Well, in case you didn’t notice, summertime is definitely here in Chicago!  In the wake of last month’s massive heat wave, we can only hope that better weather is on the way.  Afterall, we do live in Chicago, and I’m sure we all want to enjoy what little summer we get!  And for many of us, that means spending time outdoors, riding bikes along the lake, enjoying an afternoon stroll in the park, and yes, going to the beach!

Unfortunately, there are many people who won’t hit the sand this summer for one all too common  reason- putting on their bathing suits!  I always have people asking me how to  trim down so they can lay out in the sun without feeling embarrassed about how they look.  They are usually  distressed when I give them my famous answer- It’s not that simple!  If someone wants to look their best for the summer, they need to be planning well in advance, not waiting until the first couple weeks of June.  But more important than that is the idea of consistency; that is, being on a regular exercise program all year long.

Regular, consistent exercise along with proper nutrition and rest is the key to fitness success and looking good on the beach.  As I have told many of my clients, muscle will decelerate at nearly twice the rate as it is built up and strengthened.  I see many people who take the winters off from exercising.  What they don’t realize is that they have just wasted the last six months in the gym, because the results they saw will vanish if exercise consistency is not upheld.  It therefore makes it twice as hard to get started again, because it means literally starting over from scratch!

With all of that being said, there are certainly things everyone can do to improve their fitness and their appearance this summer.  But of course, it is not an overnight process.  It takes  time, commitment, and most importantly, consistency!  Regular exercise, both aerobic and anaerobic, is of the utmost importance for anyone looking to improve their physique.  Proper strength training combined with proper nutrition and rest, can lead to measurable strength gains as well as muscular definition.  It is wise to vary your workouts on a 3 to 4 week  basis.  This means changing the exercises you are doing as well as giving yourself new challenges.  For example, progressing from a seated bench press machine to a lying dumbbell chest press is a good way to stimulate new progress for the chest muscles.  It is usually wise to vary resistance levels on a weekly basis.  Basically, this means if you lift lightly (up to about 20 repetitions), the following week you would want to strive to lift a little heavier, so that you are only able to  accomplish 12 to 15 repetitions.

Aerobic exercise also plays an important role in improving one’s physique.  However, there is certainly a best and worst time to be doing aerobic exercise.  The best time for aerobics would be immediately after your workout with weights.  The reason for this is because after your workout with weights, you have depleted your body of glycogen, your body’s preferred fuel source.  Therefore, by doing aerobic exercise directly after your weights, your body turns to fat as a primary fuel source.  The final outcome?  You burn more fat!  If however, you were to do aerobic exercise before your weights, you would still deplete your body of glycogen, but your body has a much harder time burning fat during resistance training.  Therefore, your body must turn to muscle tissue as a primary fuel source.  The final result here?  You don’t burn fat and you lose muscle!  This is obviously not a good option!

And of course, when it comes  to looking good in our board shorts and bikinis, proper nutrition is just as important as exercise.  This is a challenge during the summer because it’s such an easy time to chug down the beers, and scarf down the cheeseburgers.  My advice- save it for the cheat day!  I allow all my clients one cheat day per week where they can eat what they want.  The other six days, however, need to be  focused on consistent, results oriented nutrition!  I could spend a whole newsletter on this topic, as I have done in the past.  The long and short of it is that you need to be spreading out your meals every three to four hours, having each one consist of a lean protein, starchy carbohydrate, and fibrous carbohydrate, all in equal size portions.  Portion sizes should not be outrageous and should be chosen according to each person’s current fitness levels and goals.

Although it may be distressing for some people that they are not able to achieve results as fast as they would like this summer, it is important to understand the concept of natural progression.  I’ve given you some ideas for improving your physique this summer, if in fact that is your goal.  Just be patient, and more importantly, just enjoy the summer!  You can always strive to be better, but also appreciate who you are right now.  Now get out there and have some fun!

I remember watching Popeye when I was a kid and wondering why his arms looked so strange.  I mean, come on, no amount of spinach is going to make someone’s forearms that huge!  That doesn’t mean, however, that forearms cannot see development just like other major muscles.

I tend not to get carried away with forearm training for one very good reason- we’re constantly using them!  Think about it.  Whenever we have to grip something, we’re actually contracting the muscles of the forearm.  We do this in our every  day lives.  More importantly,  we do this in our workouts!  Whenever we grip barbells, dumbbells or even machines, we’re working our forearms.  Free weights have more of an  effect than anything because we have to grasp that weight and stabilize the rest of our body for the duration of the set.  For example, stiff legged deadlifts work the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, but one can almost always feel it in the forearms as well.  In fact, it is not uncommon for the forearms to fatigue first, before the other muscle groups.

With all that being said, it is perfectly fine to isolate the muscles of the forearms.  An easy way to  do this is by performing wrist curls and reverse wrist curls with either a light weight barbell or dumbbells.  This is not something you have to do on a weekly basis, but it can certainly make an occasional nice adjunct  to your routine.  And don’t worry; I’ve never seen anybody come out of it looking like Popeye before!  But you should still be eating your spinach anyway!