Summer bodies are made in the winter, so the saying goes. However, last winter many of us were too preoccupied with avoiding COVID to embark on Project Summer Body. So, now that lockdown has eased, and life is inching closer to normality, I’m feeling a lot more positive about toning up and feeling good again.
The summer body…
As summer gets going, lots of us are keen to kick-start our exercise regimes and regain our fitness. Liking what we see in the mirror is an added incentive! Enjoying whatever form of exercise we choose to do is the key to maintaining it. So, if you’re bored with your previous regime, aren’t getting results – or are simply keen to try a few new things – my latest blog is for you. I’ve reached out to five fitness experts for their take on summer body workout tips. So look for your Lycra and prepare to be inspired!
The Body Beautiful Method
The brains behind The Body Beautiful Method is London-based Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor and Barre Specialist Aimee Victoria Long. Aimee’s fitness philosophy prioritises the mind as well as the body. She advocates falling in love with taking care of yourself, rather than seeing it as a chore to be endured. And she has a simple message for anyone hoping to slim down for summer: eat less/move more.
“If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit,” Aimee underlines. “This means burning more calories than you put in your mouth. This includes the calories that you drink. To build this deficit, you can do one of two things: eat less or move more. I’d advise combining the two to accelerate your weight loss. Aim for a daily 300 calorie deficit. This is far more sustainable than any crash diet and you won’t pile the weight back on.”
So far, so sensible. But we don’t always realise how many calories we consume, or where they come from. “Alcohol is detrimental to reaching your goals,” Aimee explains. “Its extra calories add to your daily intake, which don’t even fill you up, and it affects your body’s ability to burn fat…If you’re serious about your summer body then avoid alcohol as much as possible. You’ll enjoy that holiday cocktail even more when you’re on the beach feeling uber confident with the body you’ve worked hard for and achieved.”
Where exercise is concerned, Aimee’s advice is to find something you really enjoy, and keep it social. “Exercise can be anything from strength training to Zumba,” she notes. “Life is all about doing what you enjoy, so play around a little bit. Find what you like, then stick with it.”
She continues: “Grab some friends and get them involved in your summer body journey, too. Making exercise social makes it seem less gruelling. And if, like me, you have a competitive edge, it can also help to push you harder when you’re working out.”
If you find traditional exercise classes boring, and need something new to hold your interest, meet author and dancer Coco Berlin. She’s the brains behind the best-selling book Pussy Yoga, which features a programme of pelvic floor exercises that aim to unite the body and mind. Over 30,000 women have taken Coco’s Essence of Bellydance™ and Sensuous Dance Workout™ classes. She’s trained teachers in her methods across 23 different countries.
To achieve the best results from exercise, Coco firmly believes in the importance of mind-body integration during workouts. “Feeling into your body and observing the effects is so important,” she explains. “Make sure you take the time to notice what you feel in your body when you exercise….Noticing the effects of your practice trains your brain and sharpens your senses.”
Coco recommends incorporating posture-improving moves into your summer body workouts. After all, better posture has an instant effect, making us look slimmer and more confident. Why not try Coco’s mind-body version of the classic Cat-Cow yoga pose? This exercise will tone your core and upper body muscles, strengthen your pelvic floor –and improve that all-important posture.
Coco Berlin’s Pussy Cow
1. Start on your hands and knees, and let your spine hang downward just like a cow. Your cervical spine is a natural extension of your spine here.
2. Now pull your belly button up toward the ceiling and round your back like a cat. Let your head hang free.
3. Begin flowing between the two positions. Move back and forth between them, observing the harmonious movement in your spine. Try to loosen and mobilise all vertebrae evenly.
4. What is your pelvis doing? How are your pelvic bones moving? Try to feel them in your body. Ideally, you would notice that, in the cow position, your sit bones pull apart while your tailbone and sacrum pull backward from the body and away from your pubic bone. This makes your pelvis wider at the bottom, stretching your pelvic floor wide open. Maybe you can feel a real pull in your first pelvic floor layer? Try to relax there to give it a nice, natural stretch. In the cat pose, the sit bones come together, and the tailbone and sacrum approach the pubic bone again. This makes your pelvis narrower as the pelvic floor contracts.
5. Now you can consciously draw your sit bones together in cat pose and notice the activation of your pelvic floor. Deliberately pull them apart in cow pose, and notice the stretch in your pelvic floor.
Pussy Cow while standing
6. Next we try this standing up. Set your legs apart a bit wider than the hips, placing your knees exactly above your feet. Rest your hands on your knees, so your bottom moves backward. Do the cat and cow poses as described above.
7. To test the practice in this position, you can place your hands on your sit bones and feel the movement from the outside.
8. Then put one hand on your pubic bone, your fingers pointing down, and the other on the sacrum, with the fingers down as well. Try to feel the subtle nodding motion of the sacrum.
Stuck in an exercise rut? Feel like a summer body is out of reach at your age and stage? GlamFit could be the solution. Founded by Personal Trainer & Fitness Coach Jenna Rigby, GlamFit sees potential in everyone – and aims to deliver the right support and guidance to fulfil it. As a mum-of-five, Jenna specialises in helping mothers get back in shape using simple, effective methods. GlamFit also helps women who have never exercised, or are struggling to implement exercise into their routine. It supports women recovering or suffering from illness. And it firmly believes, as do I, that mental health can be improved dramatically through exercise.
Jenna’s exercise programme
If you have specific summer body goals, Jenna has an exercise programme to match. “If you have a few COVID pounds to burn, I recommend adding two 60min walks to your routine for the extra fat burn, and to help get yourself back in shape,” she reveals. “The greatest benefit of walking is that your heart rate hits optimal fat burning zones, so if belly fat is your target it’s a great addition. If you’re looking to tone up as well as burn fat, I’d highly recommend teaming up your walks with two HIIT sessions per week.”
Keen to look good in a bikini, but have limited equipment to hand? Jenna recommends daily 30-minute HIIT workouts that include compound (squats and lunges) and plyometric exercises. These could be jumping jacks, box jumps or burpees. If killer abs are your ambition, you’ll need to target three separate areas: upper abs, lower abs and obliques.
“This will help to sculpt your body and give definition,” Jenna confirms. “However, you’ll need to get your body fat percentage down to ensure those abs show through. You can do this by adding daily cardio to your routine to promote additional fat loss. “For upper abs, I recommend V-sit and reverse crunches; for lower abs, vertical leg raises and flutter kicks. Then, for the obliques, try the Russian twist and bicycle crunches.”
Gyms might have reopened, but if exercising online suits you, do take a look at Caroline’s Circuits. It was founded in 2020 by Caroline Idiens, who made the leap from advertising to Personal Training in 2001. With workouts for every level, this online fitness platform is equally suitable for both experienced exercisers and complete beginners.
“In the last 14 months, we have all lived a rather sedentary lifestyle,” Caroline acknowledges. “We may have been walking more in lockdown, but our muscles have not been challenged. I show, in my short, sharp online strength training workouts, that it really is achievable – both at home and without fancy equipment – to shape up for summer.”
She adds: “I am a huge fan of dumbbells, as well as resistance bands, but it is also possible to just use bodyweight and really achieve great results. All you need is 30 minutes, three times a week, while also maintaining a healthy diet.”
Jemma’s Health Hub
Jemma Thomas, Personal Trainer and Founder of Jemma’s Health Hub, is a big fan of holistic health. Done properly, her workouts will help you achieve your summer body, but she promotes exercise as a way of life, not just a fast-track to gorgeous glutes.
“I always talk about small changes that you can do each day to make a difference,” she explains. “So make an effort to drink more water, get up earlier and do some jumping around before you start your day. Simple tweaks like this can make a huge difference, not only to how you look, but also to how you feel.”
Set realistic goals
The right mind-set – and realistic goals – are also vital to success. “Please don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and go at your own pace. The worst thing you can do is push yourself too hard and pull a muscle. So set small achievable targets each week. Similarly, avoid the scales. Remember, exercise should be more about how it makes you FEEL rather than how it makes you look. Looking [better] is just an added bonus.”
Listening to your body, stretching regularly, and taking full advantage of all and any support are also key. “Go online and find like-minded fitness communities,” Jemma advises. “Accountability is one of the most important things to keep your workouts up. At The Hub we log in five times a week to work out together and then post our ‘sweaty selfies’ afterwards. Offering each other love and support makes a huge difference to morale. It also encourage people to log in and exercise when they say they will!”
Worried because gym workouts aren’t for you? Click here to find out more about the health and fitness benefits of other activities such as tennis and swimming. They can also help you achieve your ideal summer body!