Before I start a workout with any of my clients, I ask a series of questions to set the stage for our session. So as your virtual trainer, I suggest that you print out keep a copy in your gym bag…and ask yourself these same questions before you begin your workouts too.

1. How much water have you had in the past 24 hours? If you haven’t had enough, it could affect your workout. (If you don’t even think about your daily water habits, read my blog on the power of hydration.)

2. Are you experiencing any tension or discomfort? If you are having shoulder, neck, knee, hip, or other pain, it needs to be addressed before moving on. You certainly don’t want to do anything to make it worse!

3. What is your energy level on a scale of 1 to 10? If you are at a 4 or less, you need to start off slowly and give yourself additional time to warm up. If you push too fast too soon, you can cause injury or deplete your energy before you get to the heart of your workout.

4. What is your goal in working out today? I find that every day and every workout is different. Sometimes it might be about sticking to healthy goals, getting fit, or losing weight. Other days you might be looking for an outlet for anger or hoping to feel less sad, anxious, or depressed. Checking in with how you are feeling will guide how gentle or intense you need your workout to be.

Your body sends signals and speaks to you, just as your brain uses emotions to alert you about imbalances and manufactures thoughts to suggest options and spur behaviors. The successfully fit person knows to automatically check in with the signals the body gives on a day-to­day basis, and understands that every day will be different.

I want you to learn to listen to the signals that your body gives until it becomes instinctual. By scanning your body from head to toe, by checking in with yourself before you start to move, you’ll learn that you can diminish any discomfort, physical or emotional stress or tension you are experiencing. Since your mind and body create much of what you experience as reality, you also have the power to uncreate it. Click here to buy Joel Harper’s book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.