the demands of a full life.
Sign up for CNN’s Fitness, But Better newsletter series. Our seven-part guide will help you ease into a healthy routine, backed by experts.

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