Summer is the perfect time of year to move your health and fitness goals closer to the top of your priority list and to take the steps necessary to obtain a body that is both healthy on the inside and strong and physically fit on the outside. If you have been putting off taking care of yourself all year, this summer is the time to finally get serious about achieving your physical fitness goals. Listed below are five helpful tips that will help you get the ball rolling and maintain a healthy momentum.
ONE: Try something new! Now that the weather is warmer and the days are longer, why not add an exciting new outdoor activity or sport, such as inline skating, mountain biking, tennis, basketball, surfing, or climbing to your exercise program? With all of the options available, there is no excuse for allowing yourself to become stuck in a comfortable rut this summer.
Use your imagination. Buy a new pair of walking shoes or dust off your bike and explore uncharted territory. Join a softball team or running club. If there is no club in your area, start one. My husband and I once started a popular rollerblading club and had a wonderful time meeting new people while getting in better shape.
Engaging in several different types of sports, exercises, and activities on a regular basis (sometimes defined as cross training) can add excitement and variety to your exercise program. Cross training also increases the odds that you will be working different muscle groups and varying the amount of aerobic and anaerobic exercise that you obtain on a regular basis.
Significantly increasing your level of physical activity not only improves the efficiency of your cardiovascular system, but also increases muscle tone and metabolic rate, making it easier for your body to burn fat, even while you sleep!
TWO: Clean up your diet and clean out your pantry. Start taking time to read food labels and increase your nutritional awareness by becoming better informed. Throw away the items that you instinctively know are your biggest downfall and start with a fresh, clean slate. Cutting out junk food, fried foods, and simple sugars can make a considerable difference in your energy level and in the way that you feel about your body at the beach this summer.
Be especially cautious of products that are high in saturated fat. Not only do saturated fats raise your total blood cholesterol, but there is also a link between diets high in saturated fat and the incidence of certain types of cancer, most notably colon, breast, and prostate cancers.
THREE: Eat higher quality foods. Concentrate on eating food for the nutritional value and not simply for the taste. Take a trip to the health food store and try something different. Experiment with new healthy recipes and ask friends for fat reducing tips. Increase your consumption of antioxidant-rich vegetables, legumes, and whole grains by frequently cooking a big pot of healthy vegetable soup.
Get a vegetable steamer and put it to good use. Put your fresh fruits and veggies out where you can see them. Cut up raw, nutrient filled foods such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and celery and snack on them during the day or take them to work with you.
Make it a high priority to drink at least eight glasses of water a day in order to provide your body with a clean internal environment and prevent dehydration. This is especially important during the hot summer months. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water because thirst is your body’s way of letting you know that you are already starting to dehydrate. Be aware that caffeine and alcohol can also have a dehydrating effect on your body as well.
FOUR: Pair strength training with cardiovascular exercise. Combining weight training with aerobic exercise doubles the chances that you will lose bodyfat and gain more lean muscle mass this summer. Try to really concentrate and focus on using correct form while strength training with weights.
It’s much more important to use proper, safe form than it is to try to lift as much weight as possible. If your goal is to add more muscle mass, use heavier weight and fewer repetitions (around 8 reps). To increase definition of the muscles, use lighter weight and higher reps (10-12). Also, keep in mind that at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted cardiovascular exercise is necessary to begin burning fat as your primary source of fuel.
FIVE: Go for it! Push your exercise and athletic boundaries further by signing up for an event or race that you have never participated in before. Last summer, around my 41st birthday, I competed in my first triathlon as part of a team and found that it was much more fun and less intimidating that I had imagined. So what if you don’t finish first or if your time is slow? Setting a new goal for yourself gives you something specific to work toward and leaves you with a lasting sense of accomplishment. You might be surprised by just how much you can achieve when you set your mind to it.
This is your summer to feel healthier, happier, and stronger. Go for it!