The bikini challenge
With a beach getaway to Mexico coming up fast, I was looking to put a bit of effort in and tone up as much as possible after my indulgent holiday season. So when new Toronto women’s club Elements Diet and Fitness offered me 30 days to use of their facilities, including weekly visits with personal trainer Jesseny Rojas and nutritionist Victoria Orlewicz, I jumped at the chance to get into bikini-ready shape.
My program began with a fitness- and body-composition assessment by Rojas and a food-diary assessment by Orlewicz. I liked how the fitness assessment focused on functional usage like core strength. I also appreciated the challenge of writing down what I ate for five days. (This is an exercise worth doing on your own, even without an expert opinion. Download our food diary template to try this at home.)
My assessment results
When it comes to fitness, I tend to overemphasize cardio and avoid weights. I already knew I should be doing more strength training, but Rojas helped me move beyond the “should” phase by designing a circuit plan that moved fast enough to keep me engaged.
For my new eating plan-and I should note here that I’m a vegetarian-Orlewicz suggested that I include high-protein foods with every meal, and switch to eating five smaller meals per day (rather than sticking to the usual three larger meals) to even out my blood sugar and curb cravings.
Bikini-body tip #1
Before switching up your fitness or eating plan, take a look at your current lifestyle habits and identify possible changes.
Setting fitness goals
Four weeks isn’t enough time to achieve major weight-loss or fitness goals, but you can make a dent in your long-term goals and take a big step toward healthier lifestyle changes. If you’re really committed, says Rojas, “a total of up to 10 lbs and at least one dress size can realistically be [lost] in four weeks.”
I decided on a couple of goals that I knew were realistic and attainable. First, I wanted to come up with a simple strength-training program that I knew I could keep up and that targeted all my major muscle groups. Second, I wanted to focus on building up my arm muscles.
Bikini-body tip #2
Set attainable goals you know you can stick with. Orlewicz recommends setting your sights on eating more unprocessed whole foods. As for fitness, don’t take on too much too soon, warns Rojas. Increase your levels of activity gradually rather than overdoing it.
Setting eating goals
Part of Orlewicz’s plan for me was a sample week of meals with recipes included, all tailored to my dietary preferences and her suggested upgrades. For instance, one day included:
Breakfast: Vegetable omelette with a slice of sprouted bread and 1 tbsp natural nut butter
Morning snack: 1 cup of berries with 10-12 almonds
Lunch: Beet, carrot and apple salad and quinoa tabouleh
Afternoon snack: Sliced raw vegetables and 1/2 cup of hummus
Dinner: Vegetarian chili
Dessert: 1 cup of berries with three squares of 70% organic dark chocolate
Four weeks of getting fitter
Rojas put together a circuit plan-a series of strength-training exercises performed in a row, followed by a burst of cardio then repeated-aimed at getting me stronger while keeping me entertained.
Build your own circuit with Best Health’s full-body workout series. (If you’re new to regular exercise or considering a serious upgrade to your workout routine, speak with your doctor and a fitness professional about your plans-nothing will ruin your vacation more than an injury.)
Bikini-body tip #3
For fastest results, Rojas recommends doing your circuit three to four times per week, followed each time by 20 to 45 minutes of moderate cardio such as brisk walking, running, cycling or the elliptical.
I didn’t lose any pounds over the four weeks but I didn’t really expect to. Instead, I gained some muscle definition in my arms thanks to what felt like a billion one-legged push-ups. And while it’s hard to tell for sure, I think my butt is perkier-it had better be, after all those squats and lunges.
But most important, I gained an appreciation for my body and how much stronger it can get. Sure I collapsed in giggles (supported, of course) off the balance ball at least a few times, trying exercises that I wasn’t quite coordinated enough to manage. But now when I go back to my regular core and yoga classes, I notice how much stronger I am-and that just makes me want to go back for more strength training.