Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tips for a bikini body

Since its first appearance in the 1940's, the bikini has been legendary. But before you dare to wear one, you probably want to tone any existing problem areas. If you opt not to wear a bikini (and most people won't don a bikini) read on for some great tips to look your best in this season's swimwear.

trouble spots

The four problem areas that concern most of us, especially during swimsuit season, are as follows: the abs, butt, arms and shoulders – and hips and legs. Not to worry, though. Each of these zones can be improved upon with careful attention to diet and regular exercise.

Here are some cardio exercises to enhance those spots "not yet fit for the beach:"
  • Abs. Flatten the abs with aerobic dance exercises that include bending and twisting.
  • Arms and shoulders. Work arms and shoulders by using a dual-action elliptical trainer, the kind where you move both arms and legs.
  • Hips and legs. Whittle down your hips and legs by taking spin classes.
  • Butt. Choose cardio exercises such as running or walking – or use a stair climbing machine.

Sometimes it's difficult to stay on track with your fitness goals. That's when it helps to join a 24 Hour Fitness Group X class. They're free to members and offer several excellent options to shape up for swimsuit season. Some are 30 minutes and others one hour.

"My number one choice for getting swimsuit-ready would be the Pilates class," says Michele Chovan-Taylor, Divisional Group X Manager for 24 Hour Fitness. "It's an overall body workout. It will strengthen and lengthen the entire body, with a focus on abdominal strength." Another one-hour long class that will prepare you for the beach is 24 Lift, a resistance workout to strengthen the entire body.

If you are short on time, other classes such as Yoga Buns provide a vigorous workout in just 30 minutes. The class applies traditional yoga principles to target the glutes and lower body. "I was sore for three days after taking Yoga Buns," says Chovan-Taylor.

BodyXpress, AbXpress and LegXpress are also shorter classes designed to tighten and tone. All of the aforementioned classes can be modified for both beginners and advanced, depending on how much weight is lifted or how advanced you make the poses.

Chovan-Taylor recommends taking Group X classes, or participating in some other form of exercise, at a minimum of three times per week, but personally advocates exercising five times per week.

nutrition is key
Of course, no amount of exercise will help ready your body for a bikini if you're overeating. Nutrition is a critical part of a back-to-the-beach plan. It's best to eat a sensible diet and watch your calories year-round so you don't pile on the pounds in the winter. If you've gained weight, sign up to work with a 24 Hour Fitness personal trainer for the Lean Path Solution.

Have you managed to maintain your weight through the winter months? Congratulations. To continue on that course, try some of these healthy low-calorie snacks this summer:
  • Fruit salad with delicious seasonal fruits
  • Low-fat yogurt mixed with low-fat granola
  • Carrots, celery or bell peppers dipped in salsa or reduced-fat hummus
  • A slice of whole-grain bread with reduced-fat peanut butter

Even though these are healthy snacks, always be careful to watch your portion sizes. In addition, drink as much water as possible because it aids in digestion and decreases the appetite.

hit the beach

During your quest to shape up for summer, keep yourself motivated by leaving that new swimsuit hanging up in plain view. Or post a picture of yourself in summer clothes or a swimsuit where you look great. Another tip to stay motivated: Keep a journal of your progress, for instance the amount of inches or pounds that you've lost.

Remember – strive to look your best, not for perfection and choose a swimsuit that's flattering to your figure. You can always use a cover-up. But if you've achieved a toned, fit body, show off the results with a bikini!

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