Even though it may not seem like it right now, warm weather is on the way. And with the dawn of higher temperatures will come the days of tank tops, short shorts, and beach-wear, otherwise known as the clothes you want to look super good in once summer comes.
But while you should have spent the winter in preparation for the season of skimpier clothing, you haven't really given much thought to the work that goes into building a "summer body."
Yes, I know, the notion of a "summer body" is quite problematic, because no matter how toned, fit or fat a body is, it's still beautiful. But despite that fact, people still want to feel and look their best come summer, and the incentive of a summer bod can be the sole reason people try to get physically fit.
Only getting fit for the summer is a problem unto itself, but if the summer body is the only incentive for some, then so be it. The thing is, if you waited this long, you only have around a month and some change to actually make some positive changes to your lifestyle and fitness level.
A month isn't a huge amount time but it is long enough to make some gains and positive changes. So if you need some guidance in the next month on your journey towards a summer body, let me help you with some tried and true methods that have (and are continuing to) work for me.
Set Realistic Goals
First and foremost, before heading into the journey towards your summer body, you need to set some realistic expectations. In the course of a month you're not going to go through a complete overhaul of your physicality, but you can make some marked changes, you just need to keep things within the realm of reason.
The best way to do that is to have goals surrounding your fitness level and your lifestyle rather than weight loss. In other words, setting the goal of "being able to run 6km in 30 minutes" or "not getting tired from the stairs at work" is far more beneficial to your mental health than "lose 40 pounds."
The former are actually achievable while the latter is just setting yourself up for failure.
It's also important to not think of getting your "summer body" solely as an exterior transformation. Having a healthy body should be the goal behind a "summer body," not one that simply "looks good." Feeling good on the inside is what brings about looking good on the outside, so keep that in mind throughout your journey.
Focus On Building Muscle Mass
Most of you looking to quickly tone up for summer are no doubt planning on hitting up the cardio machines at the gym, which is admirable but somewhat misguided. Cardio is important and shouldn't be neglected, but if you're looking to make some long-lasting physical changes, you need to focus on building up some muscle mass.
Of course, you're not going to put on tons of muscle in the span of a month, but you can add on some muscle mass in that time. Not a huge amount, but probably enough to see a marked difference.
Adding in some weight training will also make your workouts a bit more dynamic, as you won't be on a treadmill staring at a wall the whole time. Plus, by putting on muscle, you're effectively increasing your metabolism over the long term (muscles need energy to maintain themselves), thus aiding in weight loss.
When working out, it's best to focus on larger muscle groups (legs, chest) as they'll burn up more calories overall. So while you may want to zero in on your biceps (because those summer tank tops), doing a quad workout may be a better bet.
Don't Neglect Your Carbs
One of the best reasons to weight train is the simple fact that you need to eat more. Again, while weight loss may be your overall goal, understand this is muscle you're putting on, the kind of weight that will make you feel better, look better, and aid in long-term weight loss.
With that, muscles need carbohydrates to recover after a workout, so don't get caught up in the "carbs are evil" mindset. Your body needs them no matter what, but especially when building muscle.
You only need to keep in mind what types of carbs you're eating and when. Right after a workout and in the morning is great, as your body will use up that energy, but a late-night carb-fest isn't recommended for the opposite reason.
A great way to get in your carbs is by eating fresh fruit. Not only will fruits provide you with easily-expendable energy, but the natural sugars will also curb cravings for other, more processed and fatty types of sweets.
Go To The Gym 4-5 Times A Week
Intense, I know, but if you're really planning on making some serious gains in the span of a month, then hitting the gym 4-5 a week is almost necessary. Sure, you could probably get away with three time per week, but five is certainly the ideal.
For those of you who have been neglecting the gym may be super scared by that number, but keep in mind you don't need to kill yourself every time you go. Start off small, maybe a half hour workout, then build up to more time. It won't help for you to go to the gym once, kill yourself, then be too sore for another 4 days.
Try and focus on regularity more than intensity for the first week or so, get in the rhythm, then kick things up a notch. If combined with healthy eating and other activities, this gym-attendance frequency will definitely lead to some positive fitness changes.
Caffeinate Before Working Out
Getting the gumption to go to the gym is the hardest part, because once you're actually there it really isn't so bad. A great way of gaining the energy boost needed to get your gym shoes on is humanity's favourite stimulant, good ol' coffee.
While some say caffeine can hurt performance, others hold caffeine in high regard when it comes to working out. Regardless, if you need some coffee to get you to the gym, it definitely isn't hurting your performance, because you wouldn't be there without it.
Go For Long Walks
Physical activity shouldn't be relegated solely to the gym. To truly compliment the weight training and cardio you're doing at the gym, you should partake in some light exercise, and walking is maybe the best method.
A low-impact activity that targets a variety of muscle groups and has been proven to aid in weight loss, walking is perfect for the fact that you can do it anywhere. Just go outside, and now that it isn't frigid outside, a walk can actually be enjoyable.
Biking, jogging, or other outdoor activities can easily be supplanted for walking, the main point is to just get outside and get physically active.
Replace One Meal With A Salad
Getting more greens into your diet while also cutting down on calories is as easy as a simple salad-switcheroo. Pick a meal, replace it with salad, and you automatically have a healthier diet that will aid in your fitness goals.
Now, I'm not talking about some iceberg lettuce salad doused in ranch sauce with cheese on top. I mean a real salad, one that has nutritionally-beneficial leaves (spinach, arugula, kale), a low-calorie vinaigrette dressing, and toppings that have a health benefit, like seeds, nuts, and some hard cheeses.
Salads don't need to be painful experience, but they shouldn't be indulgent either. Find a mix (or a few) that works for your unique taste buds and stick with it for a while. Your body will thank you later.
Don't Have "Cheat" Days
Pretty popular among fitness folk and dieters is the concept of "cheat days," a designated day in which you can eat whatever the hell you want, with all concerns of health and nutrition thrown to the wind. Sounds nice, but get that idea out of your head right now, because cheat days aren't going to help you.
For one, if you're looking to stick to a "one month" plan, then come on now, you literally have thirty days to resist indulgent food. Nut up and just stick through it.
Second, cheat days can really hurt you in the long run. In the span of six months with cheat days thrown in every week, think of all the calories added-on simply because you maintain the idea that you need to have excessive amounts of pizza on Saturday.
Instead, space out indulgent meals. You don't need to forgo all-things-delicious entirely, just keep it within reason. If you know you're going to the gym later and walk around shopping afterwards, then a calorie-high meal won't ruin you. Just don't do the same on days when you aren't being all that active.
Cut Down On (Or Cut Out) Alcohol
When I gave up alcohol for three months, one of the greatest perks was being able to eat more, knowing I wasn't getting a bunch of empty calories from beer and cocktails. And that's exactly what alcohol is, empty, nutritionally valueless calories that will only hurt your fitness goals, no matter what.
With that in mind, if you want to see serious results, I would strongly suggest giving up alcohol for a while, or at least cutting way back. One again, you have about a month to meet your summer-bod goal, which in the grand scheme of things isn't very long at all and entirely do-able without alcohol.
Plan Out Your Meals
So much of my mental energy is devoted to what I'm going to eat, and not because I freak out about calories or the like. Rather, as a frequent gym-goer, I need to consume certain foods around specific times, which means I need to plan out my meals all the time. You should be doing the same.
Before a workout, eating a snack that has some carbs to it is a great idea, as it will provide you with some energy to push harder. Afterwards, something with both carbs and proteins is ideal to help your muscles recover.
When looking at your entire day, the concept of "front-loading" can be very useful. Basically, this is the practice of consuming a majority of your calories before 3pm. In doing so, you can better ensure you'll actually be burning the calories you intake, then allowing you body to dip into fat reserves when you sleep.
Daily routines can vary, however, so use front-loading as a guideline and not a strict rule. If you're up and active 'til 3am every day, then you intake more calories later, and the reverse. Just remember that the more calories you take in closer to your bedtime, the less time you have to use that energy up.
Front-loading is a popular practice simply because it works. And the best way to ensure you're utilizing the concept is to plan out what type of food you're eating, and when, to properly allocate calories depending on the time of day.
Drink Tons Of Water
"What's that, you're hungry? But you just ate. Go have a glass of water and see how you feel afterwards. Oh, you're not hungry now? Go figure."
That little exchange quite literally goes through my head daily, as dehydration is often confused to be hunger more frequently than you might think. And the only way to curb dehydration is drinking water, and plenty of it.
A natural (and calorie-free) way to feel full, water is also essential for pretty much every other bodily process. Seriously, if you aren't drinking around 3-4 litres of water everyday, it's time to start.
Have Some Support
Getting through a stretch of working out a bunch, eating well, and basically devoting a lot of mental and physical energy to being fit can be taxing, to say the least. That's why it always helps to have a strong source of support to help keep you on track on the days you may stray.
Pairing up with a friend on this fitness journey can help tons, but support can come in many forms. Simply having a significant other be aware of your goals and why you're achieving them can be beneficial, as they'll help you through rough patches even if they're not following the same regiment.
Don't Just Stop Once Summer Starts
Quite honestly, I think the concept of a "summer body" is can be kind of detrimental. While I love the fact that it helps people get fit and healthy, it does imply some sort of conclusion, namely that once summer comes you have no more work left to do.
Personally, I think of the "summer body" as a philosopher's stone, more of a concept and ideal than a physical entity. I'm always striving towards the "summer body," but in my heart I know I'll never get there, it's just a continued source of inspiration for me to stay fit, active, and healthy.
So what I'm getting at is, after this one-month stretch of time devoted to attaining your summer bod, don't simply stop. Keep next summer in mind, and the summer after that to keep you focused on reaching new levels of fitness.
Or cast off the notion of the summer body entirely and use a different source of inspiration. Because fitness isn't a destination, it's a journey, one that never really ends.