PREP TIME! My best tips on getting into your top shape.

Summer bodies are carved in the winter.

Raw photo taken by Natalie Minh. I don't even have photoshop on my computer. I do not look like this right now, But I will in two months.
Raw/untouched photo taken by Natalie Minh. I like that you can see the scars from my new right hip!

The Old Glory bikini photoshoot will live in infamy, get used to it.

As a fitness model, I stay in decent shape year round, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes life just gets in the way (master’s degree, moving to Europe, holidays, vacations, impromptu karaoke with soju flying around, attending wine school) and you slip a bit. And that’s okay because life is supposed to be lived! So live it, then clean up your act.

So it’s the beginning of March and you don’t want to think about slipping into the bikini? Don’t despair, as long as you are committed to seeing your goals through to the end, these tricks of mine will serve you well. And please remember, how you feel is much more important than how you look, so never put yourself at risk by under-eating or overtraining. I just took months (gasp!) off because I was not feeling well. I was a little upset about it, but it was the right choice.

Know your limits and listen to your body.

I grew up running like a little banshee and playing every sport I could. I was always thin. After my hip surgery, when I started taking heavy weights and proper form more seriously, I discovered a whole new obsession. Weight training is challenging, but a nice reward is tone and shape. Furthermore, having muscle on your skeletal system automatically revs your metabolism by burning calories off of you all day long. But you don’t have to lift weights; cardiovascular exercise, yoga and other activities can get you there. (I’m just a really big fan of weight training!)

So here are some major tips that I stick to. Try them out and you’ll be ready to jump into that bikini by June. I could go into the science behind all of these tips, but they are pretty self explanatory so maybe just a little statement as to why I’ve adopted this habit. And after all, I am not a doctor or registered dietician (although my sister is, so luckily I can always get the scientific answers from her).

1. DRINK MORE WATER: I aim for a gallon or more every day. I literally walk around with the ugly plastic gallon container. Water keeps you feeling full and satiated and your bodily systems and functions perform optimally when you’re properly hydrated.

2. SET AN ATHLETIC GOAL: Having a goal in mind helps keep you motivated. In the past my goals have been marathons, triathlons and NPC contests. To be fair, I have also used upcoming photoshoots and my sister’s wedding as goals. (Oh, the vanity!) I find something like a 10k to be a great starting point. I’m running a half-marathon with my sister in July. That counts. I’m also moving back to the West coast where I will be working a lot more for my agency (not much fitness stuff shoots on the East side), so that is another motivator to kick my own ass.

3. CLEAN UP YOUR (FOOD) ACT: In my opinion this is tied with number five for most important action item. I don’t eat many processed foods, but remember, I am not one of these extremists, I taste things – hello, I am a chef! – and never let myself get to the point of writhing on the floor because I want something so bad. Just have it and move on without allowing it to escalate into a snowball of gluttony! An important accountability tool that I use is a food journal, in my case My Fitness Pal. I log what I consume to ensure I hit my goals of a 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% fat diet. Oh, and don’t eat out. You’re getting a lot more calories than you think. Cooking at home is FUN. I can teach you.

4. LOSE THE BOOZE: I just got wine certified in Paris. I read wine magazines. I talk about wine every day. Damn, I am serious about wine. I love to craft cocktails and go for happy hours. I am a sailor and half Scotch-Irish. The odds are against me! If I can give it up, so can you! When getting in shape or going through prep, if I really need to have something (never a “need”, but social situations can be tempting) I go for a clear liquor, for example vodka and soda, or ONE glass of red wine. Alcohol is essentially empty (glorious) calories. There’s a time and a place to imbibe, and it’s not when you’re tuning up that bod.

5. EXERCISE, SIX DAYS A WEEK: Do something (almost) every day, and treat it as an appointment in your daily planner. When I’m in the groove it takes a catastrophic event to keep me out of the gym. Make it fun so that you want to go. Maybe meet a friend there or try different classes. When I’m in the zone (or “beastmode”, that’s what I call “prep”, and I just started a new prep on Monday after returning from a weeklong Caribbean trip where I stuffed my face and don’t regret it) I log 45 to 60 minutes of weights, with intensity (no texting or talking to cute boys!) and 30 minutes of cardio six days a week. Now that my hip has stopped acting up, I try to run outside. Also, split up your body parts. Realistically you only need to work each muscle group once a week to see gains. Because my “problem areas” are shoulders and butt, I work those twice a week, but everything else gets just one workout (abs are a little different and I work them four times per week). The point is to commit and do it. Burning calories off of your body and building muscle that will in turn burn calories off your body while you are resting is paramount to getting into top shape.

6. SLEEP MORE (7-9 hours): Everyone knows this is the optimum amount of sleep for most people. But you need quality sleep. I stop drinking water after 8:30 p.m. so I don’t wake up during the night. I also have gotten on the “absolute darkness” train by using blackout shades. For the love, no caffeine after noon and don’t look at your phone, laptop, or iPad before bed. The artificial light actually lessens the quality of your sleep (I’ve been reading about this, I’m no sleep doctor, but the research is overwhelming.) If anything, a natural light lamp and a book should help you settle in to sleep. I usually sleep from 10 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.

7. SNACK WISELY: I am allowed these things and these things only; vegetables and nuts/nut butters. I tend to go crazy on the nuts (which, when reflected upon in my food journal, destroys my calorie allowance) so sometimes I even restrict the nuts. I slice up cucumbers, carrots and celery and chomp them constantly. Call me weird, I’ve been called worse, but I make an obnoxious dip by mixing Sriracha and mustard and dip and chomp away. Often the idea of more carrots and celery deter me from having the snack at all.

8. DON’T EAT AFTER 8 P.M.: The later in the day, the more tired you are, and the easier it is to overindulge. It’s hard, but canning your social life helps here too! Just make it a rule and don’t do it.

9. DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES: If I see you drinking a sugary soda we’re gonna have a chat. This is just the biggest waste of calories that do nothing for you. Diet soda is better but still has chemicals that I suggest you stay away from. Juice is high in sugar, it’s better to eat the actual fresh fruit. And without starting a war (or starting one, I don’t care) juicing is pretty much bullshit. You want that fiber! I do support drinking calories through my smoothies, always made with wholesome ingredients. The juicing fad is a topic for another day. My point is, drinking calories can get out of hand without you feeling like you just consumed the mother-load of calories. Water. Tea. Water. More water.

10. ENJOY A CHEAT OR CHEAT-DAY: Essential to mental health. I do know people who plow through months of prep without a single cheat or cheat day and generally speaking, they are the ones who don’t smile, hate life, and are most likely to end up murdering someone. What good is that? Once a week, usually Sunday Funday, I eat what I want. I don’t go overboard and still eat a healthful breakfast and lunch, but I’ll make a pasta dish or prime rib for dinner and go to town. As long as you don’t let it turn into a cheat week, you’ll feel satisfied, and it serves as a nice light at the end of the tunnel after a week of training and diligence.

So there’s a start. These are all things I’m doing right now. I have’t been in full prep mode since last July, so it’s not second nature to me yet, and if you want to adopt these principles we can (initially) suffer together! But within a week or two this will all be habit and within a month or two we will all feel great and confident frolicking on the beach. In Bonaire. In my case.

8 thoughts on “PREP TIME! My best tips on getting into your top shape.

  1. Great post! Can’t stress # 2 enough- having a goal in mind makes the other points worth doing, and makes it fun instead of work. Rather than working on a six-pack, I’m working on my 100 meter butterfly. Gets me to the gym, even in Paris.

    1. I just lived in Paris for three months as a journalism student at Sciences Po! The program didn’t satisfy me so I left! Good luck on the 100 meter butterfly!

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