Summer is almost here and many of us are hoping to look our best in our swimsuits. What can you do to whip your body into shape over the next month? Try my May boot camp, which incorporates a finely balanced combination of fitness, yoga and diet. The idea is that you incorporate the following tips with discipline and focus for one entire month.
Posture. Pay attention to your posture and make corrections to it so that you can assume proper alignment. Your stature determines your shape and body tone as well as how you present yourself in a swimsuit. The body aligns itself from the ground up. Make sure that you stand, sit, walk, and run correctly. How? Check to see that your feet are parallel with one another, pelvic bowl is in a neutral position, tailbone is long, abdominal muscles are drawing back towards your spine and up towards your chin, ribs are sitting over your core, collarbones are wide, neck is centered between your shoulders, head is on top of your neck neither jutting backwards nor forwards in space nor twisting to one side, and that the crown of your head is rising. An easy way to think about your posture is to envision your body as divided into seven sections:
The 7 Sections That Determine Postural Alignment
- Section 1: Feet to the base of the pelvic floor
- Section 2: Pelvic bowl
- Section 3: Core
- Section 4: Rib cage, Collarbone, Arms
- Section 5: Neck
- Section 6: Head
- Section 7: Crown of Head
If your feet are pigeon-toed or duck-footed, your pelvis will move into an excessive anterior or posterior tilt. If the pelvis tips backwards, then you lose the length of your abs and oblique muscles, resulting in collapsed shoulders as well as a rounded back. If you tip your pelvis too far forward, which causes the tailbone (and bootie) to fly up behind you, your ribs and chest will puff out, which disengages and over-stretches your core muscles. These are not ideal stances for swimsuits. Wouldn’t you rather appear tall, long, open, lean and solid?
Core Yoga. Practice core yoga 3-4 times a week, at least 45-minutes to 1-hour each session. Some poses to do in your practice with extra attention to aspects of Moola and Uddiyana Bandhas (contraction of the pelvic floor and abdominal wall) include: (View my Yoga Glossary for images of these core yoga poses.)
- Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1), Warrior 2(Virabhadrasana 2), and Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana 3)
- Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) flowing into Up Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) and back to Down Dog several times
- Standing balances such as Tree (Vrksasana), Hand-To Big Toe (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana), and Eagle (Garudasana)
- All twisting standing poses with emphasis on the engaging of your core muscles on your exhales
- All arm balances including Crow (Bakasana), Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana), Arm Pressure Pose (Bhujapidasana), Firefly (Titibasana), Pendant (Lolasana)
- Camel (Ustrasana)
- All inversions
- Jumping forward from Down Dog with suspension to Prepare Pose
- Jumping through to Seated Staff Pose (Dandasana)
- Boat (Navasana) to Half Boat (Ardha Navasana)
- Seated twists
- Yogic reclined core exercises (i.e. eagle crunches, reclined leg lifts)
See below for the best yoga breathing techniques for core toning. If any or all of these are too difficult for you, start in a beginner class to build your strength. Realistically, boot camp might last longer than a month for some of you and that is okay. You have to begin somewhere.
Walk as much as you can wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Every step makes a difference.
Sit-Ups. I find military sit-ups on an incline to be the quickest and most effective way to build core strength. If you cannot do these or don’t have access to an incline, old school sit-ups with your feet stabilized under a couch or chair and hands behind your head will do the job. Just make sure to round all the way up as though you are coming up and over a ball, hugging your abdominal wall back towards your spine. The JWM boot camp asks that you do 2 sets of 25 military sit-ups a session at least 4 times a week. Follow them with at least 30 repetitions of twisting crunches on each side (bicycle style or elbow to knee) and 10 leg lifts straight up and down and 10 side to side.
Burn More Calories. Whatever your cardio routine has been (hopefully at least 20 minutes a few times a week), bump it up by 10 to 20 minutes to burn more calories and fat. Spend more time running, cycling, cross training, swimming, etc. Add intervals to each cardio session if you can because they help to increase your heart rate, metabolism, and burn more calories and fat.
Yogic Breathing. Practice yogic breathing techniques that strengthen your core. Some include strong Ujjayi in seated staff pose, Bhastrika (forceful inhales and exhales), and Kapalabhati (forceful exhales). You can start with as few as you can do and build from there. When I was with Dr. Vasant Lad, he recommended one thousand breaths of Kapalabhati and said that this is a practice that many serious yogis have always done regularly for thousands of years.
Eat According To The JWM.
Breakfast: 8am-9am: JWM Breakfast of Champions: Acai smoothie with homemade granola or ¾ cup of plain granola (The plain granola allows any of you who work to measure it, toss it in a bag or small Tupperware container, and to bring it with you to the office.)
Lunch: 12:30pm-2pm: Lettuce and vegetable salads (with light dressings of lemon juice and/or vinegar with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) or vegan soups (maybe with a small side of veggies lightly sautéed or roasted in olive)
Snack: 3pm-4:30pm: Lara Bar or a palm-full of almonds
Dinner: 6pm-8pm: One-course meal of any or up to three of the following: vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, vegetable proteins such as tempeh, seitan, or tofu, and fish if you eat it.
Cut down on dessert and make them lower in calories and fat. One delicious dessert I learned to make in Marrakech is sliced oranges with almonds and dates. Get rid of frozen yogurt and eat Greek yogurts perhaps with honey instead. Have a piece of dark chocolate. Whatever it is, keep it small, eat half of what you normally would serve yourself, or drink a cup of tea with honey if you feel like skipping dessert all together.
Sleep. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. We burn a lot of calories while we sleep and additionally, during this month of boot camp, the last thing you want is to be energy-depleted during the day due to lack of sleep.
Be Outdoors and Be Athletic. Spend as much time outside as you can. It is more likely that you will be active outside than when hanging around in your apartment or office. Look around at what people are doing and try new sporting activities. I saw people rollerblading the other day in Central Park and thought to myself – my poor rollerblades have been cooped up in my closet for a decade. Meanwhile, recently I learned that rollerblading is one of the highest calorie-burning outdoor sports! I turned my head and then saw a couple do some exercises that were totally new to me. I thought it would be fun to try them.
House Chores. If you are not doing them already, start! The more sweeping, sponging, vacuuming, clothes hanging, and laundry you can do, the more calories you will burn.
Play with your kids. Teach them how to do cartwheels, run around the playground, climb rocks, skip and run races down the block with them. Don’t sit on benches and watch.