My co-worker Matt Tuthill recently asked me if I had a C.S.C.S. certification (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). For some reason, he thought I did. I don’t. I mentioned to him, probably in some desperate attempt to validate my standing as a senior staff member at a fitness/bodybuilding magazine, that I’ve interviewed enough highly regarded trainers, strength coaches, and athletes that my fitness knowledge is probably as great, if not greater, than the average personal trainer’s.

Is this true? Who knows, but it sort of makes sense. Let’s be clear on one thing: I don’t consider myself an expert in the field of high performance training or sports nutrition, but I’ve certainly learned a lot over the years from individuals who’ve logged thousands of hours training clients, as well as from successful athletes and actors who practically live in the weight room.

Here are a few of those nuggets of wisdom: Writing about people who’ve faced adversity is my favorite assignment. I’ve interviewed famous athletes that came from humble backgrounds (Terrell Owens and Adrian Peterson, for example); a young man who got in the best shape of his life and became a national champion bodybuilder after becoming paralyzed from the waist down (Colt Wynn); and inmates serving life sentences who decided to focus their energies on bettering themselves through weight training and competing in prison bodybuilding competitions. All of these guys had one thing in common: excuses that could have easily kept them out of the gym but didn’t.

Vince McMahon, of WWE fame, once gave me a great tip relating to gym motivation. On days when you’re feeling too lazy to hit the gym, commit at least to a short training session. This way, the workout won’t seem so daunting. “Just say, ‘You know, all I’m going to do today is cardio,’ ” McMahon said. “And once you’re [at the gym], maybe that’s all you do, but chances are it’s not. You’ll probably end up doing more.”

Not having a gym to train in is no excuse either: Your body is a gym. Dumbbells and barbells and benches are great, but you don’t always need them. Pushups, burpees, body-weight lunges, pullups on the kids’ play set down the street—all exercises for which you don’t need a gym but that will kick your ass into shape. “The great thing about body-weight moves is that your gym’s always with you,” says Dan John, one of the most knowledgeable trainers I’ve ever interviewed. (Check him out at “Sometimes [when traveling] the hotels will have a weight room, and the heaviest dumbbell is 35 pounds. So I do pushups and handstand pushups against the wall.”

It doesn’t take an advanced degree to learn this information, but these are the lessons they usually don’t spend much time covering in the certification courses.