Summer is fast approaching and we've still got some shaping up to do before shedding too many layers. We're always looking to be healthy first and foremost, incorporating positive diet and fitness habits into our lifestyle, but sometimes time can slip away and an event or vacation calls for a quick turnaround.
Whether you've got three months or 24 hours, we've got your summer shape-up plan in the bag!
At this early stage, figure out your current fitness level rather than focussing on the finish line. The results of a DIY assessment act as a benchmark for your progress over the next 90 days. After all, getting in shape should be as much about your health as looking fabulous in a bikini. Just ask Cameron Diaz. “It’s not just having a ripped stomach,” says the actress. “If you don’t have your health and if you’re not in a strong, capable body, you don’t have anything.”
To test overall strength, Equinox group fitness manager Mark Hendricks recommends recording how many push-ups you can complete in a minute, then following this timed test for pull-ups (assisted or not), squats and similar exercises. Then, test cardio by seeing how long it takes you to cycle 5 km or row 500 m. Do this every two weeks - it's a mini-workout in itself, plus it will give you an incentive to stay on track (changes might not come for six weeks but the motivation will be there!)
Your weekly workout plan should include three to four days of cardio and strength training. For the latter, Mark recommends maximum-load training. That means using a weight that allows you to barely complete 12 repetitions per set. (Do three sets in total). “Nothing will change the look of your body faster,” says Mark.
If you’re missing out on a workout because your spouse is more comfy on the couch – don’t wait! A new study suggests that when a wife logs 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense exertion a week, her husband is 70 per cent more likely to do the same.
Sweet fiends, take heed: 30 days out, “you are going to have to hit it with nutrition if you want to see significant changes in the look of your body,” says Mark. That’s a mantra even stars such as Kerry Washington follow. “I watch what I eat, I do,” says the actress. “I try for the most part to eat things that are going to make me feel better, not worse.”
The reasoning? You really are what you eat: about 70 per cent of fitness results are from nutrition – the rest is exercise. To help bring out muscle definition, amp up protein such as chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, lean meats and legumes. When consumed, protein breaks down into amino acids, which build muscle fibres, says celebrity nutritionist Christine Avanti- Fischer. Healthy carbs (see options below) are another key component of a balanced diet; that’s because muscle is made of glucose, a fuel we get from carbs. “The combination of protein and carbs will keep your body looking fit and lean,” says Christine, who points out that an ideal protein serving is about the size of your palm and a carbohydrate the size of your fist.
Your beach vacation may be in sight, but now is not the time to let up on your fitness. During these last 14 days, kick-start fat burning by upping cardio. The longer you do cardiovascular exercise in your target heart rate zone, the more fat you can burn, says Christine. (To calculate your target zone, count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by six; you want that figure to be about 50 to 85 per cent of your maximum heart rate – that’s 220 minus your age). If you’re bored of your regular cardio, try incorporating intervals, in which you go all-out with an exercise like sprints for a certain duration, then recover and go again. Studies have shown this burns fat and keeps the metabolic energy systems revved.
Skip the pre-beach juice cleanse. While you can lose weight quickly, once back on a regular diet most people gain back the weight they lost plus more, says Christine.
Maybe you fell off the workout wagon or a last-minute trip to Mexico came up? Here’s how to look your best if you’re beach-bound soon.
To banish bikini bloat, avoid dairy (lactate is hard for bodies to digest) and sodium (it makes you retain water). And work out before hitting the beach - even Victoria’s Secret model Martha Hunt knows the value of a pre-sand sweat session. “I work out the night before or the morning I go to the beach,” says Martha. “I love squats, anything with resistance bands and pilates.” And if all else fails, master the selfie: “Posing with your hand on the hip is always flattering. Shut your eyes until you’re ready to take the pic so you aren’t squinting,” says Martha.