Spring is officially here, which means we get to enjoy our extra sunlight in the evenings, spring break vacations, spring holidays, pastel-colored clothing. Best of all, summer is just around the corner. But wait! It's kinda scary too! We all know that summer means bathing suit time. Yikes!
If you haven’t already figured out that it is time to shed your winter insulation layer (after all, we do have to keep warm, even in Laguna Niguel … I totally understand), well, let me be the bearer of bad news: It's time to get off your butt and start exercising!
Jump-Start the Routine
I find that the best way to make any fitness routine effective is to start with baseline measurements and track your results. Six weeks is a good time frame for before-and-after measurements, as it generally takes six weeks to form a habit. If you are afraid to look at your initial stats, that is OK too. Just find a loyal friend who can keep a secret (yes, keep it from you), and have him/her help you and record everything accurately so you can compare later.
You can also ask a trainer at a local gym to do this for you—most of them will do this complimentary (and if they refuse, come find me and I’ll do it for you!). As painful as this seems, trust me, you’ll be so incredibly happy when you can look back and see what you have accomplished.
Your baseline measurements should include measurements of your chest, waist, hips, butt, right thigh, right calf and right bicep. You can do this with any measuring tape, which can be purchased at a for well under $5.
I also recommend using your bellybutton as a marker for your waist measurement. I understand this not your true waist (whew!), but it is easier to be consistent if you have something like your belly button (which doesn’t move, duh) as a marker.
Get a Scale
Next, you will need a scale. It doesn’t have to be a fancy scale, but I have two requirements—one is that you use the same scale for your initial weigh-in and final weigh-in, and two is that you don’t weigh yourself again for six weeks. Weight can go up and down for a number of reasons (one being that muscle weighs more than fat, another being that when you’re sore, you tend to weigh more because your body stores water to repair your muscles. Of course, a large pizza and bowl of ice cream will do it as well).
If you wait a full six weeks and you have been sticking to a consistent diet and exercise program, you will be happy with your new and improved numbers.
Measuring Body Fat
The final part of the baseline measurements is body fat percentage. This is absolutely the most important number (ladies, sorry to say, but your body fat percentage is generally higher than the guys … and it should be!), and if you do not start in a healthy range, your No. 1 goal should be to get yourself in a healthy range ASAP.
This is the part where you will definitely need some professional help (no, I don’t mean the mental kind of help you think you need from subjecting yourself to this torture). Find a trainer, fitness instructor, or anyone who has access to body fat equipment. Your doctor can probably even do this for you. There are a number of different ways to test your body fat, but no matter what method you choose, just make sure to be consistent and use the same method to track your results accurately.
Run a Mile
Now comes the fun part—fitness testing. This includes four simple tests. First off is a timed mile (yes, I said mile). You can walk it or run it, but just make sure it is your best effort (at the moment), and record your time. There are great half-mile markers at the , so you can easily do an out-and-back run/walk. This will test your cardio, and as long as you’re seeing improvement between your initial and final results (you want this number to go down, just like the rest of the numbers so far), you will know that your heart is getting in better shape.
Next: three different strength tests (after all, we want you to look lean and toned, not just skinny and flabby in your teeny-weeny, yellow polka-dot bikini. Plus, you need to be strong enough to defend yourself against all the creepy people staring in awe at your fabulous figure). These are the tests that involve numbers that should go up.
A True Time Line
The time frame for each of these tests is two minutes, but if you cannot go for the whole two minutes, that is OK too—you should be able to in six weeks. You are testing max number of push-ups in two minutes (regular or on your knees in fine, but again, whatever you decide, be consistent and use the same method in six weeks), max number of sit-ups in two minutes (crunches are fine if you cannot do full-range sit-ups), and max number of full-range squats in two minutes.
If your initial number for any of these strength tests is a big fat zero, do not be ashamed! You are committed to getting fit, thus you will see results, and they will feel fabulous! After all, any number is an improvement from zero (since I’m pretty sure it is impossible to do minus-one push-up). So get out, get measured and start improving. It will feel so good to check out all the people rocking a farmer’s tan (is that a PC term?), because they refuse to take off their shirts and shorts at the beach. You have my permission to laugh … just don’t let anyone see you.