Sunday, June 8, 2014

Five Exercises for Your Best Bikini Body Ever!

This article isn't what you think. Every time I see a title like the one above, I cringe a little bit. All the crunches, deadlifts, turkish getups, pullups, or burpees in the world cannot guarantee delivery of a perfect bikini body. A perfect bikini body, if we only consider appearance, is the combination of good bone structure, musculature, metabolism, and good skin. Feeling like you have a perfect bikini body is a lot more complicated and not many people will ever feel this way even if they look like they jumped off the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. And its okay. I think average human bodies are pretty awesome and when you consider what they can do, and not how they look, you might feel the same way.

But back to our exercises. 

I'm no bikini model, but I am very happy with
my physique and work hard to maintain it.
I do actually think that there are some exercises we can do to not only improve how we look and feel, but greatly improve our quality of life. The most important thing we need to exercise regularly is Patience. Exercising patience will help you stick to your healthier diet, continue your exercise program, and reap the rewards of slow and steady progress. It is simply not healthy to lose more than 2 lbs per week over a long period of time (I know, initial weight loss can be more dramatic) so slow and steady wins the race. But, if you consider that in a year's time, you can lose 100 lbs, that sounds a lot more significant. Likewise, if you are trying to build muscle, it takes time. For many people, it may require three to six months of consistent work to see noticeable gains. Personally, it took me two years of heavyish squats to get my hips and glutes to the size I wanted. A four inch all around gain, but its here to stay.

There is no guarantee, no matter how much weight you lose, how much muscle you build, or how much plastic surgery you have that you'll be happy with the results. So, the next exercise we need to work on is Self-Acceptance. Not just acceptance of the way you are, but the things you need to change. Are you as healthy as you can be? Are you as happy as you can be? Can you do the things you want to do? If you are truly accepting of yourself as is, there is no need to defend the changeable flaws that are hurting you. Whether its losing weight, becoming more active, or changing your outlook, when you see what is holding you back, its easier to move forward. And in turn, you can accept and be proud of the changes you've made. I occasionally suffer from mild depression and it is what it is, a normal part of being human. I used to wallow in it and get all wrapped up in my own bad feelings which was no good for anyone, especially my kids. Now I accept that although I occasionally get down in the dumps, when I focus on things other than my state of mind, its a lot easier to get out of that hole.

One should never deprive themselves of pie.
The third exercise is Self-Discipline. This one is tough. In our busy lives, we can often get sidelined by our schedules. Not only does it become difficult to get in our daily exercise, but we may also be in situations where eating and drinking in an ideal fashion is far more difficult. There is a lot of social pressure to eat a certain way and at certain times. My least favorite social activity when I worked in a research lab was the regular birthday celebrations that went on. Not that I'm against wishing anyone a Happy Birthday, but I am against having birthday cake forced on me at least once a week when I'm trying to watch what I eat. I found when I skipped the celebrations, someone would always put a piece of cake on my desk and if I attended the celebration and declined the cake, I got a lot of odd looks. As if I was trying to make people feel bad. I wasn't, just trying not to outgrow my pants. Self-discipline is not just about denying things to yourself, but taking control of what you can do to make yourself more successful. For example, every week, I cook about 5 lbs of chicken which I use for the majority of my meals. Because I eat very clean for most meals, when it comes time to enjoy a meal out or I feel like baking a pie, I can indulge. Practicing self-control the majority of the time allows you to enjoy your life. I can occasionally skip the gym, have a pajama day, or eat cheesecake for breakfast because the rest of the time, I am in control. I am not saying this is easy, but it requires daily practice.

My family spends a lot of time every summer at the pool and at the beach and I've noticed a lot of bathing suit bodies over the years. When it comes to physical exercise, while there are certainly some basic ones that will improve your physique, the biggest improvement to most people's bodies comes from changing their diets. Getting enough protein and not too much fat and carbs can dramatically change a person's physique. Exercise helps, but diet is the main player. If you want a bigger back, shoulders, legs, butt, etc. then you don't really have to move beyond the very basic: squats, pushups, rows, lunges, pullups, etc. Really. If you want to really add mass, you need to get into a weight room and move some weight regularly. But, for most people, walking daily, doing a bodyweight routine 3-4 times per week, and watching what they eat is all they need to dramatically change their physique. It has been shown that regular exercise improves mood by minimizing depression and anxiety thus playing large role in our mental health as well as our physical health. It has also been shown that people who regularly exercise also have a more positive body image. Whereas a lot of young girls these days are worried about their thigh gap, I had one young teen weightlifter who affectionately referred to herself as Quadzilla. She was proud of her muscular legs because she was strong. So for this particular point, just exercise! Its good for your body and your mind.

The Highland Games are my reason to
train and training makes me feel good.
Last, but not least, exercise Good Judgment. We all know we need to exercise and eat well to stay healthy and happy, but there is a lot of misinformation out there about diet, exercise, mental health, medicine, etc. Don't get caught up in the waves of nonsense. The truth is, if something sounds too easy, it probably is. If something makes you uncomfortable, there is probably a reason for it. Don't allow the cacophony of voices claiming to have the best diet, training program, or approach to living your life drown out your own. There is nothing wrong with reading what other people have to say on all these subjects, but sometimes, we just need to turn down the noise and instead of adapting our lives to the prescriptions of others, we need to integrate what is good for us and tune out the rest. This may mean that you ride your bike every weekend and work out with a trainer three days a week. It might mean that you do yoga every morning and train for triathlons. It might mean that you train for bodybuilding competitions, or compete in strongman, or simply go for a long walk every day. For me right now, its lifting weights three days a week, training for Highland Games, and walking my dog once a day. Why? Because it makes me feel good. Both physically and psychologically.


Next time you see an article claiming to have the best exercises for a bikini body, flatter abs, bigger butt, smaller waist, bigger brain, think about the above. There are no simple answers or quick fixes when it comes to living the best life you can. But, exercising patience, self-acceptance, self-discipline, good judgment, and simply exercising go a long way in helping with that.