A Guide to Help You Get in Shape for Summer

by Matt Weik

Getting in shape doesn’t need to be difficult or taxing—especially if you make it a lifestyle. After some time, things become second nature and it won’t feel out of the norm. If you want to avoid becoming a statistic, follow these simple tips below to be on your way to a new, healthier you.

Monkey see, monkey do

We all want to feel included in things, especially when it comes to eating meals with others. The people you surround yourself with can help make or break your fitness and health goals. If you surround yourself with people who are constantly eating pizza and chips, more than likely you’re going to indulge as well. Whereas on the other hand, if you’re surrounded by people who eat clean whole foods and take care of their body, you’re also more likely to follow along and make better choices.

Don’t be afraid to reward yourself

You’ve hit the gym for quite some time now and you’re seeing progress, keep that momentum going by rewarding yourself. Maybe some of your workout clothes aren’t fitting the same anymore? Go buy some new pieces. Or go pick up that pair of running shoes you’ve been eyeing for months. These little “rewards” are actually a great way to stay motivated and on track. Each time you wear the new pieces of clothing or footwear, you’re going to be reminded of just how hard you’ve worked to earn those pieces. So, don’t be afraid to set goals and when you achieve them, treat yourself a little bit.

The power of positivity

The best way to reach your goals is to visualize them. Become obsessed with picturing yourself with the physique you always dreamed of. Tell yourself that you can get there through the hard work you have been putting in at the gym and in the kitchen. All of that hard work is going to pay off in the long run. Thinking positively rather than thinking you will never get to that point can help keep you motivated and on a track to hitting your goals. Seeing is believing and if you see yourself looking and feeling a certain way, you’ll eventually believe, work towards it, and make it happen.

Plan your workouts around when you are most energized

For some of us, getting home from work is like throwing in the towel for the day. You had a rough day, you don’t want to do anything other than eat dinner and veg out until it’s time for bed. And that’s ok, so long as you fit in your workout for the day. So, using this example, let’s say it would appear that a particular individual would have more energy in the morning before going to work, since after work they are less energetic. For that reason, it would be ideal to plan a workout into a morning routine. Maybe wake up a little earlier and hit the gym or go for a jog outside? Find when you are the most focused and energetic and fit your workouts in around those times. If the reverse is you where you have no energy in the morning and need ten cups of coffee just to wake up, yet you’re a night owl and seem to be very productive in the evening, then fit your workout into your schedule towards the end of your day. Only you know at what time of the day you’re feeling energized. So, plan your exercise routine in accordingly.

Sleep should be a priority

I’m not telling you to go sleep for 12 hours as if you were back in your dorm room at college, but rather, make sure you’re getting enough sleep to help your body to recover and function properly the next day. We live busy lives and it seems like we could all use more than 24 hours in a day, but since we can’t control that, we can only do what we consider priorities each day. Getting less than seven hours of sleep a night isn’t enough. On the flip side, sleeping for 12+ hours isn’t good for you either. The sweet spot seems to be 7-8 hours a night. With getting good quality restful sleep at night, your body is able to better manage hormone levels, stress, and allow your body adequate time to recover from workouts. In addition, getting 7-8 hours of sleep versus getting less (which means you’re awake longer) can help prevent you from overeating—especially late at night.

Don’t be afraid to ask for meals prepped to your needs

It’s nice to go out for dinner with your spouse or significant other. The downside is, no matter where you go, more than likely they aren’t going to prepare the food in a way that is conducive to weight loss. Majority of restaurants out there today give you double the portion you really need, uses butter and oils to cook, and loves to push their alcoholic beverages on you. Don’t stress, take control and you will be fine.

First off, skip the alcoholic beverages, they provide you with no nutritional value at all. Then, when ordering, ask them to prepare your food without any butters or oils. For instance, if you get a steak, tell them no butter. If you get steamed broccoli, ask them to simply steam it and not add any butter or oils to it. Yes, even something as basic as steamed broccoli is often not just steamed and put on your plate. Restaurants add butters and oils to make their dishes taste better. Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter or waitress these things. All they do is make a note on their pad, it’s no extra work for them. Also, when you get your meal, split everything in half and ask for a to-go box immediately. Then put half of your meal in the to-go box and save it for another meal.

Protein is your friend

If you want to feel full and stay full longer, opt for protein over a source of carbohydrates. Not only can protein help you feel satiated, but protein also helps build lean muscle. You can call this a win-win since protein builds muscles, muscles burn calories, and burning calories helps you get and stay lean. Make sure to have protein in all of your meals and even your snacks. If you find you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet, consider a supplement such as a protein powder. The cost per serving of protein powder makes them very inexpensive when you do the math of how many servings you are getting for the cost. To keep the price down, consider a whey protein concentrate or a blended protein over a straight whey protein isolate variety. But, whole food items and meals should always be your first option.

Listen to what your body is telling you

Your body has a way of telling you when it has not recovered fully from a workout—primarily in the form of muscle soreness. If you are heading to the gym to hit chest, but you still feel sore, skip it and work a different muscle group or simply hit cardio. Not listening to your body when it’s telling you something can have negative consequences. When you break down your muscle fibers, it takes nutrients and rest to rebuild those torn muscle fibers and allow them to grow and become stronger. If you tear them down again prior to the fibers being repaired, you’re doing yourself a disservice and wasting your time in the gym. Do not work the same muscle group on consecutive days. Have a least one rest day in between to allow the muscles proper time to rest and recover.

Stop focusing on the scale

People become obsessed with the number on the scale. They hop on every day to see how they are progressing just to get frustrated when they see the number increase when they are trying to lose weight. Stop stressing. Many times, our body can retain fluid—water. It’s normal and happens to all of us. Yet, that might not be the only reason the number on the scale is going up. The obvious is that you’re not sticking to your diet and you’re gaining weight. But another plausible reason for the increase is that you’re adding good quality lean muscle mass. Muscle burns calories and that’s definitely not a negative. Don’t be as concerned with what the scale is telling you. Rather, when you put on your clothes, how are they fitting? Are they getting looser in certain areas and tighter in the areas where you’re trying to build lean muscle? Perfect, then you know you’re on the right track.