Phil Timmons explains why getting more out of your training starts with a new relationship — to yourself.

A return to routine — because the kids are back in school, or you just finished unpacking in your new apartment, or for any other reason — can inspire new commitments. Phil Timmons, 24 Hour Fitness’ national director of group training, answers questions about how to make that commitment successful.

I just registered for a new group training program. It was a big financial investment for me. How do I get the most out of it? I really want to see results.

Phil Timmons (Coach Phil):

Well, definitely by showing up — that’s a start. Be completely transparent with your coach — why do you think you might fail? What is going to get in your way? Is it your diet, motivation to come to the gym, energy to do the workout, time management to fit the workout in? Whatever it might be, let your coach know. He or she is there to help you strategize to solve these challenges, so you can get results. In addition to making sure you stay on track, he or she will give you workouts if you must miss a session, so that when you come back to class, you are not missing out on anything.

Use your coach’s knowledge and ask for homework: what you can do to get stronger, better, to get more out of the session. He or she will be happy to share secret fitness hacks that are unique to you and your needs — and that are bound to get you more engaged in your training. If your personal workout plan includes Monday, Wednesday and Friday in a small group training program, your coach may program a cardio workout or a GX24 workout on Tuesday and Thursday, and then a go-out-and-play day in nature on Saturday.

Trainers love to make use of their passion and knowledge for fitness. You just have to ask!

Does small group training work, and why — is it the specialized program design?

Coach Phil:

The programs are indeed awesome, and they are strategically designed to move you progressively towards an outcome. The coach has his or her eyes on you three times a week over a long period of time and can put his or her observations into action, to let you know when you can do more or even when you should pull back, if your energy is not right that day or he or she knows you pulled a late night and are not properly recovered to train.

The secret, however, is more than that: it’s in the group that comes together and creates a special band of brothers and sisters with you, cheering you on. You’re going to be working with this same group of people in the training club format. Companionship and other intangibles come with that group, and those go a long way.

Research shows that accountability is one of the biggest challenges to goal achievement, and we find that to be true at the gym. Having a peer group to call out when you are not doing your best, or to be able to coach you to your potential, creates a remarkable phenomenon: it’s harder to tell your peers or your friends that you’re not going to be at class — harder than it is to tell the coach. Everyone comes to count on each other, and we see a lot of friendships that come out of these groups that last a lifetime. It’s pretty cool.

If I’m not getting the results I want yet, how do I reboot or get back on track?

Coach Phil:

If you are not seeing results, take note of what you are doing and how committed you are to the plan. Keep a journal, making note of things like how the workout was, the intensity and whether you could have given any more focus and energy. Did you leave everything there, or could you have challenged your level of resistance or the complexity of the movement? Your coach can help.

Consistency is one key. You will feel the difference within a month, and then you’ll begin to see the difference after a couple of months, and by three months you’ll be able to anticipate the results of your continued commitment. It’s more effective to stick to your schedule, even if you have to dial down the workout, than it is to work hard without consistency. And that’s true not only for newcomers, but also fitness veterans.

If you’ve been working consistently and you no longer feel or see changes, it’s simply because your body is naturally adapting to that routine. Try some different classes and program offerings — find one that’s interesting, and you’ll see your performance rise again. However, it’s also possible to hit a plateau by overtraining. It’s easy to get overly enthusiastic and take advantage of everything the gym offers, but overtraining is not ideal. Check out all the programs, but don’t do them all in consecutive sessions, because you won’t feel great afterwards, and you won’t want to do it again.

It’s super important to listen to your body, which perceives all stress — good or bad — as stress. So all the common-sense practices for stress also apply to the stress of training. If you didn’t get a good night’s rest, take it easy. If you had a stressful day at the office, you have to put some energy back into your body before slamming it with a high-intensity session. Everyone is different, of course, but the point is to listen and take note, and then course-correct. When you feel great, go crazy on the workout and push yourself more. Check out your nourishment and whether you’re timing your workouts so you have energy for training — and make sure you’re hydrated. And after your workout, make sure you get in a snack or meal to refuel your body from the training.