The Latest From Top Fitness

6 Steps to Build Your Summer Beach Body

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Summer is just around the corner and now is the time to think about getting your body beach ready. In this post, I will lay out a plan for you now, to get in your best shape and have abs in time for beach season.

It’s a 6-step process that is going to get you into the best shape you’ve ever been this summer.

Set Your Goals Now

The first stage, as ever, is setting your goals. Now is the time to be thinking about the summer. Most people leave it too late and don’t have enough time to change their body as much as they want to. Don’t fall into that trap, give yourself plenty of time to make the changes you want to make.

Set your goals now, and give yourself a few weeks at the end to maintain once you’re at your target. If you go from dieting straight into partying, going on holiday, eating rich food, etc. you’re going to quickly regain a lot of weight.

Instead, try and maintain at your goal weight for a while, this will create a set point and allow your body to become comfortable at that point. This will make it a lot easier to maintain your weight around that point, and not quickly regain a lot of fat the moment you finish dieting.

Write your goal down, and create a vision of what it will be like once you achieve it. Write a couple of pages of narrative about how life will be when you’ve achieved your goal. Maybe it will be at a party, or on the beach on holiday. Write down how you will feel, how you will look, how other people will react to you, etc.

This vision is much more powerful than just writing a target number. It makes it real and meaningful for you. 

Commit to the Process

What do you need to do to achieve your goal? Commit the time to your schedule now, so that it is already planned in, and you never have an excuse. If it means being in the gym every morning to do cardio, then schedule it into your diary now. Every morning, first thing you will get up and go do your cardio.

Goals are important to us when we first set them, but can easily take the back burner when life gets in the way. Don’t let that be an issue, prioritize your training in your schedule so you are sure it will get done. 

Pre-Plan Your Meals

Getting lean for summer comes mostly from dieting. That means you need to set your calories and macronutrients at the beginning, and ensure that you meet them each week.

The best way to do this is to pre-plan everything in advance. Eating the same thing every week will make it much easier to follow. The worst part of dieting is when you’re struggling to figure out what you can eat. It’s not conducive to doing the right thing.

Don’t get stuck in this situation by making all the decisions upfront, know what you are going to eat, so that all you have to do in the moment is follow your plan.

Most diets work for most people, if they are followed. Things go wrong for people because they are unable to stick to a plan, and they don’t successfully follow the diet for an extended period. If you can overcome this problem, you will succeed.

By planning your meals in advance, batch shopping at the weekends and bulk preparing food whenever you can, you are giving yourself the best possible chance to follow the plan and be successful.

Work out how many calories you need, and then prepare several meals that fit the profile for what you’re aiming to eat. Keep them in the fridge or freezer, ready to pull out each day and eat. If you’re prepared and plan, following a diet should be easy. That’s not to say it will be fun, but it’s a short-term sacrifice, to get in great shape. 

Plan Your Cheat Meals

If you’re going to be dieting for an extended period, you will want to have a meal off now and then. It is best to plan your cheat meals in advance, have them as part of your plan. This gives you something to look forward to, and stops the guilt you might feel if you fall off the plan.

You’re going to want to enjoy the process as much as possible, and having cheat meals to look forward to can really help raise your enjoyment levels.

Cheat meals can also serve a practical purpose, to kick-start your metabolism and keep it firing on all cylinders. This is important because extended periods of calorie restriction can slow your thyroid down. By having a cheat meal where you eat a larger number of calories, you will kick everything back into full speed again and ensure you don’t slow your metabolism.

Create a Contingency Plan

Nobody is perfect and there is a good chance that something will go wrong at some point. It is almost inevitable. Rather than wait for it to happen, and then be thrown for a loop, create a contingency plan. What are you going to do if something goes wrong?

Even just asking that question prepares you for it happening and allows you to take any bumps in the road without getting thrown off course.

Find A Friend

Dieting is not the most fun you will ever have. Having a buddy in it with you for support can make a big difference. There’s going to be times when you don’t feel like training, or you’re wondering why you’re doing this, and having someone in it with you will help pull you through the tough times.

If you can find a friend to go through it with you, it will be great motivation. You can push each other on when you don’t feel like it, and the extra motivation will make a difference. If you can find a buddy to diet with, it will be worth it.

Sticking With Your Exercise Routine While You Travel

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The weather is warming up and summer is right around the corner. Between spring break, Easter holidays, and summer vacation, chances are you’ll be doing some traveling in the next few months. Unfortunately for fitness fiends, traveling and exercising don’t always go hand in hand. Many people use vacations and traveling as an excuse to skip working out for a week or so and eat whatever they want. Here are some tips for sticking with an exercise routine while you travel.

Wake Up Early

The chances that you’ll want to work out after a full day of touring and sightseeing are slim to none. Getting up early on vacation is difficult, but it’s likely the only way you’ll actually do it. You are traveling, so you don’t need to commit an hour of your day to working out. Just thirty minutes a day will help you maintain your fitness level without taking up too much time.

Go for a Run

Not on the hotel treadmill. Get outside and go for a run, jog, or walk. This is a great way to explore and get familiar with a new city. You may even discover a brunch place or coffee shop to visit after your workout. If you’re in a more rural area, you’ll get to see some beautiful scenery and even watch the sunrise if you’re up early enough. 

Utilize Bodyweight Exercises

While many hotels have gyms, it’s not always the case. Plus, they may be small, overcrowded, or not well stocked. Having a few routines that solely utilize your bodyweight will ensure you can exercise no matter where you are. Squats, lunges, burpees, pushups, sit-ups, and a basic plank will provide you with an effective full-body workout you can do in a hotel room.

Take a Class

Classes are a great way to exercise, especially if you prepay for them, since you’ll feel guilty about skipping it. Check Groupon or call around to a few studios in the area to see if they have any deals for first-time visitors. You may be able to try that barre or kickboxing class you’ve been thinking about doing at home.

Do Something Different

You don’t have to stick with the same old exercises you do at home when you’re on the road. If you have the chance to try something new, go for it! It’s especially great if you can incorporate exercise into your travel and touring plans. Go on a hike, take a surfing or stand up paddleboard lesson, or bike around the city.

Balance Your Diet

While this is exactly an exercise tip, it’s still important to focus on your diet while you’re traveling to help you stay in shape. You don’t want to miss out on great foods while you’re away, but you also don’t want to get completely derailed by eating doughnuts every morning. Try sticking with the 4-1 ratio. For every one unhealthy thing you eat, you should eat four healthy things. That way, you’re eating healthy foods 80 percent of the time, but not depriving yourself of a little fun.

Ways to Stay Motivated to Work Out at the End of the Day  

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Trying to exercise at the end of a long day at work can seem impossible. After spending eight or more hours at the office, all you want to do is go home and relax on the couch. While working out in the morning is a great idea for getting your exercise in, it’s not always possible. Here are some tips for staying motivated to exercise at the end of the day. 

Bring Your Workout Clothes to Work

If you have to stop at home and change, you’ll be tempted to stay home once you get there. Bring your workout clothes with you and change at the gym. Plus, you may feel a little guilty if you skip your workout after lugging your gym bag around all day.

Add it to Your Calendar

Schedule your workouts the way you schedule meetings and appointments. By writing down your workout time in your planner or adding it to your phone, it will seem more important to your life. Treat your workouts as a nonnegotiable part of your day.

Sign Up for a Fun Class

It’s nice to have something to look forward to at the end of the day, so why not make that thing your workout? Instead of forcing yourself to do an exercise you don’t like, take a class where you know you’ll have fun and maybe even meet some new people. There are classes for every interest—yoga, boot camp, kickboxing, Pilates, Zumba, step, hip-hop cardio, and more.

Reward Yourself

Use rewards to motivate yourself to work out. You can promise yourself a glass of wine or a small piece of chocolate after a workout on days when you’re really unmotivated. However, we don’t necessarily recommend always using food as a daily reward. Keep track of the times you actually do your workouts and reward yourself with a new pair of sneakers or some great workout gear after a few months. If that doesn’t work, try reversing it. Every time you skip a workout, put a dollar is a jar to donate to a political candidate or cause you disagree with. 

Have a Workout Buddy

You don’t want to skip out on your workout if you have someone waiting for you. Reschedule that happy hour and use your time at the gym to catch up with your friends, instead. You can also hire a personal trainer and think of her as your “workout buddy” who’s waiting for you at the gym. Plus, you probably paid for this person’s time already, so you don’t want to lose your hard-earned cash.

Eat an Afternoon Snack

If you’re super hungry after work, you’re likely to hit the kitchen before you hit the gym. Even if you do make it to the gym, you probably won’t have a great workout if your stomach is growling. Eat an afternoon snack an hour or two before you leave the office so you’re not starving during your workout. Keep fruit, Greek yogurt, rice cakes, and peanut butter in your office so you always have something healthy on hand.  

Set the Bar Low

If you’re really not feeling it, try telling yourself you’ll exercise for just ten minutes. If you still feel bad after ten minutes, you can go home guilt-free. Sometimes you really do need a break. However, you’ll usually find that after ten minutes you feel a lot better and more motivated to see your workout all the way through. Getting started is often the hardest part.

Snacks to Keep You Full and Energized

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Healthy people know that a good diet is the key to getting and staying in shape. Starving yourself with heavy restrictions may get you off to a fast start, but it’s not sustainable. It’s unhealthy and can make you very sick or lead to series injuries or illnesses. It can also make you feel sluggish and tired. Eating the proper amount each day will keep you full, healthy, and energized.

You should aim to eat three meals every day with two small snacks in between. Unfortunately, while many people may plan healthy meals, it’s way too easy to fall prey to unhealthy snacks. Bags of chips or doughnuts in the office are all to tempting, but they’ll leave you feeling unsatisfied and won’t give you the energy you need to make it to your next meal. Here are some healthy snack ideas to keep you energized all day.

Almonds

In general, nuts are full of healthy fats that your body needs to survive. Almonds are packed with filling protein as well as other nutrients like potassium, calcium and magnesium. Just be sure to watch your portion size, since the high fat content means that they are also high in calories.

Guacamole

Who doesn’t love guacamole? Skip the chips, though, and try one of these healthier options. You can replace a veggie dip or ranch dressing with guacamole for double the vegetables and lots of nutrients. In the mornings, you can spread guacamole on a piece of whole-wheat toast. 

Fruit and Cheese

The warmer weather means more access to fresh product, including delicious fruits. Fruit and cheese is a healthy snack that can feel indulgent from the sweet fruit and creamy, salty cheese. However, fruit provides fiber and vitamins, while cheese has protein and calcium. Be sure you eat more fruit than cheese to limit the calorie count. Try strawberries, which are in season in many parts of the country in the spring. Melons have a high water content, which will help hydrate you, as well.

Peanut Butter & Banana on a Rice Cake

This is a great snack to eat before a workout. Choose a brown rice cake for complex carbohydrates to give you energy. Bananas contain potassium that will keep muscle cramps at bay while the peanut butter has protein that will help you feel full and prevent your energy levels from crashing after an hour.

Eggs

Eggs are a great protein-rich food. They contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs to get by eating foods. Protein keeps you full and helps you build muscle. You can put eggs on whole-wheat toast, scramble them, make an omelet, mix them with vegetables, make them into a burrito, fry them, or hard boil them for a portable snack. 

Water

Okay, this one isn’t a snack, but it will help you feel more energized. A lot of times when you feel hungry, you’re actually feeling thirsty. Dehydration can make you feel sluggish and decrease your metabolism. Drink water consistently throughout the day to keep your energy up without any caffeine. You can add fruit and herbs like lemon, cucumber, strawberry, basil or mint for extra flavor.

5 Unconventional Gym Tips To Double Your Gains

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There’s some things that I have found to be a great benefit, both to myself and to my clients, which nobody else talks about. Much of this goes against the ‘conventional wisdom’ in the fitness world, but it works great, so give it a go!

 Train every day

Yes, rest days are important, but there is great power in going to the gym every day.

The habit of being in the gym every day is as important as what you happen to be doing in your workout. You shouldn’t be training hard every day, it will tire you out. Rest is important, but the best form of rest is active recovery.

Go to the gym every day, but only train 3-5 times per week. The other days spend stretching, working on mobility, doing cardio, doing yoga, etc. These will all help speed up your recovery, improve your strength and movement, and maintain a strong habit of being in the gym every day.

They have benefits outside of the gym too, increased energy, focus, etc. if you go in the morning and just do cardio or stretching, it’s a great way to set yourself up for the day to come.

Close your eyes and breathe between sets

Most people spend their rest periods chatting to friends or texting on their phone. That’s pretty much a complete waste of time.

A better option is to spend the time stretching or getting prepared for your next set. An even better option is to close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Not just breathing, but get inside your body and feel the breath coming into the muscles you’re working.

It’s a form of meditation; create the vision that you are riding the breath into the muscle you’ve been working. Feel it disperse across the muscle, giving it a positive energy, and then as you breathe out, imagine dispelling the lactic acid from the muscle.

This sounds kind of crazy, but it has a few key benefits. By controlling and taking deep breathes you will recover quicker, and be ready for your next set earlier. By imagining being ‘inside’ the muscle you are working, you are creating a stronger mind-muscle connection. You’re essentially laying down a neural pathway from your brain to the muscle, that will help you focus on the muscle more during the set, create stronger contractions and get a better training effect.

On a more meta scale, you’re remaining fully focused for the duration of your workout, instead of scrolling your Facebook feed. You will have better workouts, train harder, be finished quicker, and maintain more of a flow state. Staying present in your body throughout, instead of getting distracted and going back into your head. 

Don’t count reps, instead ask what you’re fighting for?

It’s really not that important how many reps you do. A rep range is just a guideline designed to ensure you have sufficient time under tension during the set.

When counting reps we tend to have a predetermined number in mind that we want to hit, and when we do, we will stop there. That number also tends to always be a round number. Think about every set you’ve ever done and stopped on 10 reps. I guarantee you could have done 11 at least half of the time. Those reps add up, over time.

Anyway, instead of counting, try asking yourself the question; “what am I fighting for?”.

Connect with your purpose. What is driving you; why are you in the gym training, when you could be laying on the sofa?

Answering that will give you inspiration, and that will make you stronger. When you forget about how many you’re doing, and get lost in your purpose, you will do more reps, every time. That’s going to lead to better training outcomes, and mentally keep you highly motivated and connected with your goals.

Train your full body, every time

Most people are on some kind of split training plan that is designed by, or for, a bodybuilder. Yet most people are not pro bodybuilders – they just want to get a bit stronger, add a bit of muscle, and get a bit leaner.

The best way to achieve those goals is by doing full body workouts. Skip the split routines, forget about isolating a specific muscle for 40 sets in one workout. Train your whole body. You will burn more energy, create a bigger hormonal change, and get in better shape.

You don’t have to do the same thing every time, but use the whole body. One day might be vertical push/pull/legs – so overhead press, pull ups, squats. Another day would be horizontal push/pull/legs – bench press, rows and deadlifts. Mix it up, but use the whole body for best results.

Use less weight

Yep, I’ve written about this before; you can actually make more progress by using less weight.

How?

By doing the reps better. By slowing the tempo down, focusing on squeezing the muscle to get the best contraction, and working the muscle to its full potential; instead of moving the weight from A to B.

Most guys lift too heavy. They’re too caught up in the numbers, driven by their ego. How may reps can I do, at what weight?

Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Your body cannot tell the difference, it only knows how hard it is working, and it is easier to make the the right muscle work harder by using less weight.

It should still be moderately heavy, you don’t want to be doing sets of 50 (for the most part), but focus on movement quality, rather than weight lifted, for best results. 

These tips might be a bit out of left field, but give them a go and I promise you will feel the benefits.