Story by Cindy Black
Photography by Suzy King

Summer is almost here. Are you ready for tank tops, shorts and bathing suits? Do you feel fit and healthy?

If you answered no, no, no and no, read on to discover how to achieve a leaner, fitter you in the next eight weeks.

Losing weight and getting into beach-body shape takes commitment. The first thing you need to do is to write down your goal and make it specific: “I will lose 15 pounds and weigh 130 by June 1” or “I want to fit into my red dress for the July 4th party.”

Write down a passionate reason why you want to achieve your goal. “I want to feel comfortable with my friends at the beach” or “My doctor said if I don’t reduce my cholesterol by my next visit I will have to start taking medication.” Post your goal and passionate reason in three places where you will see it often to help you stay focused. Sometimes it is simply mind over matter!

A food diary can educate, guide and inspire you. It may reveal patterns in your eating habits that you were not aware of. Write down not only what you eat but also how much you eat, what time you eat, how you feel before you eat. Be honest; include everything. Strive for unprocessed foods always — fruits, vegetables and lean meats. They say, “If your grandparents would not know what it is, you should not eat it.” Eat multiple small meals instead of three large meals to keep your blood sugar and cravings under control. Make sure you’re getting enough protein to keep your metabolism running hot and to recover from your workouts. Also, be sure you’re taking in fewer calories than you burn — bottom line! Eat because you are hungry, not out of habit.

Our bodies were designed to move, but our lifestyles have slowed us down. We sit in our cars, we sit at desks and we sit in front of our televisions. Strive for at least 10,000 steps a day. Make sure you get a mix of high intensity and lower intensity cardio. If you are a walker, add a few bursts as fast as you can go. If you are a runner, add short fast intervals to your plan. Cardio is not only good for your heart but also for your overall health. It helps burn excess calories and makes it easier to create a caloric deficit in order to lose weight.

In my career as a fitness trainer, I’ve found that resistance training is just as important as cardio if you want to get rid of unwanted body fat. The key is knowing exactly how to train to accelerate the rate at which your body burns fat, without sacrificing any of your hard-earned muscle!

The first step is to forget about training individual body parts. Instead of arms on one day and shoulders on another and chest on yet another, think of your body as one large muscular unit and try o work as many muscles as possible in each resistance-traning session. We are all athletes within and need to train as so. Moving in multiple directions using your whole body will burn more calories and improve your balance and coordination.

Studies show that the more muscles you stimulate in a workout, the greater the boost to your metabolism for the next 24 to 48 hours (a process known as the “after-burn”). This means your body is continually burning fat at an increased rate long after your workout is over – even while you’re watching TV, driving to work or sleeping!

Diet and proper exercise work hand in hand. You can’t build a great physique without both. But it takes commitment – if exercise was easy everyone would be fit!