By Lara McGlashan
New year, New you—for real this time!
PART 1 USE YOUR MIND TO CHANGE YOUR BODY
“THE KEY REASON people succeed or fail with a new program is the mental part of it,” says Bobby McGee, a sports psychologist and running coach to winning Olympians and author of Magical Running (www.bobbymcgee.com). It’s a fact that your body reacts physiologically to your thoughts. So thinking big can make major changes happen. On its own, your body is naturally conservative when you ask it to do something. If you lift a weight, your body recruits just enough muscle to do it safely, but not necessarily heroically.
So when you want to outperform yourself, “you have to fool the body into recruiting more muscle,” says McGee, which you can do with your mind. If you think you can’t run a seven-minute mile, for instance, your body begins to switch off muscle, leaving you weak and fatigued. But if you think positively, your body will recruit more muscle to do it. Lab experiments have shown the same thing: “If you put athletes on a treadmill and show them videos of themselves running badly in a race, their VO 2 max [the amount of oxygen their bodies can process] will go down,” says McGee. “But as soon as they are shown tapes of themselves performing well, their VO 2 max goes up.” Dedicate time to changing your mind, and the payoff will be overwhelming.
HERE’S HOW TO UNLEASH THE POWER OF YOUR MIND IN 2007:
ALTER YOUR BRAIN CHEMISTRY for success. Focusing on negative thoughts (imagining pain, for instance) activates the part of the brain that responds to fear. But positive thinking (imagining that the pain isn’t so bad) “actually changes the brain and how it’s organized,” says neurologist Richard Restak, M.D., author of The Naked Brain . As a result, your body will respond differently. If you’re running, for example, change your mid-workout “my legs are so tired” thought to “this means I’m getting stronger and leaner,” and your performance will usually improve.
LET YOUR MIND sculpt your body. Focusing on what you’re doing in the gym can dramatically increase the benefits you get from it. In fact, one study showed that people who imagined flexing their biceps but did no actual lifting increased strength by 13.4 percent over 12 weeks. “When you think about carrying out an action, you stimulate some of the same parts of the brain that you would if you were actually carrying out the exercise,” says Restak. So when you do perform the exercise, your brain is that much better at recruiting muscle to do the work.
SMELL AND TASTE your victory—every step of the way. Visualization is an old trick, but here’s what most people do wrong: They watch themselves achieve their goals as if they’re watching a movie. Instead, really feel the burn in your legs and hear the roar of the crowd, and you have a better chance of making it happen. If, for instance, you have a hard time getting to the gym, accept that you’ll be dragging yourself there on some days, but also visualize what it feels like to have your energy build as you begin your workout, says Kay Porter, Ph.D., author of The Mental Athlete .
PLAN FOR FAILURE. While you need to visualize success, you also need to know that you won’t be successful every time. And when you’re not, don’t just blow it off with an, “Oh well, I tried,” says McGee. “‘Trying’ is a way of not taking responsibility,” he says, because it lets you off the hook. There’s nothing wrong with a night of overeating, a skipped workout, or your worst 5K time ever; it’s essential for success as long as you learn something from it about how to improve your performance next time.
APPRECIATE DISCOMFORT. “Change doesn’t happen in your comfort zone,” says body coach Patricia Moreno of Equinox Fitness in New York City. “Your body won’t give you anything you don’t ask for.” Daring to go beyond where you’ve been before means choosing to be greater, faster, smarter, stronger, and more powerful. That’s a pretty big payoff for an extra push-up.
PART 2 MAKE YOUR WORKOUT WORK FOR YOU
America’s top two reasons for abandoning a workout program are that it’s boring and that there isn’t enough time. So we had Kim Lyons, trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser , create an excuse-proof workout exclusively for Marie Claire .
THIS CIRCUIT PROGRAM—in which you do one exercise right after another in a specific order—is built on moves you probably already know (so no wasting time trying to figure out where to put your left foot). But it combines them in a way that gets your heart rate up (read: burns calories) and tones you (read: burns more calories) in one short session. The lower-body moves elevate heart rate, and the upper-body moves allow it to come down for an interval training effect that incinerates fat.
Do these 12 moves in the order indicated for the first few weeks. Do each move for 30 seconds and rest 10 to 20 seconds in between. As you improve, do each move for a minute with little to no rest in between. If you’re not breathing somewhat hard after the lower-body moves (it should take some effort to hold a conversation), make sure you’re not cheating on the range of motion. If your form is spot on, try doing the move for longer than 30 seconds. Go through the whole circuit once for a quick toning session, twice to burn extra calories, and three times for a serious fat-blaster. Do this workout three days a week. Add 30 minutes of cardio on two days (at a pace where you can hold a conversation but are breathing a bit heavily), and you could potentially burn a pound every seven days.
1. REVERSE LUNGES
START: Stand with feet together, hands on hips. MOVE: Take a large step backward onto the ball of your foot, balancing weight between both legs. The back heel should remain off the floor. Bend both knees and lower your hips toward the floor until the front knee is at a 90-degree angle. Push off the back toe to return to the starting position. Repeat, alternating legs.
2. OVERHEAD SHOULDER PRESS
START: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a pair of dumbbells at your shoulders, elbows down, palms facing forward. Start the program with light weights—three to five pounds—since you’ll be doing many repetitions. MOVE: Press the weights straight overhead until your arms are fully extended. Slowly lower back to the starting position.
3. CLOSED-STANCE SQUAT
START: Stand with feet and knees together, hands on hips. MOVE: Slowly squat toward the floor, bending your knees and pushing your hips back as if you’re about to sit on a chair. Lower down as far as possible without lifting your heels off the floor, then stand back up to the start.
4. BICEP CURLS
START: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a pair of dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing up. MOVE: Slowly curl the weights up toward your shoulders, keeping elbows in tight to the body. Resist the pull of gravity on the return.
START: Stand with feet and knees together and crouch down: hips low, back flat, hands in front of your body. MOVE: Take a large step to the right side, staying low, swinging your arms across your body to the right while bringing your left foot, knee bent, behind the right leg. Repeat, alternating sides.
6. OVERHEAD TRICEP EXTENSIONS
START: Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a pair of dumbbells overhead, arms straight, elbows close to your ears. MOVE: Slowly bend your elbows, dropping the weights behind your head. Straighten arms overhead to return to the starting position.
7. SIDE LUNGES
START: Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes turned out on the diagonal, arms in front of your body for balance. MOVE: Take a large step out to the side with your right foot, shifting your weight toward the right and bending the right knee to 90 degrees while straightening the left leg. Push off your right foot and return to standing. Repeat on the other side.
8. TWO-ARM DUMBBELL ROWS
START: Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides. Bend forward from the waist so your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your back flat, and allow your arms to hang straight down from your shoulders. MOVE: Keep your torso steady and slowly pull the dumbbells toward your chest, leading with your elbows and keeping your arms close to your sides. Slowly lower weights back to starting position.
9. PLIÉ SQUATS
START: Stand with feet double shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out on the diagonal, hands on hips. MOVE: Keeping your back straight, bend your knees (if they’re not moving over your toes, turn your toes in a bit) and squat toward the floor. When thighs are parallel to the floor, stand back up to the start and squeeze your glutes.
10. MODIFIED PUSH-UPS
START: Lie facedown and place hands on floor just outside your shoulders. Bend your knees and cross your feet behind your thighs. MOVE: Keeping your abs tight, press your body up until your arms are straight (your weight should be distributed between your hands and knees). Slowly lower almost to the floor, then press back up right away into the next push-up.
START: Lie on the floor facedown and line up your elbows underneath shoulders, placing forearms straight out in front of you. MOVE: Keeping abs tight, lift your torso and hips off the floor. Head, hips, and legs should all be in one line. Keep breathing as you hold the move.
12. BICYCLE CRUNCHES
START: Lie on your back with legs bent and elevated above your hips. Place fingertips behind ears to support your head and neck, then lift chin off chest. MOVE: Alternately bring one knee toward your head while extending opposite leg away. Simultaneously lift opposite shoulder and elbow to meet the knee across your body. Keep elbows pointing out, and remember to breathe.
PART 3 EAT TO STAY SLIM (EVEN WHEN YOU CAN’T GET TO THE GYM)
TIRED OF WHAT some diets put us through—counting peanuts, measuring tofu, or feeling exhausted at the end of the day—we called Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, a certified specialist in sports dietetics and sports dietitian for the U.S. Olympic Committee, to see if there was a better way to eat to get the body that you want. He said eating right and feeling your best are all about seeing the big picture—which happens to look like a target. His Fuel Target system is an easy way to get all the nutrients you need while avoiding useless extra calories. The result: You’re more focused and efficient during the day, you lose weight without being hungry, you have more energy to get to the gym, and you can give your all to your workout and whatever other important things you’re doing afterward. “I use this with everyone from teenagers to people who are 65-plus, and it’s so simple that it works for all of them,” says Seebohar.
Here’s how the target works:
Ring 2 is made up of whole fruits and vegetables (watermelon, bananas, pomegranates, oranges, broccoli, kale, spinach, arugula, beets, and more).
Ring 3 comprises whole grains and healthier starches (quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat tortillas, etc.). Outside the target is everything else—alcohol, refined-sugar and refined flour products (as in chocolate-chip cookies, Twinkies, and white bread), processed foods, sweets, and most other junk foods.
“The target changes the way you think about food,” says Seebohar. At every meal, you should start at the center of the target. Choose the protein source first, then pile on the veggies or fruit, then the whole grains.
In practical terms, that means thinking of the center of the sandwich first. Then add plenty of veggies, such as spinach, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, and then add the bread, Seebohar says: “Usually people go for carbs first and miss all the other important nutrients.”
To keep your weight steady, change how far out on the target you eat depending on how active you are. On days when you can’t get to the gym, choose foods from Rings 1 and 2 with only a nibble from 3. On days you do work out, choose more foods from Ring 3; you need more of those carbs to fuel your workouts. “The beauty of the target is that portion control takes care of itself.
The protein and fiber in Rings 1 and 2 trigger your body to feel full—as long as you don’t eat too fast,” Seebohar says. He generally recommends eating three meals and two snacks a day to keep your blood sugar steady. But on days when you aren’t able to get to the gym, you may want to drop the morning or afternoon snack.
Seebohar’s no food nazi: He knows you need a saketini (or two or three) every now and then, and that sometimes dessert happens. “It’s a dartboard, and you’re not going to hit the target every time,” he acknowledges. “If you can stay within the rings 90 percent of the time, you’re doing really well.”
So forget counting calories, feeling unsatisfied by your meals, or cutting out certain food groups altogether: Targeting your perfect weight doesn’t get easier than this.
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