It's February. If you've already begun to focus on getting that great beach body, you're ahead of the game. Most women leave their diet and exercise plans by the wayside until April or May. If you wait that long, it's usually a scramble to undo all the damage from the long months of eating comfort food and hibernating from the cold.
Building the body you want takes a lot of time and effort. To ensure you're not wasting days and energy, you need to do more than walk on the treadmill a couple times per week.
Early motivation will help you succeed; but there are other key aspects to fitness that can be the difference between three months of hard work and three months of hard work that lead to a successful transformation! In addition to taking advantage of your awesome self-motivation and drive, be sure to do these six things:
1. Remove All Processed Foods
Ditch all the packaged snack foods, frozen dinner meals, and pints of ice cream sitting in your freezer. Even that container of fruit-flavored yogurt needs to go. As painful as this process may be, it will make the world of difference in your diet and, by extension, your appearance.
Limit your diet to foods that come from nature. The right nutrition for your beach-ready body does not include bags of chips or cans of soda.
2. Get Serious About Sleep
If you often burn the midnight oil, you need to change your habits. Finish your school and work projects earlier, and say "good night" to your favorite late television show.
People who don't sleep enough are at a higher risk of accumulating body fat. Dr. Michael Breus explains that "if you are sleep deprived ... your metabolism will not function properly."1 Furthermore, it's likely that your lack of sleep won't help you fight the craving for a late-night snack run.
3. Supplement with Protein Powder
Most women don't take in enough protein. If you want to build muscle—and burn more fat—eat about one gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you can't get that much protein with whole food, try supplementing with whey protein powder. Mix up a shake before and after your workouts.
Including more protein in your diet also helps defeat those carb cravings! Put down that bag of pretzels and pick up a protein shake.
4. Track Your Calories
Tracking calories can feel like a burden, but if you want to see excellent progress, it's a must. It's much easier than it was in the past, though. Today, you can simply install an app on your phone, tablet, or computer and enter what you eat. By keeping tabs on your calories and macronutrients, you'll be able to tell when you need to make adjustments to your diet and training. If you're not sure what you put into your body, there's no way of knowing what your diet does or does not lack.
5. Cardio the Smart Way
Many women use the "more is better" approach to cardio training. Don't fall into this trap! Never ending sessions on the treadmill are not the best way to burn body fat.
Instead, add short, super-intense sessions of cardio to your regimen. Alternate 30 seconds of intense work with 60 seconds of reduced work and repeat the sequence 8-10 times. You can do interval training anywhere-on a treadmill, on a bike, on the elliptical, or on a rowing machine. Mix it up! You'll find better results with shorter bursts of high-intensity work (HIIT) than you will from long bouts of lower-intensity work. Plus it's more fun.
6. Lift Weights
Strength training is the best way to change how your body looks. It will boost your muscle mass and definition, and increase your strength, balance, and agility. It'll also shift your metabolism into high gear by building muscle, your most metabolically active tissue.
Not sure what workout will work best for this goal? The following workouts can be done, one after the other, on the same day. The first portion will test your strength and the second will challenge your cardiovascular fitness. As you fatigue, don't let your form stray. If you must stop and rest at some point, don't be afraid to do so.
Aim to complete these workouts at least 2-3 times per week. Make sure you leave a day of rest between sessions.
As always, make sure you do at least a five-minute warm-up before you train and cool down when you're done.