How To Get Your Body Beach Ready All Year Round
Five tips for getting in shape, holiday or no holiday
Don’t stop reading, but we think we better address this from the top. The search for a beach body is bad. All wrong. For starters, it implies that you have to reach a certain standard before you’re “ready” to get your kit off. We don’t like that. It’s a holiday, can we not relax? “With the idea of the beach body, there’s a ‘not-beach body’,” says Mr Justin Jacob, who recently relocated from New York to London to join Tier X at body-temple group Equinox. “It licenses you to act a certain way around beach season and not at other times, which isn’t conducive to you actually having a beach body in the long term. And ultimately, that’s not conducive to good health.”
The beach body is merely an extension of the boot-camp mentality that exercise and diet are necessary evils to be endured, like temporary periods of penance. Thing is, nobody wants to live in a boot camp. “Even for me, any time that I do something super-strict, it’s typically followed by not exercising as much and just eating doughnuts,” says Mr Jacobs.
It’s far better not to subject yourself to the interminable suffering of the “quick fix” in the first place and make sustainable, unbreakable habits that will help you get beach ready – and stay that way. If for no other reason than that it’s always beach season somewhere. Read on for our tips for being beach ready all year around.
Before you worry about the right body-part split, concentrate on training in its broadest sense. “When you make a cake, the first thing you focus on isn’t the sprinkles,” says Mr Jacobs. Your base, in this case, is how many times you exercise a week and the quality of that exercise.
Frequency of exercise is the chief determinant in long-term adherence. The scientifically proven sweet spot is about four times a week. You may be tempted to go from nought to six, but chances are you will fail to hit that and promptly fall off the wagon into a cake-binge shame spiral. Aim for just “one step better” than you’re doing at the moment, says Mr Jacobs. That’s enough to create change that over time will mount up. And by succeeding (fun) rather than failing (less fun), you’ll also precipitate a “positive snowball” of other changes.
Speaking of positivity, “something is always something”, to borrow Mr Jacobs’ mantra, and much better than nothing. Not enough time to work out for an hour today? Work out for half an hour, or walk instead of getting the bus or train. “Because the next step from ‘I didn’t make it to the gym, I feel bad’ is ‘Ugh, I might as well just eat a burger,’” he says.
Ditch the shame and think long term
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” said Hamlet, and he knew a few things. Too often, we ascribe guilt to actions such as drinking a calorie-laden frappuccino when there is none. (Unless you count the sin against coffee.)
Rather than pretending to be someone you’re not – a frappuccino-refusing, boot-camping, no-fun puritan – try and behave in a way that more comfortably fits your values and is in line with your goals. Even if that requires a bit of mental gymnastics, or what business types call “reframing”. “If you can think in a way that’s like, ‘I’m the kind of person who really likes structure and routine,’ then it’ll be much easier for you to build an exercise habit versus, ‘I’m lazy,’” says Mr Jacobs.
When you’re looking at what you eat, it can sometimes feel like being in the eye of a storm: high-carb, low-carb, high-fat, low-fat. “All of them exist, so all of them have some validity, which also means that all of them have no validity,” says Mr Jacobs.
Just as the best workout is the one that you enjoy doing, the best diet is one that you can follow. If it’s wildly impractical for your lifestyle, or involves eating things that you don’t like or avoiding things that you do, then it’s probably not the one. “Find a way of eating that feels like you, compare it against where you are now and plan a step that’s in the right direction,” says Mr Jacobs. “Try it out for two weeks. How does it work?”
Again, be positive, not negative. Avoid avoiding and add, instead. One of Mr Jacobs’ clients lost a significant amount of weight by introducing a breakfast smoothie packed with protein, fruit and vegetables. In other words, not from any magical properties, but because he felt like the kind of person who made healthy choices. Another client who binged at night was encouraged to eat a bigger dinner and stock up on protein bars – not the best nutritionally, but better than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Congratulations, you’re now the kind of person who works out. But what should you do? As above, what you enjoy, first and foremost, which will help with frequency and adherence. “Keep an eye on the things you’re not doing and try to get some of that in there as well,” says Mr Jacobs. “So, if you’re only doing high-intensity classes, maybe look at low-intensity.” Likewise with strength work and cardio.
Major in the big four movement patterns: push (bench press), pull (row), hip hinge (deadlift) and squat, plus a loaded carry (farmer’s walk). Lower rep ranges improve strength, middle build muscle and higher promote endurance. Aim to cover all three. Body-part splits are for those who train enough to need them. Up to four times a week, you can hit your whole body. Write down what you pick up, then gradually raise the weight, reps or both. That’s called progressive overload, which is long for “progress”.
Like protein shakes, core moves are “supplemental”, says Mr Jacobs. The sprinkles on the cake, if you will. “Your time is better spent doing those big movements that are going to train your core anyway,” he says.
Fat loss is a more manifold process that depends as much if not more on what you do outside the gym, such as eating. “Abs are made in the kitchen and the bedroom,” says Mr Jacobs. Not that way, unfortunately, but by sleeping. You don’t lose when you snooze, but gain. Growth hormone is secreted at night. Conversely, vitamin Z deficiency will impair everything from muscle building to metabolism, digestion to reproduction.
Don’t lose sleep about, er, not getting enough sleep. “Don’t beat yourself up,” says Mr Jacobs. “If seven to nine hours is the ideal, where are you? What’s one step better? How can you improve quality if not quantity?” For a start, by banishing your phone – basically anxiety and blue light on tap – to the couch. “Your bed should only be used for sleep or sex,” says Mr Jacobs. A sleep diary will also help you identify and eliminate recurrent disturbances, whether that be street noise, a full bladder or a bandsaw-breathing partner.