If you're off on holiday soon, chances are you’re in a bit of a panic about how you’ll look in your bikini. But even if you only have a few weeks before you jet off on holiday, the good news is you can give yourself a makeover in as little as a month.
Fitness expert Josh Salzmann has put together an intensive four-week workout plan to help you look and feel your best. ‘You will have to work pretty hard over the next few weeks, but bodies are quick to adapt to exercise,’ says Josh. ‘If you follow the programme properly, after four weeks you should see a reduction in body fat and look more toned,’ he adds.
Each week, Josh introduces a new element of keeping fit, allowing you to build up an effective cross-training programme. As he points out, looking good and feeling healthy in the long term involve following a healthy diet, drinking a lot of water and continuing to work out regularly. Although the next month is important, don’t just stop after the four-week plan is over – this programme is a great way to help improve your fitness level and get your routine back on track, not just for summer but throughout the year.
Your task: to burn fat
How: through interval training
Your goal for this week: three 30-minute interval training sessions.
Interval training is one of the best ways to burn fat. It involves changing the intensity or level at which you are exercising for a couple of minutes during your workout. For instance, during your 30-minute workout, try running (or walking) at your normal pace for three to five minutes, then run (or walk) at a faster pace for three to five minutes, and slow down to your normal pace again.
If you’re working out on the step machine in the gym, step at a normal pace for three to five minutes, then take the resistance up for three to five minutes, and so on. Build up the intervals, so with each high intensity burst you’re working harder than the one before.
By working hard for short periods of time and allowing yourself time to recover, you can push yourself harder than if you tried working at a high intensity for an extended period of time. In working yourself harder, you push your muscles, lungs and heart to their capacity, thereby improving your overall fitness level and, consequently, your body’s ability to burn fat.
Josh recommends doing your interval training sessions in the morning if possible, as this will kick-start your metabolism for the rest of the day and ensure you burn as many calories as possible. This is because by working out in the morning you raise your metabolism and keep it elevated throughout the day. However, if you work out in the evening and then go to sleep, your metabolism slows down, so you don’t benefit as much from the increase in your metabolic rate.
Your task: to banish cellulite
How: through deep stretching
Your goal for this week: three 30-minute interval training sessions, followed by 15-minute deep stretch sessions.
Cellulite is like any other fat in your body, but the difference is in the way it’s stored. In women’s bodies, the connective tissue that runs between the layers of skin is tighter and closer together than in men’s bodies and, as a result, forms several bucket-shaped chambers. Fat is then stored in these chambers and, once they fill up, the fat protrudes over the top of the chamber, creating lumps and bumps that appear through the skin.
Marja Putkisto, author of The Method Putkisto (Headline Books, £12.99) has pioneered deep stretching to help eliminate cellulite. Her method actually alters the length of your muscles and the shape of the fat storing chambers, so that the fat is spread more widely across the tissues and is less likely to protrude over the top and produce dimply-looking cellulite.
So how does deep stretching work? Marja explains that it begins where a normal 30-second stretch ends. This kind of stretching involves lengthening the stretch for two to three minutes, using visualisation and deep breathing. The idea is to start by taking the stretch to the point where you feel the muscles resist, then hold it, breathe and focus your mind on relaxing and lengthening the muscle. When the feeling of resistance stops, stretch further and do the same thing again until you feel you can’t go any further. The result is increased flexibility, longer muscles and cellulite-free skin.
You can start with the following lower body stretches, but don’t push yourself too hard. If any stretch feels extremely painful, stop immediately.
Sit on the floor with one leg extended in front of you and the other bent so that your foot rests against the inner thigh of the extended leg. Bending from your waist, reach forward towards your toes with your hands, ultimately trying to press your stomach and your chest against your leg. You should feel the stretch along the back of the extended leg. Take hold of your shin or foot (however far you can reach) and keep stretching until you feel your muscles resist, then slowly push deeper into the stretch.
Lie on the floor with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right leg over your left knee so that your right ankle is resting on your left knee at a 90-degree angle. Reach forward and wrap your hands around your left thigh so that your hands clasp just under your knee. Lift your left leg so your foot lifts off the ground, and pull your left leg towards you. You should feel the stretch deep in your right buttock. Keep stretching until you feel your muscles resist, then slowly push deeper into the stretch.
Inner thigh stretch
Sit on the ground and bring the soles of your feet together, letting your knees drop out to the sides. Then sit up straight, rest your elbows along your inner thighs and gently try to press your knees to the floor. You’ll feel the stretch along your inner thigh. Keep stretching until you feel your muscles resist, then gently push deeper into the stretch.