The Last-Minute Panic Beach-Body Guide
Illustration by Mr Patrick Leger
Excessive exercise in the eleventh hour won’t get you beach-ready on time. But follow our three-step holiday prep guide and we promise you’ll feel better about your body.
Achieving a beach body is really not that complicated: train hard, eat well, sleep, repeat, try not to overdo it when you go out. The sticking points are discipline – and time. Time being the real doozy. Especially when it’s June.
“Every June and July, we get new clients saying: ‘I’ve got four weeks until my holiday – what can I do?’” says London-based personal trainer Mr Tim Walker of Evolution of Man Fitness (eomfitness.com), who has metamorphosed the editors of Men’s Health, Esquire and The Sunday Times Style into beach-ready Adonises. “At which point we reply, ‘Come to see us two months ago.’”
However, should you find yourself less than beach-ready with only a week until you leave for warmer, sandier climes, there are some tricks of the fitness trade that you can employ for a last-minute fix. Disclaimer: they’re not exactly sustainable, or even advisable under normal circumstances – but… desperate times, and all that. Of course, everything below will work better if you actually have been going to the gym for the past month. But you don’t want to hear that, do you?
TRY SOME TROMPE L’OEIL GROOMING
You can shave a few pounds off visually via careful manscaping. “Hair obscures what little definition you might have,” says Mr Walker, though he adds that you can also go too far. “If you’re totally hairless, you’ll look like an egg with nipples. Just shorten it, especially around the abs.” And a short back and sides will also trim you down: “Whenever a client has their hair cut, they always look slimmer. We see them every day and it still tricks us.”
If you’ve ever wondered, meanwhile, why bodybuilders coat themselves in Cuprinol wood stain before a contest, it’s because a tan enhances definition. “The darker you go, the leaner you’ll look,” says Mr Walker. Cancer-incubating sunbeds are obviously out of the question, but with some judicious fake tanning – professionally applied, ideally – you’ll less resemble a beached Moby-Dick. (Just be careful of suffering the fate of Mr Ross Geller in Friends, and getting sprayed a little too dark: “I’m an eight?”)
EMBARK UPON A MINI DIET
Even with a few days to go, there are a couple of things you can do food-wise. “Reduce carbs, and pump yourself full of water and green vegetables,” says Mr Walker. Carbs can cause bloating; they also encourage your body to retain water between your skin and your muscles, which makes you look puffier. (The fibrous veg, aside from being nutritious, will help you feel full and stay on the wagon when reducing your carb intake.)
By drinking more water, you encourage… um… excretion. Then when you cut back to a normal or slightly lower intake on the day of departure, you’ll continue to, well, excrete, reducing your stored water. Bodybuilders often take this to a dangerous, drug-induced degree that, like their taste in swimwear, is clearly not advisable. (Asparagus is a healthy diuretic.)
While, as mentioned, we’re not endorsing a carb-fest, any you do eat on that first night away will fill your depleted muscles rather than your belly. Mysteriously, you may also wake up the next morning slightly more dehydrated – what was in those fruity cocktails? – and therefore a little more defined.
The secret weapon for “ripped” photoshoots, and the explanation for the surfeit of changing-room “swelfies”: quick lifting – you look your best for the hour or so after a weights session, as blood fills your put-upon muscles.
You can take advantage of this just before you take off your own T-shirt – emphasis on just before, about 20 to 30 minutes. “Too early and you’ll lose it and look flatter,” says Mr Walker. You’ll also exhaust the stored glycogen in your muscles (see above), which is why a quick pump is preferable to a full workout. Not that there’s any risk of that by now.
Walker recommends targeting your visible “beach” muscles of the chest, shoulders and arms with press-ups, lateral raises – where you lift your arms out to the sides – and bicep curls. (Perform the latter two with a baggage-friendly resistance band.) Focus on high reps and squeezing the blood into the muscles. And next time, try to squeeze in a few more PT sessions.