No one has to tell you that hibernating all winter hasn’t done your swimsuit bod any favours.
But if you think getting into warm-weather shape means you have a hellish time ahead of you, think again. Although shows like The Biggest Loser make it seem otherwise, a successful fitness lifestyle is about moderation and efficiency.
“You don’t have to make big changes to see big differences,” says award-winning fitness expert Maureen Hagan, author of GoodLife Fitness: 6 Weeks to a New Body (Penguin Books). “Start slowly if you’re just starting out,” she advises. “If you deprive yourself and overdo the exercising, you’ll give up before you start to see results.” A moderate plan is easier to stick to, and consistency is the secret, she says.
If you already have a routine but aren’t seeing changes, you do need to step it up — but perhaps not by much. “For example, the average gym-going person goes twice per week,” says Hagan, who is also the director of education for Can-Fit-Pro. “Adding just one more 30-minute workout per week will significantly improve results.”
Instead of changing your entire life, think short-term goals for long-term success. “Looking too far ahead is discouraging, and besides, we’re programmed to want fast results,” Hagan explains. “Six weeks is about all we can handle before we need to change things up either by starting over or finding a new and exciting activity.” And by that time, you’ll want to stay active.
Aim for shorter, more frequent workouts. For most of us, an hour at the gym three times a week is tough to fit in. Hagan advocates a half-hour workout six times per week; finding 30 minutes in a day is easier than finding 60. And if a 30-minute block is tricky, as it can be for new moms, “Break it into 10-minute segments over the course of your day,” says Hagan, whose program is designed for exactly that kind of flexibility.
Combine cardio with resistance training to kick up the efficiency factor. A half-hour of cardio alone burns calories for 40 minutes post workout, whereas a 10-minute weight-training session can keep the metabolism fires burning for up to 48 hours. The daily combo results in consistently high fat-busting action.
Fitness efficiency translates into other areas too. “Regular workouts actually add hours of productivity,” says Hagan. “You make faster decisions, need less sleep, and sleep better when you do. It’s like getting an extra day in your week.”