As an Olympian, I am well aware of the temptation to go to extremes with a fitness regime. One of my biggest challenges upon hanging up my racing suit was learning how to be fit and healthy without holding myself to those Olympic standards (which are nearly impossible to sustain). I am not alone in this. We all want quick results and convince ourselves that a cold-turkey-extreme-plunge-into-fitness-hell will be exactly what we need to get our health and our looks where we want them. We believe that the reward is worth the effort (and the bruises our body might sustain along the way). Nothing could be further from the truth.
From one "type A" to another, I invite you to join me in a new extreme -- moderation! Be extremely moderate when it comes to your health and fitness, and I promise your body will reap the rewards. Many positive choices over the long-term are much healthier for you than perfect choices that only last a short time.
These summer fitness tips are quick and effective for maximum results with minimum sacrifice and commitment:
1. Multitask Your Workout
In the water you can accomplish your cardio, strength training, build your lung capacity and meditate -- all at the same time. Swimming is the perfect antidote to the heat and minimizes stress on joints to avoid spending a summer on the sidelines because of an injury.
2. Balance and Tone Your Shoulders
Shoulder stability is key to any workout that involves the upper body, especially swimming. You can prevent injury and get shoulders you are proud to bare in your tank top by externally and internally rotating your shoulders with moderate resistance. I recommend using a stretch cord or small dumbbells with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep the resistance moderate and work up to 2-3 sets of 15 on each side.
3. Crunch Your Core
But not just any crunches! Strengthen your oblique muscles (the ones that criss-cross your belly and help you do the twist) by lying on your back with your hands behind your head. Keeping your right leg extended straight, lift your left knee toward your face as you twist your right elbow to touch your left knee. Then switch. Never let your head, arms, or legs rest on the ground in between reps. Keep your abs engaged the whole time. Do 20 reps (10 on each side, alternating).
4. Fly Like Superman
A strong back is sexy and healthy. While lying on your stomach on a mat, extend your hands straight over your head with your thumbs up. Keep your face looking down. Lift both your arms and your legs off the ground using your back muscles (your nose will be hovering an inch off the ground). Then lift your right arm and your left leg a couple inches higher keeping your arms and legs straight. Alternate this move and do this for 15 seconds to start. You'll eventually build up to several rounds of 30 seconds at a time. In addition to your backside, you'll like what this does for your glutes as well.
5. Lift to Lighten Up
Weight training helps slim your body, not bulk it up (despite the stigma to the contrary). To get that envious "swimmer's back" and define your arms for swimsuit season, alternate between 15 repetitions of seated lat pulls and 15 repetitions of seated rows, both with medium weight. Train your way up to three rounds per strength workout.
6. Recharge Body and Soul
To refresh mentally and soothe sore muscles after a hard workout, stretch, rest and practice yoga. I've found yoga amazing for my flexibility, toning, and sense of calm. Swimmers in particular should focus on shoulder and upper back opening positions.
7. Moisturize Your Skin From the Inside Out
Easier to come by than any miracle cream is good old-fashioned water. Unlike sports drinks, water quenches your thirst and hydrates your skin free of charge (and calories). Active adults, especially in the desert, need three to four liters of water per day.
8. Keep it Hot
Dance... make love... or both! Yes, you read that right. These activities are an important part of any fitness regime. I call them "cross-training." They are intense calorie-burning activities that work a lot of muscle groups at once. These activities help us stay motivated, because we are reminded of how great are bodies truly are. They also don't feel like a work out and release wonderful endorphins that help us to feel good.
When trying any of the above ideas, make sure to have fun. Do what feels good and mix it up! You'll be more likely to stick to it.
For more on fitness and exercise, click here.