Amidst the stresses of midterms and internship and job searching, getting bikini-ready for summer might be the last thing on your mind right now. We believe that any body wearing a bikini is a “bikini body,” but for collegiettes who want to tone up a bit before heading to the beach this summer, now is the time to start planning. Not only is slower change healthier than last-minute quick fixes, but it also leads to results that will last way past summer. According to Cassey Ho, a YouTube fitness guru, 12 weeks is the perfect amount of time to make a change in your body. Change your ways now, and you will see a difference by summer.
1. Change your attitude
First things first: don’t just think about it in terms of getting your summer body. Wait, didn’t we promise that following these steps would get you that hot summer bod? Yes, and they will—but there’s no way you’ll be able to follow through on them for three months unless you revamp the way you think about diet and fitness. Instead of thinking about it as a three-month or 12-week responsibility, think about it as a lifestyle change in order to become more fit.
“I always tell people it’s like looking for a career,” Ho says. “You’re not going to look for [a job] just for the money; you’re going to look for the one that makes you happy, and by making you happy and you trying to do the best that you can at this thing that you love, the money will come. So it’s the same with working out. You find the joy in it first, and those abs will come.”
2. Find inspiration
Whether it’s by starting a blog, making a Pinterest board or decking out a wall in your room with motivational pictures and quotes, a little inspiration can go a long way. Display your goals, curate workout how-tos and recipe ideas and have a place where you can check in to remind yourself of what you’re doing and keep yourself on track. Three months may seem like a long time to keep yourself in check, but surrounding yourself with inspiration and motivation will make it go by in a breeze!
But be wary of where you look: The Internet can be full of dangerous “thinspo,” or unhealthy images encouraging people to strive for unrealistically thin bodies, so seek out blogs and boards that place an emphasis on healthy transformations. A good rule of thumb is if something makes you feel guilty about or ashamed of how your body is now, it’s not a healthy source of inspiration to get your body to where you want it to be! Maintaining realistic expectations rather than holding yourself to an unattainable ideal will help you stay on track.
3. Cut the crap
Alright, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: your diet. If you want to transform your body by summer, there are undoubtedly things you’re going to need to change about the way you’re eating. According to Ho, results come from 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise and genetics, so before you do anything else, make the decision to cut out the bad stuff from your diet.
“Get rid of refined carbs like white bread and white rice, sugary drinks like soda and fried foods,” Ho says. “You don’t need those unnecessary calories and toxins in your body. Once you start eating clean and eating closer to the earth, the better your body is going to feel and the better you’re going to look.”
So, what does it mean to eat clean? Ho suggests filling your meals with vegetables and lean protein. A rule of thumb when it comes to vegetables is to eat your greens. They’re full of fiber, which are great for digestion and keep you full, so you won’t be tempted to snack unnecessarily. Lean proteins—that is, low-fat proteins like poultry and fish—build muscle mass and help you lose weight. If quitting the fried foods cold turkey is too much a change to handle, try gradually phasing them out of your diet by reducing your intake on a weekly basis.
4. Find a type of exercise you love
Finding the joy in working out can be hard; we know. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is drag yourself to the gym, hop on the treadmill and plod along for a half an hour. After too much of that, being healthy starts to feel like a job. For that reason, if you want a lifestyle you’re going to stick with in the long run, you have to think outside the box and find an exercise that you actually enjoy doing—and not just because it will bring you results.
“If you’re going to the gym, hating every second of it and dreading going back, that’s not something you can stick to,” Ho says.
Finding an exercise you really click with can take some experimenting, so don’t be afraid to jump around. Try some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or take a yoga class. Find a fitness YouTube channel or DVD that hits the right spot or start lifting weights with a friend. There isn’t just one right way to break a sweat, so start looking around for your perfect match now and you’ll have a better chance of sticking with it ‘til summer.
5. Pick a program
If breaking a sweat and monitoring your diet seems like enough work on its own, give yourself a break from the planning and leave yourself in the capable hands of the experts. There are a ton of 12-week programs out there designed to whip your butt into shape. You could check out Ho’s free 90 Day Challenge that combines her Pilates videos and an exclusive meal plan. If you’re not fainthearted, give P90X a go to dabble in resistance and body-weight training, cardio, plyometrics, ab work, martial arts and yoga all in the same program. Or try some tough love with Jillian Michaels’s Body Revolution. Or you could try the dozens more plans just waiting for you! Look around for a plan that suits your interests, whether that’s online, at your local gym or in the health aisle of your local bookstore (remember what Ho said about loving what you’re doing!), and get down to business.
6. Mix it up
For optimum results by your summer deadline, avoid plateauing by keeping your routine varied. Even once you pick your favorite exercise from above, take into consideration what might still be missing. Both engaging your muscles via weight training and cardio are important for full-body results.
“Once muscle is gained, your metabolism gets higher and you’ll be burning more calories throughout the day. But, of course, cardio is great for heart health,” Ho says. “Doing both is really best.”
7. Bring on the water
If you’re not already chugging water on a daily basis, now is the time to start. Not only will you need water if you’re upping your fitness routine, but drinking more water will reduce your cravings for other drinks with empty calories, according to Ho. Not to mention, she points out, it flushes out toxins and makes your skin look awesome. And who doesn’t want to have clear, glowing skin this summer?
If adding water to your daily routine is new for you, you can’t go wrong with the standard eight 8-ounce glasses a day. That may sound like a lot, but remember, a standard reusable water bottle will likely hold upwards of 20 ounces! Knock three of them back throughout the day and you’ll be good. Invest in a reusable water bottle and start carrying it to class every day.
8. Learn the golden moves
For those collegiettes who get intimidated in the face of complicated exercise plans, crowded gyms and fancy routines, a total-body workout is still possible by mastering a few simple moves. Ho suggests doing the following moves, starting with three sets of 15 reps each and increasing your reps when the moves start to feel easy.
The burpee: One of the best total-body workouts out there, the burpee provides cardio and engages your arm and core muscles. To perform it, begin standing up straight and squat down to place your hands on the floor in front of you. Then, kick your feet back to a plank position, do a pushup and immediately return your feet to the squat position. To finish, jump up from you squat position as high as possible, and repeat!
The eagle crunch: This modified crunch really engages your core muscles. Start by laying on your back and crossing your legs at the ankles and your arms at the wrists, like above. Next, stretch out, lengthening your fingers away from your toes and flattening your back to the mat. Then draw your elbows back toward your knees, pulling your belly button to your spine, just like a normal crunch!
Squats: No list of basic but effective moves is complete without giving a shout-out to the squat, the ultimate booty and leg workout. Proper squat form is imperative to avoid injury in your knees, so listen up! Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your hands straight out in front of you for balance. Then, lower yourself down (it helps if you imagine you're sitting in a chair) and keep your head facing forward. Allow your back to arch slightly as you sink down. Keeping the weight on your heels, lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are over your ankles. Then, return to start position.
Half-cobra pushup: To work your arms and core with this modified push-up, start by lying on your stomach with your arms bent and your hands pressed flat on the ground next to your armpits. Then, assume the half-cobra position by pushing up using your chest and keeping your legs flat and elbows bent. Then you just repeat—easy as that!
The up, up, down, down: This is another exercise that works your arms and core. As a bonus, it’s also killer on your shoulders. Check out Ho demonstrating how to do this move below!
9. Trust the process
No matter how sore you are, it’s easy to get discouraged when results don’t show up overnight. It’s important to keep in mind that if you stick to the plan you set out for yourself, you will see results eventually. Like Ho said, 12 weeks is long enough to see your body change significantly, so trust the process and change will come!
Once you put your faith in process, all that’s left to do is to get moving. See you on the beach, collegiettes!