By Katie Rosenbrock
It always sneaks up on you; one minute you're surrounded by chocolates on Valentine's Day, then before you can say "I'm going on a diet" you're suddenly accepting invites to beach barbecues and pool parties.
Only, you're not quite looking forward to slipping into your swimwear just yet, because as of late you've neglected your diet and exchanged time spent exercising with after-work happy hours and decadent weekend brunches. As a result, you're feeling a bit ... fluffy.
But summer is calling, and you want to get fit and you want to do it fast. You've searched through Google for juice cleanses and promised yourself that you'd work out every single day from now until you finally feel confident enough to hangout by the beach in your favorite bathing suit.
Here's the thing, though; first of all, aside from yourself no one is that worried about how you look in a bathing suit. Second of all, even with that being said, you probably still want to get fit for summer (which is great, because getting fit means getting healthy), and the good news is that you don't have to start a four-week-long detox or exercise for hours on end every single day to get there.
We talked to a handful of fitness professionals from all over the country to find out their best "get fit quick" tips. But before we share them with you, remember one thing: There are no shortcuts when it comes to getting healthy and fit. If you want results, you have to put in the work. It won’t be easy (nothing worth accomplishing ever is) but it will be worth it.
"Expect it to be hard," says certified personal trainer Matt Fellows. “Hard work is where real results are made, and many people will be surprised at just how much they can actually do."
These expert tips will help you learn how to maximize your calorie burn, clean up your diet and make the most of every day from now until it's time to start lounging by the pool. Oh, and before you start your quest for a buff beach body, don’t forget: getting fit means getting healthy, so make a vow to commit to these tips for life and come this time next year you'll be ready for the beach without having to put in any extra work.
Getting fit fast doesn’t require an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment. “Good old push-ups, sit-ups and squats go a long way,” says Johnson. She suggests trying a workout like this: Perform two rounds, do 10 reps of each exercise (push-ups, sit-ups and squats). Work your way up to 5 rounds, then add max efforts on alternating days -- 2 sets of as many push-ups as possible with a 3-minute break in between. When you're ready advance sit-ups to leg lifts.
"The newest trend in fitness isn't a tech gadget or new pair of shoes," says Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise. A recent study conducted by Bryant and his colleagues found that weight loss candidates who worked with a professional health coach over the course of 24 weeks lost an average of more than 9 percent of their total body weight. "Part personal trainer, part nutritionist, part everyday cheerleader -- health coaches go far beyond helping you exercise. They address behavior change, physical activity and nutrition to empower people to positive, long-term healthy change," he says.
"What has been effective for my clients is combining strength with cardio as active rest,” says Kenny Pena, owner of Pena's Fitness Method Studio in New York City. This type of workout might include a circuit that looks like this: a squat with or without weight for multiple reps (Pena says 25 is a good number) followed by 30 seconds of an intense exercise, like burpees or squat jumps. According to Pena this is one of the most effective ways to exercise because you're engaging large muscle groups to build strength while also increasing your heart rate to maximize calorie burn. “When you add the cardio component using the same muscle group you build endurance and burn more calories than you would waiting around for your next set,” he says. He also points out that short, intense bursts of cardio activate EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) which helps you burn even more calories even after you’re finished working out.
According to the National Sleep Foundation our biological circadian clocks regulate periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. NASM certified personal trainer Samantha Isaacson recommends that you become more in tune with yours in order to make the most of your workouts. "Figure out at what time during the day you have the most energy,” she says. "Capitalize on that peak time when your body temperature and muscle strength are at their highest levels, which in turn leads to improved performance and results."
See also: What Time of Day is Best for Exercise?
Missing out on sleep can be quite detrimental to your health and can certainly hinder your weight loss goals. Not only will a lack of sleep make you less likely to work out, but it can also affect your appetite; a factor that very few people with weight loss goals fail to consider. "Sleep helps to regulate appetite, metabolism and energy expenditure. When we sleep too little, we produce more ghrelin, a hormone secreted by the stomach that tells the brain that we want to keep eating, and less leptin, a hormone that tells the brain we’re full and satisfied,” says Rebecca Q. Scott, PhD, a sleep specialist at the New York Sleep Institute and an Assistant Research Professor in the NYU School of Medicine.
All cardio and no strength training will surely get you stuck in an exercise rut. "Short workouts with weights that are heavy for you will throw your metabolism into high gear and develop lean muscle fastest,” says Johnson. Fellows agrees that strength training is a must for anyone who wants to get fit fast. To get the most bang for your buck he recommends compound movements such as overhead press, squats, deadlifts, bench press, and pull-ups. "Larger muscles will burn more calories, making squats and other leg exercises more effective than bicep curls or crunches," says Fellows.
Both Gunnar Peterson, a celebrity personal trainer with more than 20 years of experience, and Isaacson advise avoiding carbs (especially the processed kinds like white bread, white rice and added sugars) at night. “Make breakfast bigger than lunch and lunch bigger than dinner. Avoid complex carbs after dinner,” says Peterson. "Complex carbohydrates are great for energy, but they have to be used at the right time, during the day. If you are craving a snack after dinner, go with a handful of almonds to keep you satiated through the night." Isaacson adds: "Towards the latter half of the day, your metabolism naturally begins to slow down, which makes it more likely that those recently digested carbs may be stored as unnecessary fat. In addition, your insulin sensitivity is believed to be reduced at night, which may also lead to fat storage."