Ready to get strong and slim? Use these tips to lose weight and look great in no time.
1. Eat Less Sweet
Got a late-night sugar craving that just won’t quit? To satisfy your sweet tooth without pushing yourself over the calorie edge, even in the late night hours, think fruit first. So resist that chocolate cake siren, and instead enjoy a sliced apple with a tablespoon of nut butter (like peanut or almond) or fresh fig halves spread with ricotta. Then sleep sweet, knowing you’re still on the right, healthy track.
2. Get the Best Workout Buddy For Yourself
A workout buddy is hugely helpful for keeping motivated, but it’s important to find someone who will inspire—not discourage. So make a list of all your exercise-loving friends, then see who fits this criteria: Can your pal meet to exercise on a regular basis? Is she supportive (not disparaging) of your goals? And last, will your bud be able to keep up with you or even push your limits in key workouts? If you’ve got someone that fits all three, make that phone call.
3. Stock these foods Up
While there are heaps of good-for-you foods out there, some key ingredients make it a lot easier to meet your weight-loss goals. Next grocery store run, be sure to place these top three diet-friendly items in your cart: balsamic vinegar (it adds a pop of low-cal flavor to veggies and salads), in-shell nuts (their protein and fiber keep you satiated), and fat-free plain yogurt (a creamy, comforting source of protein). Plus, Greek yogurt also works wonders as a natural low-calorie base for dressings and dips—or as a tangier alternative to sour cream.
4. Relieve those muscles
After a grueling workout, there’s a good chance you’re going to be feeling it (we’re talking sore thighs, tight calves). Relieve post-fitness aches by submerging your lower body in a cold bath (50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit; you may have to throw some ice cubes in to get it cold enough) for 10 to 15 minutes. Many top athletes use this trick to help reduce soreness after training sessions. An athlete training for an important race should consider getting one to two massages per month to help aid in training recovery.
5. Always wear comfy shoes
You shouldn’t buy kicks that hurt, bottom line! Your shoes should feel comfortable from the first step. So shop in the evening—your feet swell during the day and stop in the late afternoon, so you want to shop when they’re at their biggest. Also make sure the sneaks are a little roomy—enough so that you can wiggle your toes, but no more than that. They should be comfy from the get-go, and they’ll be even more so once you have a good 20 to 40 miles on ’em.
6. Pump Up the Volume
Running with music is a great way to get in a groove (just make sure it’s not blasting too loudly, or you won’t hear those cars!). To pick the ultimate iPod playlist, think about what gets you going. There are several elite athletes that have been known to listen to what is consider ‘relaxing’ music, such as symphony music, while they do a hard workout. So don’t feel like you have to download Lady Gaga because her tunes are supposed to pump you up—go with any music that you find uplifting.
7. Track your progress
You’ve been following your diet for a whole week. Weigh to go! Now it’s time to start tracking your progress (and make sure pesky pounds don’t find their way back on). It’s best to step on the scale in the morning before eating or drinking—and prior to plunging into your daily activities. For the most reliable number, be sure to check your poundage at a consistent time, whether daily or weekly.
8. Regulate Your Food Portions
Does your steak take up more than half your plate? Think about cutting your serving of beef in half. That’s because it’s best to try and fill half your plate with veggies or a mixture of veggies and fresh fruit, so that it’s harder to overdo it on the more caloric dishes (like cheesy potatoes or barbecue sauce–slathered ribs).
9. Avoid Binge Drinking
Is it ladies’ night? If you know you’ll be imbibing more than one drink, feel (and sip!) right by always ordering water between cocktails. That way, you won’t rack up sneaky liquid calories (and ruin your inhibition to resist those mozzarella sticks!). But your H20 doesn’t have to be ho-hum. Make it festive by ordering the sparkling variety with plenty of fruit, like a lime, lemon, and orange wedge in a martini or highball glass.
10. Fuel Up before Your Run
When you have a 5- or 10K (you get to eat more with a half or full marathon) on your calendar, it’s important to plan out what you’re going to eat the morning of the big day—something that will keep you fueled and also go down easy. While everyone is different, a high-carbohydrate breakfast such as a small bowl of oatmeal with fruit or a couple of pieces of toast with peanut butter or cream cheese has always helped professional runners. Try eating around 200 to 250 (primarily carb) calories about 90 minutes before you warm up for your run . And don’t worry about nixing your a.m. caffeine fix on race day. Coffee is great for athletic performances, because it makes you sharper and may even give you extended energy.
11. Don’t forget your running equipment
Before you hit the road, make sure you’re packing these key staples: a watch to log your total time (or a fancy GPS to track your mileage), an iPod with great amp-you-up music, a cell phone if you don’t mind holding onto it, and a RoadID (a bracelet that includes all your vital info). And on a sunny day, wear sunglasses. They reduce glare, which can decrease squinting, ultimately releasing the tension in your shoulders. And that’s a performance bonus, because relaxing them helps conserve energy on your runs. Hey, we can all take a boost where we can get it!
12. Remember to hydrate
Whether you’re heading off to spin class, boot camp, or any other exercise, it’s always important to hydrate so you can stay energized and have your best workout. Electrolyte-loaded athletic drinks, though, can be a source of unnecessary calories, so drinking water is usually fine until you’re exercising for more than one hour. At that point, feel free to go for regular Gatorade-type drinks (and their calories), which can give you a beneficial replenishment boost. But worry not if you like a little flavor during your fitness: There are now lower- cal sports drinks available so look out for them in your grocery aisles.
13. Increase the intensity of your workout
How do you know when to increase your exercise? The general rule of thumb is to up the amount of miles run, for races half-marathon length and longer, by 5 to 10 percent each week.
14. Get the right Support
Sure, your yoga sports bras works great for downward dog—but when it comes to running, you’ll need one that’s designed to lock them in for all that pavement pounding. So what should you look for? The best sports bras are loose around the chest so you can expand your ribs and diaphragm more effectively. But they should also be form-fitting. Just make sure the cup is made of comfy material (like a soft compression fabric; look for descriptions that include the terms “breathability” and “compression”)—you don’t want to be itching at mile two.
15. Shake Your Way Slim
Sick of that elliptical or bike or workout DVD? That means it’s time to mix up your routine! Our favorite way: Break a sweat by moving and shaking. Simply make a playlist with your favorite “cut a rug” tunes (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”? “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”?), then turn up the volume, and start breaking it down. For even more fun, invite some gal pals over and get grooving (and laughing). The best part is that you’ll each burn about 200 to 600 calories per hour.