Among other things, 2020 may have been the year your fitness routine went off the rails.
Perhaps you're a GTL type who feels they can't truly get swole outside of a gym setting. Or you're someone who relies on the motivation only the watchful eye of a trainer and a room full of fellow class-goers can provide. Whatever the situation, there's truly no reason to sweat about it.
Because getting on track can truly be a walk in the park. Really. That's the advice fitness pro Erin Oprea—the Nashville trainer who's put the likes of Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and Kelsea Ballerini through their paces—offered when asked the best way to kickstart a health journey.
"The very first thing I want people to do, if they haven't been working out, just start walking," she explained to E! News, "because once you start walking, then it starts giving you energy and the more energy you have, the more you want to move instead of forcing yourself to go do something."
And once you've taken those first steps in your journey, the rest becomes possible. "My goal for people is to not look at the big picture, not to say, 'I'm going to work out every day, I'm going to eat clean every single day and I'm going to do XYZ every day', because you're setting yourself up for failure," Erin noted. "Realistically life gets in the way and it's probably just not going to happen. And then you're going to miss one day and you're saying, 'Forget it, I give up.' And that's what happens all the time."
Instead, she recommends setting the smallest of intentions, whether that's a half-hour walk every day or committing to workouts three days a week, even if they have to be divided up across lunch hours and nap times and early mornings: "It makes it easier to not get overwhelmed by it, and easier to not give up because you had a setback."
Her personal favorite is a Tabata session, which breaks each four-minute burst of exercise into 20 seconds of intense work—say jump squats or mountain climbers—followed by a 10-second rest. Incredibly effective, they "make such a difference in my clients," she said. "And who doesn't love turning fitness into a game? That's kind of like my motto: Let's have fun with working out, working out doesn't have to be boring."
They feature regularly in her training sessions and on her Pretty Muscles App. (Her elevator pitch for the minimal-equipment, all-levels-welcome option: "All you have to do is hit start and I tell you exactly what to do every single day and it can be done on the size of a yoga mat.") But if high-intensity isn't your jam, find what is.
"The thing is people get so stuck in this structure that has to be this one hour, three times a week," she reasoned. But if she were to recommend, say, daily runs "and running is your least favorite thing to do, the chance of failing very quickly are very high. So find your cardio that makes you happy."
That might mean running—or boxing or swimming or jump rope or a high-energy dance class that leaves you just the right amount of breathless. "Find something that shoots your heart rate up, but also brings you joy," she recommended, but understand that joy may come with limitations. "I'm not saying you're not going to feel like you're gonna die. It's okay to feel like you're dying. But at least it was fun the first five minutes!"
That's why she mixes in a fair amount of Tabata into her sessions with Kelsea, Kacey and Maren, so at least they're able to find some enjoyment before collapsing into a puddle of sweat.
"They think of it as a game and the time goes by so fast," she noted. "They always say those are the fastest ones."
She has her clients commit to at least 10,000 steps a day and thrice-weekly workouts, but strives to make sure not a single one feels monotonous. "Every day is a different workout when I train," she noted. "So it keeps you from getting bored and that's kind of my thing. There'll be a consistency of moves, but always strung together differently."
And though she sometimes has to, say, push Maren through the more heart-pumping parts ("She hates cardio, but we are working on that"), her overall approach is more champion than disciplinarian.
Much like with all of her clients, "I want her to try to enjoy the journey and not stress over it," she explains of the new mom to 9-month-old son Hayes, who excels at push-ups and leg day. "Because stress, for one, adds weight to you, and it doesn't help the situation at all. She's staying consistent and it's paying off."
That's why Erin's diet advice is far more relatable than you might expect from someone whose abs you can count. Though she recommends saving starches for earlier in the day so your body can burn them off rather than store them, the rest is a pretty gentle nudge to try to eat clean most of the time.
"My goal with my clients, I tell them, 'Look, go enjoy it,'" she explained "Life is about living a healthy balanced lifestyle and that's occasionally overindulging. You know what? The world didn't end if you ate a big fat cheeseburger and a bunch of fries and a milkshake. You don't need to go take a cleanse. You don't have to starve yourself. It's okay to get right back on track."
The problem becomes when your eat-my-feelings meals begin outnumbering your eat-my-vegetables moments, the pro stressing that the general goal should be a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
For her, that looks like eating until you feel content, not overstuffed ("If you're full, you ate too much"), staying hydrated so you don't mistake thirst for hunger, limiting nighttime carbs and, for the Karma Water partner, maybe swigging down a bottle of the brand's nutrient-dense elderberry starfruit water. Sometimes she even mixes it with vodka for a healthy cocktail—and that's fine, too.
"You have to realize that it is a lifestyle," she explained of her stance on healthy eating. "If you look at it as a diet, you say, 'I can't have this, I can't do that,' and that's all you think about." Which is right about when visions of dinner rolls and chocolate chip cookies start dancing in your head.
"You just drive yourself crazy with that," she noted. So her motto is "learn to be healthy and balanced and the weight will come off. If you're consistent, not perfect, the results come."
Said results, of course, not limited to that much sought-after size-two or size-four shape.
She's seen too many women stare at themselves in a mirror, lamenting the size of their arms or stomach or thighs, to advocate anything more than confidence and contentment.
"We always search for things to pick apart on ourselves and I want people to know you're never gonna find perfection. And if perfection is what you're looking for, you're gonna live your life miserable," she stressed. "There's not a perfection on a scale, there's not a perfect body, because everyone that you look at and think, 'Wow they're perfect, if only I could have what they have,' I guarantee that person picks themselves apart. It's actually really sad, we're terrible to ourselves about our bodies."
That's why her goal for clients—both the ones she trains in person and those that download her app—is that "when they put on an outfit, I want them to say, 'Damn, I look good today,'" she said. "That's an accomplishment right there."