Build a Realistic Summer Fitness Routine

Summer can be a mixed blessing when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. It stays light later in the evening so you have more time to fit in fitness, there’s a wealth of fun activities to choose from, and it’s easy and pleasurable to get in lots of extra walking and biking. On the downside, the heat can make you just want to lie in a hammock until fall. A vacation feels like a great excuse to skip exercise entirely. And let’s face it, lounging poolside sure is a lot easier than doing laps!

Want this to be the summer you get into shape once and for all? Here are some practical ways to kick off the summer season exercise wise.

Establish goals.The way to do this is to focus on S-M-A-R-T goal setting: Set goals that are Specific (think about exactly what you want to achieve and how you will do it), Measurable (so you can see the progress you’re making), Achievable (you’re much more likely to maintain goals when they’re achievable), Realistic (consider your limitations and set goals within your capabilities), and Timely (every great goal is set on a timeline).

Shake up your exercise routine. There’s a reason they call it static state cardio—it’s so static that you won’t see results. Instead, engage in interval exercise, in which you alternate brief bursts of intense walking, biking, or swimming with periods of slower recovery. On the days when you don’t do intervals, schedule some core-strengthening exercises that will target the muscles in your back, abdomen, pelvis, and hips. These can certainly be done outside on a towel in the yard or even at the beach, allowing you to soak up the great weather while you’re getting fit.

Take the weather into consideration. If it’s sunny, be sure to wear sunscreen, along with UV-protective sunglasses and a hat. Wearing light colors in warm weather will keep you cooler by reflecting sunlight, and a light jacket that you can remove and tie around your waist is a good idea when the weather is iffy. Take a water bottle even if you are only taking a 20-minute walk, and if you like listening to music on a headset, keep it low enough to still hear the traffic noise. If you can’t exercise outdoors, head to an air conditioned mall and do your interval walk there. With global warming, it’s going to be over 100 degrees in some areas this summer, so you may want to think about doing intervals in a pool.

Don’t go it alone. Whether you enlist your teen, your spouse, or your roommate or best friend to work out with you, it helps to have a buddy. Taking a walk solo just isn’t as interesting as exercising with someone you can chat with. Can’t rouse anyone in your house to go for a 6 A.M. walk? Your dog is a willing workout companion no matter what time it is.

Don’t let a day off derail your goals. If you skip a couple of days of exercise, view this as a temporary setback rather than a permanent fixture, and don’t use your hiatus as an excuse to abandon your fitness routine entirely. Instead of bemoaning the setback, as in “I missed my workout today so I may as well quit,” just pick up where you left off as soon as possible.

Celebrate your accomplishments. To reinforce a job well done, give yourself a nonfood reward when you reach a fitness goal you’ve set for yourself. But don’t settle for settling into a ho-hum exercise routine for the rest of the summer. Come up with another fitness goal to achieve: If you always walk for exercise, for example, get that bike out of the garage and start doing biking intervals. Sign up for a charity walk with friends. Or get up an hour earlier than usual each day of your vacation to take a long walk on the beach, in the woods, or wherever you can.

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