CindySays: Shape up for swimwear
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
I'm 41 and I've lost some weight since New Year's by jogging and reducing calories. I dropped about 18 pounds, but when I put on my two-piece swimsuit, I was not happy. My abs are flabby and my arms and legs look like I have never exercised in my life. I'm so disappointed because I was ready for this weight loss to make me excited for summer clothes. What should I do, and how long will it take? -- Jeanette
We love to bury our bodies beneath wraps and sweaters during the fall and winter, but usually end up in a state of shock when we peel away the layers in the spring. We swear we didn't look this way when we went into hibernation!
Actually, the spring stare-down is all too common. We are naturally disappointed when we know without a doubt that we've put forth an honest and steady effort. We expect great things, and we wince when the body we imagined doesn't materialize.
But you have to give yourself credit for doing so many things right. You stuck to your resolutions and made important dietary changes. Do you realize how many New Year's promises are quickly abandoned? Almost all. So, you get a high-five on the strides you've already made!
The starting gate
Positioning yourself is the first and most important step toward accomplishing your goal. You've done this. Now's the time to start adding muscle to your body so that in about six to eight weeks, when you dare to stare, you will be pleasantly rewarded.
You've lost weight, which many believe is all that is necessary to look and feel good. Unfortunately, if you are not strength training when you lose weight, you also lose muscle and when you lose muscle, your body will sag. Muscles are anti-aging because they fill out your skin and keep "things" lifted. You've focused primarily on cardiovascular exercise to lower your bodyweight, and you now have a lean and mean heart muscle. However, if you want a healthy heart inside a sexy body, you'll have to also spend time lifting weights.
Fight age and gravity by devoting time to strengthening your muscles. Skinny isn't attractive; strong and lean is what you want staring back at you in the mirror.
Whether in a gym, boot camp, Pilates class or simply at home, the rules are simple. You must lift weight that is heavy enough that it fatigues your muscles after 8 to 12 repetitions. If you have 3- to 5-pound weights lying around and are expecting them to change your body, forget it. They can't and never will.
Bodyweight and multi-joint exercises that challenge are what you need. Pushups, lunges, squats and planks are the kinds of movements that will quickly and efficiently exhaust the muscle and yield fabulous results.
Kick it up a notch
If you are jogging, try intervals -- short bursts of powerful sprints followed by recovery periods of lesser intense activity. Do these two days a week and add weight training on three nonconsecutive days. If you want results in a hurry, you've got to hit it hard and do it right.
Free-weight workouts and movements like wood chops, weighted medicine ball throws, burpees and pull-ups will make you want to surrender, but will make you proud by giving you lean arms and sexy shoulders.
Finding those elusive abs
If it takes six-pack abs to make you smile in the mirror, just remember where you'll find them. It's not in the gym -- although strength training is how you first acquire them, they can't be seen if too much body fat is over top. No, a great core worthy of a bikini is actually made in your kitchen. Eating lean proteins and lots of fibrous vegetables will peel away that fat to reveal the abs that have been there all along.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," at www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.