Like most people, my job isn’t to be in shape and fitting in workouts means managing time between work, cooking, cleaning and caretaking my three little boys who I gave birth to in 2009, 2010 and 2011. While it’s difficult to prioritize YOU (especially when you are last on your list), it is possible to get into great shape. Here are 25 great tips I use to get ready for the summer time (or any time).
1. Write both long (3-12 months) and short term (1-3 week) goals. Short-term goals are important because they provide you constant satisfaction and something tangible to work towards. Long-term goals are important because it gives you a vision to hold onto, especially since discipline is key in this process.
2. Create a workout calendar and place it somewhere you see every day. Do not fill it out until after you’ve completed the task and make it highlight areas when you rest or achieved a difficult task (like running for me). Here’s how I create mine.
3. Take starting measurements. Step on the scale to record your starting point, but put it away after that. Since a pound of muscle is much denser and is three times smaller than a pound of fat, you could be gaining weight but losing inches. So take your body measurements, body fat and resting heart rate. These are all great indicators of progress.
4. Progress is not just found in how you look but how your body operates. Measure how many pushups and pull ups your can do. How fast can you run a mile? How many pounds can you squat? How flexible are you? Record your starting strengths so you can build on your personal record and focus on that during the next few months.
5. Design a workout program balanced in strength, cardio and flexibility training. You need all three in order to successfully create a lean, agile and strong body. You don’t have to work out 2 hours a day or even twice a day (I see this often). Training just 3-4 times a week will create progress and it doesn’t have to happen in a gym!
6. Lift weights so you can build muscle. Muscle speeds your metabolism and also molds your body. Many people lose weight only to realize they are now ‘skinny fat’. It’s much easier to build muscle in the process of losing weight and get to the finish line with a leaned and toned physique.
7. Eliminate processed foods from your diet. Many processed foods are high in sugar, sodium and hydrogenated fats. When you start eating a healthy diet and avoid foods that come in a box or a bag, you will notice and immediate change in your body.
8. Figure out if you are allergic to any foods. You will be amazed how much your belly area is inflamed because of foods your body is really irritated and allergic from. For example, I don’t consume dairy or artificial sugars because of bloating. For many others, wheat can make them look like they’re 3 months pregnant! Start with an elimination diet by removing the usual suspects: gluten, dairy, alcohol, fast food and soy – and adding foods back into your diet one at a time.
9. Stop eating artificial sugars. I know a lot of people (ESP fitness people) who are addicted to sugar-free everything, especially energy drinks and chewing gums. Not only does this cause bloating but studies show that it heightens your sugar cravings.
10. Speaking of unprocessed foods, protein shakes are highly processed. I, personally, would eat eggs or chicken above a shake as it’s more natural for my system. While it is very convenient (ESP if you hate eating protein like I do), keep in mind that if your goal is to ‘eat clean’, protein shakes don’t support your eating lifestyle.
11. If I just made you upset about my views on protein shakes, don’t worry because I also think protein is overrated. We don’t need a tremendous amount of protein to build muscle and sustain our bodies. Keep in mind, protein is also found in nuts (where I get a lot of my protein), beans and quinoa.
12. Stop drinking your calories. I keep my drink menu simple. It’s either lemon water, almond milk, tea or black coffee (coffee is rare). If you wonder how I get my energy, it’s through exercise and eating ‘live’ foods like nuts, veggies and fruits.
13. However, I do have to say I love to drink red wine and eat dark chocolate. Life is meant for moderation and balance. Life is too short to be counting every calorie and rejecting celebratory food and drinks with your family and friends. While you won’t regret a workout, you will regret working out all the time without finding balance in your life.
14. I follow the 80/20 rule. Most of the time I eat really well but sometimes I don’t (and that’s ok!) In the past I ate super clean all week and had a free meal or day. I have an ‘all or nothing’ personality in the past so that ‘splurge day’ ended up being a big hog fest which wasn’t good for my mind or body. My mind was occupied with food all day and I would go to sleep sweating from my body trying to process all the junk food. The next day I hated myself and would starve. It really wasn’t a good cycle. I was also at my leanest when I partook in this extreme behavior! Nowadays, I’m more moderate. I eat healthy all the time and moderately have small splurges whenever I want. I keep in mind that most junk food makes my tummy ache so I am more holistic about my approach to nutrition and overall health.
15. Make sure you are not on a starvation diet. You may not think you are, especially when you are highly motivated in the beginning, but if you are losing weight too fast and eating 1200 calories or below – especially while working out – then this is not healthy. You want something that will sustain you in the long term.
16. Speaking of losing a lot of weight in the beginning…. a lot of diets will sell you on the first 21 days. Most of the time the first 3 weeks reflects water loss and internal waste, which accounts for a lot of the weight loss you see.
17. If you are trying to lose weight it’s important to cleanup your environment. Your refrigerator and cupboards are not your only deterrents, your friends and family could really damper your program if you don’t find a support network. I created a network online, www.noexcusemom.com where you can join our Facebook group page and be around like-minded people who have the same healthy lifestyle as you. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter as I give great advice there as well.
18. As you build your support network and create your goals, also choose some great fitness role models. I personally like resonating with people who are not fitness models, athletes or celebrities. While their motivation is inspiring (ESP if they are getting paid to be fit) I like to look up to people who can balance work, fitness, family and faith (all important aspects in my life).
19. As for faith, believing in your strength and ability to transform your physique is really, really, really important. Thoughts become things and you must believe you can become something even if you can’t see or touch it – you must feel it in your heart and go for it every. single. day.
20. Work on your stress levels as they will impede your progress. If you lack sleep, work nonstop, fail to meditate/pray/relax, then the stress hormone, cortisol will rise in your body and will invite fat cells to gather in your midsection.
21. If you’re getting ready to be bikini ready, find a swimsuit that flatters your body. You want to feel confident because that inner esteem really shines through, not just while in a swimsuit but in everyday life.
22. If you’ve had children (or not) you’re probably wanting to tighten your core. I always work my core by focusing on my entire midsection including my lower back. Favorite exercises include planks, side planks, supermans, bicycles, toe touches, Russian twists and reverse crunches.
23. When performing abdominal exercises make sure you are breathing out during the hard phase and sucking your gut in! Focus on the muscles you are working and take small 20-30 second breaks in-between sets.
24. Your core is always being used, even when you’re not performing a sit up! Whenever you exercise your core is where all your strength originates from so make sure it is always engaged: when you’re sitting, walking, standing, training…you get the idea.
25. Last but certainly not least, enjoy this process in getting in summer shape. Happiness is truly found in the journey and not the destination. Just ask any physique competitor who binges and gets depressed after a show (seriously, I’ve been there years ago). While it’s tough to stay disciplined when you want to dip your hand in your co-worker’s candy jar or stay persistent when you are tired at the end of a work day (or day with the kiddos), it feels good to push through and complete a task and eventually a long term goal.
This picture was taken last year in Hawaii while visiting my husband’s family by my brother-in-laws girlfriend, Jaymi Britten (www.brittenphoto.com)