"This summer I finally wanted to look good in a bikini."
"For once in my life I want to feel comfortable on the beach with my shirt off."
There's always next year, right?
"Does this swimsuit make my butt look big?"
No, your butt size makes your butt look big.
The joys of summer semi-freedom-from-clothes days are upon us, and this message is going out to the 99 percent of us who didn't just step out of an American Eagle ad for just long enough to slather some coconut oil on our rippling six-pack abs. In other words, if your shoe size is a bigger number than your body fat percentage, go back to selecting the right pomade for your surfer 'do, as there's nothing new for you to learn here.
Here's a quick and simple three-step guide to claiming your summer body -- and your summer vacation happiness -- for those of us who did not win the genetic lottery and were born with fantastic physiques. To go shirtless this summer, you need to: eat, move, and sleep.
1. Eat: The first step to getting fitter is usually losing weight, but even if you're skinny, fueling your body with better nutrition is key to developing your new, fit physique. Don't get bummed out, some small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference over time, and if you're trying to lose too much too fast, your failure is as guaranteed as hearing a Jimmy Buffet tune at a beach party.
In order to eat right to look your best this summer, you need to follow these rules:
• Cut out all the junk from your daily intake. You know exactly the stuff I'm talking about -- dump anything fried, processed or covered in sauce and replace with lean proteins, veggies, nuts and fruits. If you can get it at a drive-thru, you don't want it.
• Learn what a normal portion looks like. One serving of lean proteins or slow-burning carbs (like brown rice and sweet potato) should be the size of your clenched fist, while green carbs (yes, veggies) can fill a plate as long as they are steamed and devoid of butter, sauce or creamy dressing -- a little oil and vinegar goes a long way in terms of adding some flavor!
• Take it easy on the beer. Unless you like a beer gut or that oh-so-sexy bloated look, cut back on your alcohol consumption, especially beer, by drinking a 1:1 ratio of cocktails to glasses of water. You'll cut your booze intake in half, give your liver a break and hydrate your body while you're at it.
2. Move: There's no way you're getting fit without sweating from some sort of physical activity -- it just ain't gonna happen. I'll give you an exercise that'll make the required 20 minutes of activity fly by; you can even do it while you're getting ready in the morning. The best parts of the "Shirtless This Summer" program? No gym, no weights and no expensive trainers required. These tips here are free!
• "Exercise" 20 minutes a day, five days a week.
• Three of those days you'll be walking, jogging or running for 20:00 at your own pace. If you're a fresh off the couch, you may walk 19 minutes, 30 seconds and jog for 30 seconds. That's awesome. Seasoned runners may jog all 20:00, and that's equally cool with me (and you, I'm sure). If you're already conditioned and looking for the ultimate way to get ripped, alternate (10) 1-minute sprints with 1-minute walk breaks.
In any case, STOP after 20 minutes. Cool down, stretch, hydrate and relax -- you're done for the day.
• The other two days you'll be performing as many sets of (5) bodyweight exercises as you can in 20 minutes with good form. You control the number of sets, intensity and rest between exercises or sets. It's all relative to your ability, and all up to you. Take the first few workouts slow and easy; if you push your body too hard too soon you'll be sore as heck the next day.
• All the bodyweight exercise descriptions and photos can be found at 7weekstofitness.com/exercises/.
Monday, Wednesday & Friday:
-- 20 minutes walk/jog/run Intervals at your own pace after a 5-minute warm-up and follow with a 5-minute cool-down and stretching.
-- Bodyweight exercises: As many rounds of 10 repetitions of each of these 5 exercises as you can complete in 20 minutes with good form. Rest up to 1 minute (if needed) between sets.
3. Sleep: With work, vacations, kids out of school and activities galore, summers are crazy busy. Add in this new fitness routine and you're really maxing out. Well, this one's pretty easy -- and required: Get eight hours of sleep every night. Not only do you need quality REM sleep to keep your mind functioning during a hectic workweek, your muscles also need the time to recover. The mantra "I'll sleep when I'm dead" only succeeds in getting you closer to that goal a little bit faster. Turn off your mobile phone, put down your iPad (the Words With Friends game can wait until you're at work tomorrow), shut off the TV and give your body what it really needs: time to recover!
That's it -- just three steps stand between you and your Shirtless Summer. Simple, incredibly effective, and free! You can absolutely find 20 minutes in your day to change your life for good, so stop with the excuses and get started now. Adjust the intensity as you progress and you can use this program all year round for your best body ever.
For more on fitness and exercise, click here.