Summer is here, and that means sizzling temperatures, the endless fight over where to set the office thermostat, barbecues — and, of course, bikinis. Summer is also the time that body anxiety comes out of the closet along with the bathing suit cover-ups.
If you’re feeling like one of those internet memes featuring a gorilla and the caption that summer body is canceled — take heart. It’s important to practice body positivity no matter where you’re at on your journey toward a fitter you, but there are still some last-minute ways to feel fit and fabulous this summer!
1. Throw Away the Scale
The number one culprit behind summer body anxiety is your bathroom scale. But muscle weighs more than fat, which means that while you’re hitting the gym hard, the bathroom scale might not change numbers as quickly as you want it to.
This only breeds discouragement, so don’t play into it. Instead of weighing yourself obsessively every day, focus on how your clothes feel on your body. If that favorite pair of shorts you haven’t fit into since high school suddenly fits, well, that’s a far better measure of your progress than a pesky needle on a scale.
2. Take Diets with a Grain of Salt
Likewise, take caution before embarking on the latest diet craze. While most diets have more than a grain of good advice in their guidelines, the bottom line is this — if you deprive yourself of what you love, eventually, you’re going to cave, and you’re going to binge. Then, you’re going to feel lousy.
Spare yourself the heartache and the bellyache. Sure, feel free to listen to your bestie fill you in on the virtues of paleo-eating. Peruse that article about the Mediterranean diet while on the elliptical machine. Just do so while keeping in mind that, if you’re one of those folks who can’t bear the thought of life without pizza or french fries, the occasional mini-indulgence is less harsh on your bottom than a full-on binge when you’re feeling deprived. Moderation is key!
3. Start Your Day Right
Not only have multiple studies shown that those who exercise first thing in the morning are more likely to stick with the program, but exercise also benefits your cognitive processes more than even a venti latte. So schedule that run, bike ride or yoga session before you head off to work.
Even if your morning is super busy, anyone can fit in a few minutes of something that gets their blood flowing. Jump rope for five minutes to get your blood pumping, or, if you’re more low-key, try a few minutes of yoga in bed before rising to ease into your busy day.
4. HIIT the Gym
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, can take place in or outside the gym. The idea is to set your metabolism on fire by getting your heart rate up as high as you can for 30 seconds, then taking a break.
You can do this with weights by doing super heavy sets for 30 seconds at a stretch with a short break, or, if cardio is more your thing, by incorporating 30-second sprints into your routine.
5. One Thing at a Time
While everyone can benefit from weight training, working the same muscles day after day leads to injury. Instead, alternate upper and lower body days or alternate body parts such as triceps, chest and quads one day, then biceps, shoulders and hamstrings the next. This prevents each muscle group from getting overworked, while still allowing you to get your daily sweat on.
6. Dance the Night — and Day — Away
Can’t stand the idea of a treadmill? Do the grunts of muscle men tossing about heavyweights in the gym turn you off? Why not just dance?
You can hit up a fun class such as Zumba or turn on some records and dance around the living room. And never, never forget the physical and therapeutic benefits of kicking up your heels with your girls at the club Friday night.
7. Find Your Tribe
Speaking of friendship, studies show that those who work out with a partner tend to stick to their programs better than those who exercise alone. Chances are, you’re not the only one in your squad wanting to get fit for the pool or beach. Make plans to meet up for your workouts. It’s a lot harder to turn off the alarm and go back to bed instead of working out if you know a partner or two is waiting for you.
8. It’s All About You, Baby!
Fitness is truly all about you. It’s about feeling good about your body and feeling good in your skin. Plus, medical evidence states that regular exercise can at least alleviate the pains that ail you, if not heal you completely.
The best fitness regimen in the world won’t work if you won’t stick to it. Tailor your fitness routine to you. Can’t stand sweating? Stick to gentler workouts such as Tai Chi or hatha yoga. Hate being cooped up indoors all day? Take up biking or hiking to relieve the stress of the office or school day. Whatever your fitness choice, your goal is to make it a lifestyle. Make it fit into yours, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy body, not just for the summer, but for life.