#FitnesswithKaren: Want That Summer Body? Here's How to Start Now

I think it’s safe to say there are certain goals on everyone’s bucket list. During my teenage years, it was to be confident enough with my body to wear a bikini Kylie Jenner would approve of. So, when I turned 17, I wanted to change how I felt both mentally and physically - and it started with changing my lifestyle.

I’ve only taken my fitness journey seriously for a little over a year; however, in that time, I had to mentally and physically break myself down just to rebuild tougher skin. I’ve taken it upon myself to get a nutrition and fitness coach for the purposes of self-discipline and awareness. The knowledge I have gained is invaluable and so, I wish to share with you all a breakdown of my typical week, including some tips on finding nutritious food to eat at Penn’s dining halls. By reading about the path I’m taking to get my ideal summer body, I hope that I can inspire you on your own personal journey of improved physical and mental wellness.

Monday Muscle

You’re recovered from the weekend, so the best way to start a Monday morning would be a Muscle Workout. Of course, depending on classes, mornings might be filled with note-taking and lectures, but they are the best time to be working out! I usually hydrate and have a small snack about 30 minutes before going to the gym because I don’t want to be full from a hearty breakfast. Since it’s Muscle Monday, I also tend to spend the bulk of my time in the weight room. Pottruck has a nice variety on the second floor. Usually, my warm-up consists of just 20-25 minutes of cardio (treadmill, elliptical, anything to get your heart rate up), an ab circuit, and whatever I am targeting that day.

A summer body has a lot of factors, but the ones I tend to focus on are a flat stomach, lifted butt, and toned arms. I’m fairly active all year round, but what I find works best are sets and rest days. Therefore, Monday’s are abdominals and arms:

  • Start off with an abdominal circuit: 30 seconds leg lifts, plank hold, and sit-ups with a 30 second rest for 3 sets

  • Move onto deadlifts: Try less weight, but more reps.

  • End the workout with some low intensity cardio (about 20 minutes cycling on a low level).*

*People make the mistake of doing easy workouts in an insane number of reps. Remember: if the workout is easy to do, it isn’t working!

Now, the best part of any day: food. As a freshman, dining plans were thrust upon my Campus Express account before I even knew the horror of dining halls. Now, I love dessert as much the next girl, but having ice cream at every single meal was bound to happen if I didn’t restrict myself. So, after contacting my nutrition coach, we picked out the best meal options that the dining halls have to offer. Usually, after a hard workout consisting of a lot of lifting, Hill offers a great chicken and rice meal in their grill area. You can also ask for brown rice instead of white and to leave out the sauce. Add veggies if needed and top it with a nice iced water.

Tone Up Tuesday

What a lot of people aren’t aware of is that targeting body parts is not ideal for overall fat loss. This means that just doing abdominal workouts will not produce that notorious “eleven” (i.e. a flat stomach created by targeting the oblique muscles). A person has to decrease their entire body fat percentage to get a toned figure. Also, while cardio is essential for lengthening muscles, heavy lifting is the secret to decreasing body fat. So repeat after me: body targeting DOES NOT WORK.

With that being said, Tuesday workouts are normally more about lengthening than bulking up:

  • First, do a cardio workout (about a 30 minute continuous run on the treadmill and a 15-20 minute cool down on the elliptical). Running is especially exceptional for lengthening muscles and slimming your body.

  • Tuesday is also butt day. I tend to do a superset of squats (around 50 lbs., 7 reps x 3 sets), glute hams (6 x 10), and leg press (only about 45 lbs, 3 sets). Again, less weight, but more reps and rest.*

  • End the workout with about 20 minutes of cycling just to get your body back to baseline.

*NOTE: Heavy lifting does not mean bulky muscles. So many girls are afraid that lifting will ultimately lead to this; however, I lift about 4 days a week and I can testify that all the stories you hear are simply just myths.

Best part of the day again! Another alternative to healthy eating would be Houston Hall, specifically Ginger. The macros actually aren’t that bad, and it gives you a nice post-workout meal. To give you an example, here’s what I always order whenever I’m eating at Houston: BYO ginger rice noodle bowl with chicken or shrimp (usually I go for shrimp since it’s a bit leaner), minced ginger, snow peas, broccoli, and eggs. I could explain all the macros that go into that meal, but take my word for it, it’ll fill you up and it’s delicious!

Whatever Wednesday

Whatever Days are just like what they sound - the workouts tend to just be whatever you want to work on that day. Whether it’s another abdominal/arm workout or squat superset, Wednesdays are pretty lax in comparison to the beginning of the week. Usually, I tend to work out areas that focus on appearance rather than strength. Just an example of a simple, but effective workout:

  • Warm up (of course)

  • Ab workout (3 sets with 30 second rests)

  • Chair leg lifts

  • Dumbbell side bends

  • Sit-ups/planks

  • Arms/back (superset lac pull down 4 x 10)

  • Bicep curls (4 x 10, little to no rest)

Of course, this could vary each week. Some Wednesdays include deadlifting or squats, and others include increased cardio or HIIT training. It simply depends on what you want to focus on during your workout.

Now again, my favorite part: food. 1920 Commons usually is pretty good about consistency. There’s some sort of pasta on the right side, some kind of homestyle meal on the left, and the expo bar in the middle. Whenever I go to Commons, salads are pretty much my go-to in terms of veggies. A makeshift salad with light Italian dressing would suffice; however, if you want to be a real health nut, try substituting spinach in place of lettuce. . It might be a little strange at first, but it grows on you. Although the expo bar is great, stay away from those processed taco shells. If you don’t know what’s exactly in your food, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Another pro-tip: Look for the Panini press - if you know, you know.

Take It Easy Thursday

Thursdays are rest days. Take advantage of your first rest day of the week and use this extra time to get ahead in your classes or to make social plans. When I first started my fitness journey, I believed that rest days were unacceptable and that I would see faster results if I skipped out on those days. However, your body needs time to recover from all the workouts you put it through. Even if you try to skip rest days, your body will force you to take a day off. So just listen to it and let it happen.

Now food! I tend to eat a lot of carbs during rest days just because I don’t need too much protein if I’m not working out that day. Dining halls do fairly well with keeping their fruit stocked (shout out to Hill), but I eat a little less on Thursdays than other days. I will usually eat one meal (usually lunch or dinner) and snack throughout the day. Pasta from Commons is a good choice or a light meal from Hill usually does the job. Once you get your plate, you can sigh in happiness that you don’t have to visit the gym until tomorrow.

Flexible Friday

Fridays are one of my most energized days. It’s right after a rest day and there aren’t usually too many classes on Fridays. I tend to spend my Fridays at the gym, stretching with some yoga and getting my muscles loosened. You can lay on a lacrosse ball to target any muscle areas that are tense. Basically, if it hurts, it’s working. This practice does not have to be done every week.

Fridays also tend to be one of my hardest days in terms of working out. Some sort of heavy lifting (deadlift or dumbbells), cardio, ab circuit with weight, and some sort of butt workout. But simply browse around the weight room and see what catches your eye. Don’t be scared of the weight room! So many girls are worried they won’t know how to use a machine or that they’ll get intimidated seeing strong-looking people. I’ll admit, at first, even I used to go to the weight room only when I knew it would be empty. However, we all start somewhere! Trust me when I say that people are too preoccupied with their own workout to bother seeing you read the instructions to the Glute-Ham.

Now, Flexible Fridays are rightly called so because of the limitless food options. Because I like to think of Friday as the weekend, I also like to give myself a break from dining hall food. There are lots of great healthy(ish) food places around campus, namely Just Salad, Sweet Green, and Honeygrow. It’s the end of the school week so go out and celebrate with your friends at one of your favorite off-campus spots!

Surviving Saturday

Saturdays are mentally the hardest day to get to the gym. Not only is it the start of the weekend, but supersets and circuits are also probably the last things on your mind. I always tell myself that tomorrow is a rest day, and the least I could do is give myself a kickass workout. Also, getting up at the same time everyday is essential for not feeling fatigued during a workout. Not only will getting up early be easier, but workouts are more effective in the morning than later in the day. Just think of how amazing you feel after a hard workout, and if you hate working out, getting it out of the way in the morning will make your day so much better.

I tend to make Saturday a cardio-intensive day. When I plan my workouts for each day, I measure how I’m feeling that morning, in addition to the workout I performed the previous day. Since Friday was a fairly heavy day, I usually take away the supersets and spend more time on the treadmill or cycling. I, of course, cannot resist an abdominal circuit (usually any variation works as long as the rest time is within a 30 second interval... TIME IT), and spend the rest of my workout doing any form of arm tightening (dumbbells, pull-downs, or that one machine on the third floor of Pottruck on the left next to the Triceps’ Curl). These are pretty cardio intensive, so make sure you stay hydrated!

Food is fairly lax, however. I normally have games or activities during the nighttime, so I usually eat only two small meals and then snack throughout the day. I don’t tend to spend too much money or swipe in anywhere on Saturday just because I do something different every week.

Recovery Sunday

The best day of the week! Recovery Sunday is just like what it sounds - repairing your body! This is the day where the only working out you’ll be doing will be walking to a dining hall to get a nice cheat meal.

Cheat days are a must. Restricting yourself from the foods that you indulge in will only make you binge eat. So, in order to prevent an 18-cookie snack marathon from Insomnia (it’s a thing!), you have to have small cheat days so your body stays happy. So go ahead and do your body a favor!

There you go! My workout schedule and tips on food for the week for all of you gorgeous Her Campus readers who are trying to achieve your summer body goals. Remember that being confident in a bikini body requires confidence in your workouts as well. If you constantly worry about how you look at the gym, you won’t get the results you deserve.

*Disclaimer* You do not have to get a “summer body” for the purpose of appearing beautiful to others; if you’re trying to do this, do it for yourself. After all, beauty in its true and honest form is rooted in self-confidence. Also, I am not in any way certified for anything (aside from lifeguarding), so please take this schedule with a grain of salt. This might not work for everyone; it’s just a week plan that I find gives me the best results. Additionally, if you’ve never done any heavy lifting, please don’t try it by yourself. Use dumbbells or get a certified trainer to teach you the correct way to squat or deadlift. The worst thing you can do is hurt yourself. Regardless, it’s not going be an easy journey (it’s not supposed to be), but trust me, you got this.