Here comes summer! Fun in the sun. Barbecues, fireworks, and cool drinks. And outdoor activities - hiking, biking, running, swimming, skating, blading, and even canoeing.
Getting back into shape seems like a very good idea right about now. We want to look good in our shorts and tee shirts, and more importantly, we don't want to be huffing and puffing. We want to be able to do what we want to do without having to think about limitations or restrictions.
How to return to fitness? There are three main areas on which to focus - losing some weight, doing aerobic exercise, and doing some weight-training.1,2
Whether you want to lose five, ten, or twenty pounds, the easy-to-follow principles are the same. First, eat several (five or six) small meals each day. Each small meal contains about 300 calories and your total daily intake is between 1800 and 1900 calories per day. This might be a significant reduction for many people, so be sure to check with your doctor and get his or her OK to begin such a food plan.
Each small meal contains both protein and carbohydrate. This food-combining principle retrains your body's metabolism and helps you become a lean machine. Food combining optimizes energy utilization and evens out insulin levels throughout the day. This is particularly important for people who are hypoglycemic or pre-diabetic. Again, check with you doctor to be sure such a plan will work well for you.
Returning to aerobic fitness is very important for summer activities. Get out of your house and begin a walking program. Start with ten or fifteen minutes of easy walking. Add a minute each day, building up to thirty-minute walks over the course of three or four weeks. When you can walk for thirty minutes easily, increase your pace. Again, increase your pace gradually over several weeks.
Treadmills, stationary bikes, stair machines, and elliptical machines all provide excellent aerobic workouts. The key, as with walking, is to build up gradually to a high level. Interval training methods are also valuable and improve cardiovascular efficiency. Interval training involves alternating intense and slow periods of activity.
Weight-training tones muscles, trains your body to do physical work, and causes your metabolism to burn fat while you're resting, so there are a wide variety of benefits here. Many excellent books and magazines are available to help you begin a weight-training program. Workout with a knowledgeable friend. Hire a personal trainer for four weeks and learn enough to be able to workout on your own. The physical and psychological benefits are well worth the time and effort.3
Now you're fit and well-prepared to enjoy all that summer has to offer. The final tip is to be sure to stay hydrated all day long. Drinking water is the most important nutritional advice anyone could give to anyone.
1Simkini-Silverman LR, et al. Lifestyle intervention can prevent weight gain during menopause. Ann Behav Med 26(3):212-220, 2003
2Knuttgen HG. Strength training and aerobic exercise: comparison and contrast. J Strength Cond Res 21(3):973-978, 2007
3Kraemer WJ, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 34(2):364-380, 2002