Summer is upon us, so it’s time to roll away the layers, in more ways than one. With only a couple of months to prepare for longer days and shorter sleeves, now is a good time to kick that fitness plan into full gear. But the fitness world can drive you crazy, with its endless trends and new weekly weight-loss miracles. We’ve made it easy for you. Our get-fit guide will jump-start your summer goals and leave you with a plan that works all year long.
Step 1: Get Your Move On
The first leap into bathing suits is getting up off the (insert anything that keeps you from exercising) and into some motion. If walking into a gym solo has you nerved up like a sinner in church, there are endless trainings and classes that will keep the jitters at bay while sculpting your glutes through an endorphin high.
Deborah McElkenny, fitness trainer, instructor and owner of Coastal Body Worx (730 Kingstown Road, Suite B-1, Wakefield. 483-0927, www.CoastalBodyWorx.com) tells me about the unique Surfset class she offers at her studio. “Surfset, a class designed through instability training on a surfboard, is a dynamic workout that burns fat and increases core strength and creates long and lean muscles, stability, focus and flexibility.” And did we mention it’s done on a surfboard? Deborah goes on to boast about the core benefits of Surfset and two other feel-good favorites at CBX: Pilates Reformer and Total Barre.
“Pilates on the reformer lengthens and strengthens your body without being hard on your joints and is performed with a centering breathing that leaves you feeling energized and great. Total Barre tightens your legs, butt, arms and core and creates muscle endurance that carries over beautifully to other activities like biking and running. You can’t go wrong with any of these classes.”
As a longtime instructor and trainer, Deborah suggests working out 3-5 times a week and to mix up the styles of training to notice results. But, as we chat more about the greatest benefits of exercise, she agrees in that, “Without a doubt, people just feel better overall and are happier when they are exercising.”
Whether it’s Surfset, Pilates, Barre or any of the classes mentioned here, making a conscious effort to get your heart rate up is the starting point of any fitness regimen.
Step 2: Keep It Up
So now that you know exercise is a must, staying committed is the next step so that summer isn’t the only time to bare your biceps. Whether you’re lifting solo in the gym or working hard in a group setting, you gotta make it stick, like your commitment to smiling when your second grader gives you a ruler for your birthday.
If anyone knows how to stick to it, it’s Westerly Fitness owner, SBV High Quality Supplements founder and longtime personal trainer, Mike Volpe (231 Hight Street, Westerly. 315-0115, www.WesterlyFitness.com). “Consistency is key in any fitness routine,” Mike says. “Before stepping into the gym, box, ring or onto a field, you have to first be completely honest with yourself and decide how many days a week you can realistically dedicate to exercise. While you really only need three to four days per week, you must make a promise to yourself to commit to those days and make those workouts challenging.” Mike also mentions that even if at first, it’s only two days a week you can make work, then make a promise to yourself to get those two days in, every week. “Keeping in mind that your goal is to make your body strong and fit, if you challenge yourself during your workouts and stay consistent, no matter how many days you can do it, you will make progress and see change.”
Mike suggests “bang for your buck” workouts that will stimulate your entire body for change. Super-setting (doing exercises back-to-back as one set) moves like squats with jumping jacks or push-ups with mountain climbers is an ideal way to push yourself in a short amount of time. Any moments where you can raise your heart rate up with intervals of intensity, the faster you’ll be on your way to a healthier, leaner version of you.
Step 3: Eat the Food
Food. What do we do about food? Just when you think you have the whole food thing down, something new comes along just in time to slap that piece of (anything you thought you were supposed to eat) out of your hand and into the garbage.
So, what should we be eating to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Does it require starving ourselves? Can we eat carbs? Will we have to give up donuts forever? The obvious answer is that only if they’re cream-filled, because quite frankly, those aren’t as good as the other ones.
Fried pieces of dough aside, when it comes to looking for answers on health and nutrition, I turned to the expertise of husband-and-wife team of Dr. Nathan Charpentier and Snow Powers at Grassfed Farmacy, LLC (www.GrassfedFarmacy.com). Being a Doctor of Pharmacy and certified nutritionist, Nathan knows the ins and out of medication treatments and was provoked to develop a deeper practice in nutrition when he realized how food behaved much like the drugs he was filling prescriptions for. What also struck him was just how powerful nutrition is in preventing, treating and reversing many chronic diseases and how harmful misleading mainstream fads and diets can be to the human body.
When I asked Dr. Charpentier which five “super foods” people should be eating to support good health, he told me that it’s more about the five super food groups: lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and whole grains. “Nutrient dense foods need to be the priority and staple of your diet,” he tells me. “The more abundant the nutrient content of the foods we eat is, the better our ability to stay healthy, support our activity levels and release chemical signals to our brains that we are satiated after a meal.” In other words, we don’t fill up with junk that will go straight to our trunk.
He goes on to tell me that variety is the key to a nutrient dense diet and mixing up your meats, fruits and vegetables will meet your body’s cravings, rather than sticking to the same exact foods every day. When we chat about portion control, Dr. Charpentier says that your size and activity level dictates portion, but if you don’t know how to gauge that yet, start off with at least one palm portion of lean protein, one fistful of vegetables, one cupped palm of fruit and a thumb-sized portion of healthy fat at all of your meals and snacks. He also tells me to add in starches and whole grains on the days that are more active or when exercise is involved. “These portions can be incredibly satiating if you keep them filled with nutrients, rather than empty calories, which will better your chances of staying on track because you won’t be as hungry between meals.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of our conversation focused on some big nutritional myths, which most people fall prey to. “There are three big misconceptions,” Dr. Charpentier says. “One is that the scale number matters, the second is that calories are the most important in losing weight and third is that you don’t need to exercise to be healthy.” He tells me that body composition and body fat percentage are much stronger indicators of health than a number on a scale, and that someone could be very lean but also nutrient deficient and, on the flip side, a drastic drop in weight weekly may not be fat loss, but attributed to water and muscle depletion instead. Slow and steady should be the goal in any weight loss. In relation to this, Dr. Charpentier also explains that calories do not coincide with nutrient content, which means foods can be packed with calories and have minimal nutrition. And while if you eat less calories than your body burns, you will probably lose weight, if those calories are “empty,” you will not get what your body needs to run most efficiently. He says that this is the problem with fad diets, in that they have people eating a very low amount of calories, neglecting the importance of nutrient dense food, therefore leaving you starving your health, with unsustainable results – especially long-term – and quite miserable. His last point was that “diet alone will not keep you healthy” and staying active is the best and most underutilized medication out there today.
While no one is telling you to never eat a piece of cake again, the daily nutrition you feed your body influences your energy, efficiency, weight management and overall health and wellbeing.
Step 4: Finishing Touches
Let’s be honest, we all feel better when we take the time to pamper ourselves. Combine that with working out consistently and eating well and you have yourself a trifecta of happiness. Show off your hard work with some final touches that will beautify you from the inside out.
No one knows how to make you feel special like Uptown Salon and Spa. (31 Post Road, Westerly. 596-9100, www.UptownSalonSpa.com) Owner Maryanne Aluzzo, who is also a registered Dental Hygienist, says that working in health care and in beauty is really quite similar. “One-on-one contact and personalized attention in making people feel better is a common thread between the two fields,” she tells me. “At Uptown, we split our services evenly between salon and spa, and view each guest as individuals with unique needs, ensuring the desired outcomes are understood and achievable.” For example a little mascara is all you need to look alive, but if you’re anything like I am, you blow through tubes of it in less time than it takes you to down that first cup of coffee. Lash extensions are a perfect option to waking up with instant glam with little-to-no maintenance. Customize your lash style, from full-on fierce to barely-there naturals with the salon’s Lash Balm brand pieces. Or, show off those muscles and curves you’ve been working on with an organic natural-glow spray tan from their Vita Liberata product line. Slow-fading and streak-free, a spray tan is a safe way to shine.