Summer is here, and with it swimsuits, shorts, tank tops and all those clothes we love to wear in order to feel the sunshine on our skin.  It’s time for flip-flops and barbecues. And if you’ve wintered well, now is the time to start making a few small changes that will assist in moving you toward your summer fitness goals and rocking not only great changes in your body, but changes in your health.

Clean it up: You wouldn’t dump dirty fuel floating with sticks, debris and all sorts of nastiness into your car or boat and expect it to run and sound like a high-quality Mercedes Benz, but a lot of time we ask our bodies to do the very same thing with the food choices we make. To help achieve your best summer body, start by making some changes to your diet, because the truth is you can’t out-train a bad diet. No matter how far you run in the morning, your body can only do so much with the food you decide to put in it. So clean it up.

Going clean versus going healthy is the difference between feeling good and feeling exceptional. Healthy choices are whole grains in breads and pastas, minimally processed foods and light dressings. Clean choices mean cutting out breads, pastas and all processed foods. Basically, if it comes in a box (the few exceptions being uncooked rice and steel cut oatmeal) it doesn’t go in your mouth. It’s the perfect opportunity to experiment with food choices and cooking options. Healthy oils such as avocado and coconut oils actually help your body burn fat.

QUICK TIP: Start with one or two days of cutting out the processed food and see how you feel. Also, start a food journal. You may not really know what you’re eating, when, or why until you start writing down everything that goes in your mouth. Unsure where to start? Talk to a nutritionist or coach. Make sure you’re eating enough. As a society we’ve been taught to eat less and do more, and if that doesn’t work, eat even less and do even more. And if that doesn’t work, you have two options: starve or blame your genes. As a result, metabolism can shut down. Again, a good nutritionist or health coach can help you get this back on track.

Clean it out:  We spring clean the house, the car, the garage, but we we forget our body enjoys a nice change and can benefit from a few days of cleansing and detoxing. The body has a built-in detox system in the liver and gallbladder, but many times with a few days of great food choices and lifestyle changes (think slowing down and enjoying some recovery from the fast-paced, high-stress lives we live) can give the body the boost it needs to help you shed those few extra pounds.

The detox and cleansing fad has swept the nation with plenty of pills and drinks to choose from – everything from fasting to eating only red fruit. However, fasting, even for a day or so, can put the body into starvation mode, stress the internal organs and systems, shake up the hormone balance and crash blood sugars. Steer clear from fasting cleanses or detoxes and look for ones that include raw fruit, veggies and lean proteins.  And, as with any change, increase your water uptake to help flush any toxins out of the body.

QUICK TIP: Cut out all caffeine, alcohol, sugary beverages and sweeteners of any type for three to five days. This alone will give your body a chance to heal and will reduce inflammation, which can cause 3 to 5 pounds of water weight to easily sit on the body.  In order to help you keep making good food choices, throw all the junk food away … yes, throw it away. No, don’t feed it to your kids, you want them to be healthy and happy also.

Consistency, consistency, consistency:  With warm weather, it’s tempting to drop your gym membership or put it on hold in favor for outdoor activities. While hiking and swimming are great ways to take your cardio outside, don’t forget about your strength training exercises. You just spent the winter keeping yourself healthy in the gym, a regimen that also helped you build and strengthen muscles throughout your whole body, and you’ll want to maintain the muscle tone through the summer by maintaining your weight training. Consistency builds strength and muscle, even while changing the programs and exercises. It’s the consistency of asking more of the body and challenging the body that keeps it happy, healthy and moving toward balance.

QUICK TIP: Still can’t make yourself go to the gym? Try the circuit in your favorite park or even in the backyard! Do each movement for a minute, rest two minutes, then repeat three more times. All you’ll need is a bench (curb, step, flat rock, etc.), a way to track the time, and your own body weight.

1. Bench Step Up to Reverse Lunge: Place the right foot on the bench and driving through the heel step up onto the bench, keeping your weight in the working leg and making sure not to hop off the trailing leg. Step down with the left foot (or trailing leg) and immediately step the right foot back into a reverse lunge.  Do one minute on each leg.


2. Bench Burpees: The burpee is one of the most underutilized exercises out there, and also one of the best full-body exercises around. Use this modification to build strength and flexibility, taking the push-up to the ground when you can do it with good form. Step (or hop) onto the bench, then step (or hop) down, placing your hands on the bench jump (or step) back to a plank position, then lower for a push-up. Come up and repeat. To make it harder, jump off the bench, jump back and place your hands on the ground before doing a push up.


3. Bench Dips: Tone those arms for tank tops and swimsuits by sitting on the bench with your fingers facing toward you, hands close to your hips. Then, slide your hips off the bench and bend your elbows to lower your body to the ground. Avoid just hanging from the shoulder; instead bend the elbows, keeping them shooting straight back. Driving through the hand, push yourself back up. Change the intensity of this exercise by extending your legs to make it harder or bending your knees to make it easier.


4. Plank Hops:  Get into plank position, then hop both feet forward to the outside of your left elbow, hop back to plank, hop your knees to the center between your elbows, hop back to plank, then hop to the outside of the right elbow. Keep your core tight and your body in good plank position every time you jump back and avoid letting the body sag between the shoulder blades or the hips drop.


5. X Squats: Stand with feet hip width apart. Jump them out to shoulder, pushing your hip back into a squat as you do, and in the same motion reach the right hand to the outside of the left foot. Keep your hips square and sit low on this as you reach; avoid bending from the waist to get to the toe.  Stand up and jump with your feet together, then jump apart and reach for the other foot.

Rest for two minutes and repeat two more times.


Stre-e-e-e-tch yourself: Out of your comfort zone that is. Everyone has their favorite activities that are the first ones we reach for to fill our time and those warm summer days. This summer, challenge yourself by trying something new, something you may not have thought was even possible. I bet you’ll surprise yourself. Is there someplace you haven’t visited? A trail you haven’t hiked? An event you haven’t attended? Someplace you’d like to travel? Make a point this year to move confidently in the direction of your dream. The edge of the comfort zone can be a little bit daunting, but moving past it opens up a world of experiences and even more opportunities.

QUICK TIP: Make a mini vision board, or a flow chart of things you’d like to try. Journal the experiences as though you’ve already achieved them and spend some time with the idea of being successful, then be brave and push yourself forward. Start the process by actually making plans and getting comfortable with the idea of “I’m going to do this.”

Make time to recover:  We’re super active in the summer with activities for the kids, our own workouts, playing on the lake or on the trail during the weekends, and with longer daylight hours it’s easier to go from dawn until dusk. Keep yourself healthy and feeling great this summer by making sure to schedule in some self-care, even a down day or two. This doesn’t have to be a whole day, even just an hour to 90 minutes of quiet and relaxation can help the body unwind and leave you feeling refreshed.

QUICK TIP: Make yourself important. Just like you would schedule anything else into your day, schedule yourself and your non-negotiable self-care (yes, guys, you need this also, believe it or not) into your appointment book in ink. When the time comes, treat it like any other appointment, even if it’s just shutting your phone off for 20 minutes and walking out to sit in the car in some silence and maybe read a book; let it be as important as anything else, as though your health depends on it. It’s easy to give to those we love, but it’s detrimental to our welfare and our lives if we don’t set aside time to care for ourselves and treat ourselves well.

Jenna is trainer and competitive physique athlete with a passion for yoga. She can usually be found at Flathead Health and Fitness in Kalispell helping others reach their health goals either in class or through one-on-one sessions. She also offers personal training out of her private studio and teaches classes at Fitness 365. She also teaches Yoga Athletica at the hot yoga studio Mandala Montana north of Kalispell.

Contact her at www.innerpowertraining.com or drop into one of her classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon at Flathead Health and Fitness.