Summer is a time for poolside hangs, one too many margaritas and unforgettable memories with your besties. Along with the sunshine comes an overwhelming stress of looking your best —it’s bikini season after all. But here’s the deal: stress isn’t going to get you anywhere. Hard work, goal setting and a handful of fitness classes will.
Setting goals is the first step to looking your summer best (or your personal best, TBH). Good things take time, and some fitness goals may require more than a few weeks to achieve. If you’re struggling to figure out where to start, take a look at some realistic fitness goals, along with a plan to achieve them, for inspiration. Next up: a strong, fierce beach bod.
Goal 1: Get Stronger
The best beach bod is a healthy one. We can all agree that we all come in a range of shapes and sizes—that’s what makes the world go round, right? Instead of striving for a skinny summer bod, it’s better to aim for a stronger look, from head to toe. “My summer fitness goal is to strengthen my whole body so that I feel noticeably stronger. In years past, I would focus on just my abs, especially in the summer, but I’ve learned the full-body training is much more effective,” says Jaclyn DiGregorio, a certified fitness nutrition coach.
It’s OK if strength training is a foreign concept to you. We all gotta start somewhere, and it’s best to start with a training strategy. “The key is to have a plan or have a coach that has a plan,” says Billie Buss, co-founder of Wisconsin Martial Arts and Fitness Centers. No two bodies are the same, but strength training plans are universal and can be practiced by all, no matter how strong you appear. Buss says everyone can do the same types of strength exercises, and the degree of difficulty just may need to be scaled up or down based on the individual. In his years of training, Buss says that the major problem he notices with newbies is when they go beyond the weight that your body can handle while maintaining proper form. Always remember that your form should never be compromised.
Poppy Niosi, a certified personal trainer, agrees. “When introducing strength training, it’s always best to get form and range down first,” she says. She recommends starting small and making minor adjustments week by week. “For the first week or two, a low-weight, high-repetition total-body circuit is a great way to get your body acclimated to lifting weight. Start with 15 reps for each muscle group and repeat the whole circuit 2-3 times. After the first two weeks, start upping the weight and lowering the repetitions: 8 reps for 3 sets one muscle group at a time.” Keep upping the ante as you feel less challenged by increasing the repetitions.
How do you know when to increase the weight? “When you can do all 3 sets at 12 reps, increase your weight by 5 percent (or as close to that as possible) and drop back down to 8 rep sets. This is the best progression to build strength,” explains Niosi. With this plan intact, you’ll gain all-around strength the right (and safe) way.
Goal 2: Run a half-marathon (or even a full one)
You might be thinking that this sounds like a lofty goal—and it is. Most runners can relate to the longing to cross a marathon finish line. Or even a half-marathon. And summer is the perfect time to get your body in shape for the fall marathon season.“My goal this summer is to train for the Marine Corps Marathon. My mother has run over 110 marathons in her lifetime, and it’s time I jump on board. To date, I’ve run eight half marathons up and down the East Coast, but it’s time to I joined the big leagues alongside a woman who inspires me everyday,” says Tiffany Newenhouse, RD. While most aspiring marathon runners aren’t new to the running game, this intense level of training may be intimidating.
Robert Herbst, a personal trainer and powerlifter, knows the ins and outs of running. Strength training may be his forte but he also has experience working with a number of Olympic athletes. To prepare for a marathon, Herbst advises that you steadily ramp up your mileage week by week. At the end of training, runners should feel comfortable running anywhere from 20 to 40 miles a week. Something to keep in mind? “Try to train in the mornings and evenings when it is cooler, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated,” says Herbst.
Teamwork makes the dream work, and running is no exception. Often viewed as an individual sport, running can actually be a phenomenal community activity. If you need a little nudge to keep going or simply want to share your running passion with others, try to scout out a running club in your area. “You’ll be far more likely to succeed if you join an established training group that will give you access to coaches, a training plan, and a community of support,” says Samantha Orme, owner of CrossFit Virtuosity. Exercise and social time as a two for one deal may be exactly what you need to keep the momentum.
Goal 3: Build your upper body
Between off-the shoulder tops, bikinis and strapless dresses, we all know that summer is a time to show off your upper body (and the whole dang thing). And for good reason. “My fitness goal for the summer is to build my upper body strength. My upper body strength will allow me to look stronger and also feel stronger,” says Allie Ducote, student and fitness enthusiast.
Your selfie game will be strong, and so will your upper body if you give it the attention it really deserves. Jennifer He, a NASM-certified personal trainer, recommends that you start by asking yourself two simple questions: Are you incorporating push ups and weights into your daily routine, and are you doing any training that targets the chest, upper back and arms? “If the answer is no to either or both, these core areas are the best places to start. To ultimately build upper body strength, you need to strengthen the chest and back,” says He.
The chest and back are primary muscle groups, and should be treated as such when you’re weightlifting. Pushups, one of gym class’ finest exercises, is the answer to most of your upper body needs. Form is crucial when it comes to strength training of any sort. In addition to pushups, Niosi recommends that you add inverted pull-ups into your strength training routine. “These exercises not only target the chest and back as primary muscle groups, but also strengthen biceps, triceps and shoulders as secondary muscle groups. Meanwhile, the abdominals and lower back are braced throughout the exercises,” she says.
Goal 4: Be more flexible
As a kid, splits and cartwheels are commonplace. And touching your toes is a complete no brainer. But as you get older and stop properly stretching your body, your flexibility levels take a hit. This summer, stretching should also be thrown into the mix. “I am turning 50 this summer and I want to feel better than I’ve ever felt before. In addition to dropping a few extra pounds, I want to work on increasing my flexibility,” says Alicia Hunter, celebrity eyelash extensionist.
Practice makes perfect, especially when we’re talking about flexibility. The most important thing to change your flexibility game is to consistently stretch before and after exercising. “Active warm ups are helpful for optimal performance but increases in range of motion and muscle elasticity can often be found in the post-workout stretching,” explains Buss.
Generally speaking, your exercise routine will dictate how often you should stretch. If you’re looking to increase flexibility at a faster rate, add stretching exercises into your daily routine. “For big results from relatively little effort, try spending 10 minutes each day sitting in the bottom of a squat,” recommends Orme. “Relax into the squat and try your best to keep your heels on the. If you can’t manage that, put something underneath your heels to lift them up until you can balance.”