A supportive circle can push you to new heights! Here, Cassey Ho, fitness instructor and founder of Blogilates, explains how to find or make a community of your own.

How important is it to have a strong support system when beginning a fitness journey?

It is extremely important to have a support system. Doesn’t matter if it’s your real-life family and friends, one person, or an online group.

How can a supportive community help you reach your goals?

Because the people in your group may have experienced the same things you’re going through now, they can help guide you when you’re feeling lost.

How can that community help you continue your journey when the going gets tough?

It’s always easier to get through something when you’re going through it with someone who gets it.

What can happen if someone feels (or is) alone in their pursuits?

When you feel alone, you can lose sight of your goals and lose motivation.

What if someone you know and trust is against your transformation and/or goals – such as a spouse or family member? How can you forge ahead?

You have 3 choices:

  1. Explain why their lack of support for you is hurtful and help them change their attitude.
  2. Distance yourself from that person and focus on your goal.
  3. Give up on your goals to satisfy your spouse or family member.

The goal is to try #1 as many times as you can until the message comes across clearly. Otherwise… it’s going to be 2 or 3.

If you’re doing this on your own, how do you foster a community from scratch?

Honestly, the best way to find a community is to join a class. Go on classpass or join a gym and start taking the group fitness classes. You’ll begin making friends right away!

Do online forums and groups work?

Yes! But you’ve got to find one that is made up of people who GENUINELY want to see each other succeed.

What are your top tips for building your own fitness community?

Begin with the intention of add value and positivity into people’s lives.

What kinds of people/personalities are important to have in your inner circle of support?

People who genuinely want to see you succeed.

Any websites/apps you recommend?

For anyone just starting out, check out blogilates.com and pick a workout calendar to begin! There’s one for beginners, one for brides, one for abs, one for booty, etc!

Do you think that people who are introverted or shy have a harder time building a community? What is your advice for them?

Yes, it may be hard, but if you find other people like you, the bond is pretty much instant!

How can trying a new type of workout help motivate someone and build their confidence?

It gets people into unknown territories, which is scary and exciting all at the same time!

Where do you recommend people to try out and find new workout routines?

Watching YouTube workouts, signing up for local group fitness classes, or getting a ticket to Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival! I LOVE trying awesome new classes and Propel Co:Labs is going to be offering the best of the best at their festival! Visit www.propelcolabs.com to check out the lineup and get tickets.

What can attendees expect to experience during your workout at the Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival July 21-22 in Santa Monica?

I’ll be teaching “Abs of Envy”, a PIIT28 class. This stands for Pilates Intense Interval Training. It’s a dynamic mixture of HIIT cardio moves to lean your body out, paired with muscle sculpting Pilates exercises to give your abs the workout of their life. It’s going to be fun.

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Refuse to let excuses sideline you or keep you from your fitness and health goals.

Over the years, my “no excuses, just results” approach to fitness has helped me earn some seriously consistent results. But have I always abided by this mantra? To be perfectly honest, no, but once I adopted this mindset, all aspects of my health and fitness started to evolve.

If you find yourself making excuses as to why you haven’t been working on your fitness lately, stop for a second and be honest with yourself about these excuses. Take a look at your habits and your actions, and identify what obstacles continue to pop up that have prevented you from your goals. Is there a common theme?

If you’re nodding along to any of the above, trust me, you’re not alone. I’ve had my own fair share of ups and downs (along with plenty of excuses) throughout my fitness journey. Whether I was in college, working two jobs, when I was more than 35 percent body fat (I was full of excuses back then!), working in corporate America or now working in the fitness industry, I had come up with several excuses along the way to rationalize skipping workouts or healthy eats.

So how did I change my approach? I now refuse to let excuses sideline me or keep me from my goals. With a simple mindset shift, I now take what would formerly be known as an excuse and look for opportunity to improve. Every bit of effort counts and truly adds up to big-time results. The results are just a few workouts away, so ditch those excuses and get to work!   

Here are some of my (formerly) most common excuses and how I ditched them for good.

Whoops! I ran out of time before work this morning and didn’t get to pack my gym bag.

We’ve all been there before — your alarm goes off, you hit snooze, and before you know it, you’re scrambling around to get to work on time. The night before, you’d had the best of intentions on heading to the gym directly from work that next day, but without your gym bag packed, you’ll have to head home first before the gym. Uh oh.

We all know what can happen once we get home from work: distraction city. The point is, you’re now home and are probably coming up with several excuses as to why you’ll “hit the gym tomorrow instead,” right?

How I got rid of this excuse:

This excuse used to be my most common, and after missing out on more workouts than I care to count, I knew I had to make some changes.

Turns out, all it took was a few minutes of preparation the night before. Instead of waiting until the morning (when I knew chances of my hitting snooze or running late for a variety of reasons was likely) to pack my gym bag and workout essentials, I took a few minutes the night before and got everything ready. I even started putting my gym bag in my trunk the night before so I wouldn’t worry about leaving it behind if I was in a rush the next morning.

This small change helped add up to some seriously consistent workouts. So simple, right? If you’re a morning workout gal, this same approach will help keep you on track for those pre-dawn workouts. Pack your bag the night before with everything you’ll need in the morning for the gym and what you’ll need to get ready for work at the gym after your workout. I swear this small change made a huge impact on my consistency!

Adopt an all-or-nothing approach to nutrition.

“Does the diet start Monday” sound familiar to you? I know I’ve said those words more times than I care to count.

I used to start out each week intent on staying “on track” with my healthy meals, convinced that I would stick to this stricter regimen. At some point during the week/end if I strayed from the plan, I’d simply brush it off and then proceed to eat whatever I wanted until the next Monday morning rolled around.

Silly, I know, but this is an excuse I used to make and still hear from others far too often.

How I got rid of this excuse:

Once I realized I wasn’t being realistic to my lifestyle, I embraced a more balanced approach. If I grab a burger or dessert, I now pick up with my regularly scheduled healthy options at the very next meal, not the next day or the next Monday that rolls around. Life happens, and sometimes you’re going to have a slice of pizza even if it’s not listed on the plan your trainer created for you. Just don’t let one meal lead to a slippery slope of a series of poor nutritional choices. This is another prime example of how consistency truly is key and that it’s what we do the majority of the time that adds up to results.

Who has time for meal prep and cooking so much food? Ugh, healthy eating can be so time-consuming!

For those who get their Sunday meal prep on and have everything prepared and lined up in Tupperware for the week ahead, I commend you for your organization, cooking skills and efforts. However, if meal prepping your entire week out ahead of time isn’t in the cards for you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have some healthy options prepared and ready to go.

How I got rid of this excuse:

I didn’t turn into a culinary wizard overnight, but I did get realistic about what I eat the majority of the time, what I’m likely to grab when I am on the go (healthy options are everywhere these days!), and what I can whip up in the kitchen in the least amount of time. Instead of cooking every meal, I started by having one to two protein options already cooked and ready to go.

Most often, this was chicken breast and some sort of frittata or egg-white muffins that I could easily prepare ahead of time and last me several days. I started to make one protein smoothie a day (it’s one of my favorites of the day and literally takes one minute to prepare) because I could blend that and take it with me on the go (a scoop of Cellucor Whey, a banana, some ice, tablespoon of almond butter, light almond milk and blend!) for a healthy, simple option.

Keeping snacks on hand to eat such as almonds, cashews, Greek yogurt (I’ll mix some berries in with my plain Greek yogurt and top with some diced almonds for an easy meal option) helps save time and ensures that I’ll always have something healthy on hand. I love salads but hate wasting veggies, so to help with prep time, I will chop up whatever veggies I want for salads or stir-fry for the next few days (think broccoli, bell peppers, cucumbers, mushrooms, etc.) and store them (separately from one another) in a sealed container or baggie so that they are chopped and ready to go when it’s mealtime.

These quick fixes for meal prep have helped establish a whole new level of consistency to my healthy eating.

My time at the gym is having a serious effect on my social life!

Feel like you’re spending more time with the weights than out with your friends, a date or social events these days? People begin to hold a grudge against their workouts because they “no longer have a life” outside the gym. As soon as I realized I was annoyed by my workouts cutting into my social life, I knew I had to make some changes.

How I got rid of this excuse:

I started to involve some of my friends in my fitness. One of my favorite ways to combine catching up with a friend and working on my fitness is to grab a friend and head outdoors for some workout fun and chat. Whether you’re just taking a power walk around the neighborhood, going on a bike ride, hiking or working out at a nearby park, this is a great way to combine a workout while spending time with a loved one.

Another thing I love to do is coordinate social events with rest days (we all take them, may as well maximize them!) so I’ll have something fun to look forward to for the weekend. This helps keep a good balance of fitness, fun and weekend events.

Such a simple, fun solution!

I’m so busy, I just don’t have any time to work out for hours every day!

Ahh, the “I don’t have time for the gym every day” excuse. I’ve been there and know countless others who have, too. I’ve even had people message me asking that if they only have 20 minutes a day to work out, is it even worth it or are they just wasting their time? Of course it is worth it! You don’t need hours a day to log results. Every bit of effort you put forth adds up!

How I got rid of this excuse:

Instead of complaining about not being able to work out as long as I’d typically like to, I flip my approach and get excited about the opportunity to change things up and do something new.

Even five minutes of your time spent on a workout is better than nothing; it’s all about getting started and making your health and fitness a priority. The next week, set aside 10 and then go from there. Once you start the habit and feel the positive effects of squeezing in workouts whenever your schedule allows, you’ll be hooked.

Schedules change last minute, things pop up, sometimes you have to cut the workout short or only have 15 minutes to get it done. If I’m left with 15 minutes for a workout, instead of skipping out altogether, I make every bit count and I’ll do a home workout instead. Bodyweight exercises mixed in with cardio bursts have proven to be a ton of fun for me while also earning serious results. Check out the combo below for a fun fat blast that you can do anywhere in 15 minutes or less!

Here’s one of my favorite “no excuses, just results” workouts that can be done anywhere — no equipment needed!

Grab a timer and enough open space to perform a burpee, then get ready to work. This workout is designed to challenge you while maximizing your efforts. Set the timer for 15 minutes, and challenge yourself to perform as many rounds as possible in the 15 minutes.

Perform one set of each exercise back-to-back for 30 seconds. Once you’ve completed one full round of the sweaty circuit below, rest briefly (one minute max), and then repeat the circuit for another three to five rounds (or as many as you can squeeze in for 15 minutes).

  • Burpees
  • Jump Squats
  • Push-Ups With Side-Plank Rotation (alternating sides throughout)
  • Tabletop Hip Thrusters
  • Plank Jacks
  • Side-to-Side Squats (squat to right, back to middle, squat to left, repeat)
  • Side Forearm Plank With Dip (15 seconds each side)

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Use these winning strategies to sideline mental obstacles such as self-doubt, perfectionism and procrastination and sharpen your competitive — and winning — edge.

Seeing is believing — and achieving. If what you wish to accomplish is too undefined or vague, it’s much less likely to happen. That’s why so many athletes rely on visualization during training and competition, and why so much research backs its efficacy: One oft-cited study from the University of Chicago asked participants to visualize shooting basketball free throws — the weight of the ball, how it arced through the air, the sound it made as it whooshed through the basket — and in just four weeks, their shooting improved by 23 percent. 

“The times I won a competition, I was all in mentally and physically,” says Erin Stern, Division I track athlete and two-time Figure Olympia champion. “I visualized every detail of the competition — from the suit to how the stage felt under my feet to my posing to the weight of the medals hanging around my neck. Create the accomplishment in your head first, then make it tangible and it will come to fruition.”

Turn Your Focus Inward

It’s easy to get distracted by what others are doing — especially with the incessant press of social media. Do your best to prevent that interruption of your purpose first thing in the morning. “For the first hour upon waking, do not allow the outside world in, and do not look at your phone,” advises Brooke Erickson, NASM-CPT, nutrition specialist and transformation coach. “During that hour, write down your goals for that day and focus on yourself and what energizes you. That way, you won’t get sidelined and will be able to connect with your inner compass.”

Prepare for Your Purpose

When it comes to exercise, a job interview or hosting a holiday party, it’s not enough to just show up and hope for the best — you have to have a game plan in place in order to succeed. “Walking into the gym without a plan often results in endless meandering and ineffective lifting,” says Charlotte Oldbury, ACSM-CPT, NPC bikini competitor. Before you even get into your car, make sure everything you need to have for a successful training session is in place: Create a playlist, pack your gym bag, outline your workout strategy and even prep some meals to eat afterward. “Then all you have to do is follow the plan and continue with the decisions you’ve already made — simple,” Oldbury adds.

Don’t Give In to Excuses

It’s easy to give in to your excuses. They are always right there, bubbling just beneath the surface, practically encouraging you to make the wrong choices. “There will be mornings when you don’t want to wake up at ridiculous-o’clock to train, or when you’re tired, or when you’ve had a long day and don’t want to cook a healthy meal,” says Nathalia Melo, Bikini Olympia champion and NFPT-certified trainer. “Keep reminding yourself of what you want most instead of focusing on what you want right now.” Hold yourself accountable for your actions, and instead of using your creativity to conjure up excuses, use it to execute the task.

Maintain Your Motivation

Once you find your “why” — the driving force that aligns you with your greater purpose — it is much easier to stay motivated. “My older sister was the only healthy person in my family, and she taught me that it’s OK to be selfish and to want more,” says CrossFit competitor Lexi Berriman. “I’m not naturally athletic or coordinated, so I have to give 110 percent in every session. I’m motivated by learning new things in the gym and surround myself with athletes who are better than I am and who push me.” Keep your most motivating factors top of mind and remind yourself of them when you feel like throwing in the towel or doing a half-assed workout.

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The 30-year-old actress and singer shares how fitness fuels her success.

After nearly two decades of living in the spotlight — with a love-hate (well, mostly hate) relationship with working out — 30-year-old actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens has spent the past few years falling in love with health and fitness. Her passion developed from the remarkable feeling of self-acceptance she gained once she found her exercise calling. Hudgens attributes her confidence, courage and overall feeling of empowerment to the time she spends in heart-pumping workout classes, on a bike or on her yoga mat.

“I can’t imagine life without fitness,” Hudgens said. “It makes me a stronger person, physically and mentally.”

Here’s what she had to say after a recent workout with Propel Vitamin Boost:

Vanessa working out at Propel’s Vitamin Boost event

What’s your fitness routine?

It’s composed of three parts: SoulCycle, Reformer Pilates and yoga. I’ve been doing SoulCycle for the past seven years, and I’m still obsessed with it. I love Pilates because it doesn’t feel high-intensity in the moment, but I’m always sore the next day. And yoga is great for my mental health, injury prevention and grounding.

How does fitness empower you?

To me, there’s nothing better than tapping into “beast mode” — that moment where you want to give up because your body feels like it’s about to fall off but something switches inside of you where your mind says, “It’s go time. Let’s get this.” Whenever I have that moment in my workout, I leave feeling like a stronger and more empowered version of myself because I pushed through something uncomfortable.

I think it’s important to bring that feeling into my everyday life and be uncomfortable — it’s important for me as an artist, especially. When you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing and you’re evolving. Feeling empowered is all about getting through those growing pains.

Vanessa Hudgens, mid-workout

What would you say to someone struggling with confidence when it comes to fitness?

With fitness, you have to do it for you. The fact that you showed up for yourself is amazing — so pat yourself on the back! Remind yourself that you’re doing this for you, even if you might feel like there is comparison or judgment, at least you know that you’ve got your own back by showing up to begin with.

What inspired you to create an activewear line with Avia?

There’s nothing better than showing up at a workout class, looking in the mirror and feeling good about what you’re in! When you go out with your girlfriends, you put on a nice dress and heals. So when it comes to working out, why not not put on a nice pair of leggings, a sports bra and a jacket that you actually feel cute in? My goal was to give women that but also to have items that are practical and functional.

Shop Vanessa’s clothing line here.

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Fitness expert and mother of two Nathalia Melo couldn’t find a postpartum plan for moms who wanted to get strong — so she created one.

Being strong has been a lifelong priority for NFPT-certified trainer and Bikini Olympia champion Nathalia Melo, who purchased her first gym membership at age 14. Of course, the Brazilian native continued to exercise throughout both of her pregnancies, which occurred just 14 months apart. Melo took courses in prenatal and postnatal training and used what she learned to make smart modifications to her workouts. “After I had my son, I was able to adjust my training and get back into shape fairly quickly — not because I just ‘snapped back’ but because I did the correct things,” she says.

Other women noticed her remarkable rebound and began asking for advice. Melo quickly realized the marketplace was void of well-researched, expert-backed exercise programming for moms who actually cared about their health and fitness — and not just about aesthetics. And so was born the Mother Strong League.

The Mother Strong League

Unlike many other postpartum nutrition and workout plans, the Mother Strong League doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Detailed questionnaires help Melo’s team — which includes pelvic floor specialists, OB-GYNs and other certified experts — decide which of the five program phases is most appropriate for an individual’s needs. Factors such fitness goals, when the member gave birth, whether she’s breast-feeding and pelvic health concerns determine the best approach for a specific member.

Once she joins, a member gradually works her way through the carefully programmed phases that best suit her needs. “When you’re recovering from pregnancy, you’re basically recovering from an injury,” says Melo, who explains that the early program phases take more of a rehab approach and primarily deal with the pelvic floor and abdominal separation (diastasis recti). From there, the women progress safely and gradually, a progression that Melo notes is missing from most postpartum workouts, which often implement protocols such as high-impact exercise, aggressive abdominal workouts and calorie-restrictive diets. All these can have long-term negative effects on a woman’s body as well as her self-esteem.

Postpartum Support

Melo learned from her own experience as a mom that her workouts had to be adaptable for her ever-changing body — as well as flexible and realistic. “I came from an ‘intense or nothing’ mentality, but after I had kids, I realized that that type of training wouldn’t suit the life that I had now,” Melo says. So she designed interchangeable, time-efficient workouts that could be done either at home or in the gym.

A restrictive diet plan didn’t work for Melo postpartum, and therefore she knew it wouldn’t work for her community either. “A lot of coaches tell you to eat six meals a day, but for women who have kids and who work, that isn’t realistic or sustainable,” she says. “I teach members how to create a meal plan that fits their lives and not the other way around.”

Moreover, new moms and moms-to-be need support, and to that end, Melo is personally available to every member of her community. She hosts live Q&As on her Facebook page and answers every single question that’s submitted. And though she admits her involvement has a tendency to take over her life, the personalization it affords her members is worth it. “I take a lot of pride in it,” she says.

Energy Abounding

For Nathalia Melo, supplements play an important role in postpartum health. “Sleep-deprived moms are always asking me, ‘How do you have the energy?’ That’s when I think supplements can play an important role,” Melo says. She often recommends Dymatize PreW.O. for energy and ISO100 protein powder for fuel. “Women often struggle to reach their protein intake for the day, so that’s when I encourage them to use a protein shake,” she says, noting that breast-feeding women should consult with their doctors before taking any supplements.

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