While many people consider the New Year to be the best time to start a new wellness plan, it’s more likely that you’ll stick with positive changes you make when the season turns to summer. The longer days and warmer temperatures do great things for your mental state so adopting change, even big change, is easier and more likely to stick in the summer months. The best part is, if you make smart diet and exercise changes in the summer, you’ll be able to keep them through the winter without even trying.
Wellness is only partially about athletic performance, so we’ve included exercises that will help you look your best on the beach (as if you don’t look great already!) as well as exercises that will enhance your internal fitness, like mobility and recovery. Remember: your summer body is the body you’re in while the season is summer, and we’re here to help you be healthy and feel your best. Let’s go!
There are lots of ways to do sprints, and you can tailor them to your current level of fitness. If you are in moderately good shape, start by sprinting for 30 seconds and walking for 60 seconds. Repeat at least 5 times. If you’ve been at a desk for a while and are just getting started, Power Walk for 15-30 seconds, and slow walk for 60 seconds. There are lots of ways to add variety and difficulty, such as sprinting up hills, or increasing your sprint time and decreasing your recovery time. But remember: this is not a steady state jog. You want to get your heartrate up to your highest healthy max, then let it come back to a resting pace before you do your next sprint.
A note on technique. Most of us aren’t taught on the high school track how to run without hurting ourselves. Heel strikes, when your heel is the first part of your foot to touch the ground when you run, is jarring to knees and hips, and can lead to pain and injury. Try running with a toe strike or a mid-food strike for a softer landing. It takes some getting used to, and your feet might be a little more sore, but it will save the rest of your joints a lot of wear and tear.
2. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings look fun for anyone watching, and they actually are pretty fun to do! Swings are a surprisingly effective full-body exercise that checks the cardio box as well, since you can really get your heart and lungs pumping with this one.
So you think planks look easy? Oh boy are you in for a surprise! Planks use all of your major muscle groups. The goal is to keep all of your muscles firm and stable to keep yourself in the proper plank position. Your abs must be tucked in, knees solid but not locked, and glutes must be activated to stay in a flat position. See how long you can go! Most people starting out should expect to do 15 seconds or less. Work up to holding your plank as long as you can, and aim for a full minute as you get stronger.
4. Sun Salutation
This is a full-body active, restorative movement, and it’s one of the most common moves in most yoga studios. It’s zero impact and gentle on your joints. You can use the Sun Salutation to get ready for the day, as a warmup for a harder workout, or a standalone move repeated several times to tone your whole body. This is one of the best beginner moves too, since you can follow along with the flow and start feeling stronger and more mobile without spending a ton of time on a workout.
5. Actual Deep Breaths
It’s possible none of us have taken a true deep breath since we were five and a half years old. When we take “deep breaths” we tend to open up the tops of our lungs and raise our shoulders. This doesn’t open up the lower two thirds of your lungs, where you can absorb oxygen even more effectively. Entire books have been written about techniques to breathe better, so this is just a starting point. Even with just a little bit of practice you’ll notice that you can think more clearly, are more alert and less anxious, and hold less tension in your neck and shoulders.
Here’s how to do it! Sit up straight and let your shoulders relax. Bring your awareness to your midsection and your belly. You’re going to need to relax all of those muscles too, since this will let your diaphragm move freely. If you are feeling self-conscious about the shape of your body, do this in a room alone. Now, once you’re fully relaxed, slowly breathe in and think about the air going into the bottoms of your lungs, letting your bottom ribs push outward a little. Try to keep your shoulders down and your belly relaxed so it goes in and out with these slower, deeper breaths.
Hiking presents a range of difficulty levels for whatever part of your fitness journey you are on. You can take a slow stroll through a local park, with few hills and obstacles, or you could traverse trails that are barely marked and include steep cliffs both up and down. The beauty of hiking is that you can tailor it to your needs. You don’t need to get on the floor to do exercises, and you don’t need any special equipment besides a decent pair of shoes.
Hiking uses all your muscle groups. It’s easy to see how you’re working your legs and glutes, but you’re also using your core and your arms for stability and balance. Plus, you’re getting fresh air and sunlight, which have their own health benefits. If you want to make hiking harder, you can add a weighted vest, or jog through the areas that are cleared of tripping hazards.
Pushups are a classic for a reason, and it’s the same reason people complain about doing them: they work! In a pushup, you’re using your own body as a lever to increase resistance that your arms have to push away from the ground. You’re working all of the muscles and tendons in your upper body. If you’re like a lot of people just starting your fitness journey, you might not even be able to do a single pushup, and that’s ok! You can start with variations like kneeling pushups, or pushing up (away) from a wall or from stairs. Work on it as a progression to doing full pushups. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you a while of working on it! You’ll start to see changes in your arms quickly. A lot of the time the limiting factor is tendon strength, and that comes more slowly than building muscle. Keep working on it every day!
8. Bodyweight Squats
Nothing builds stability like a good squat. Nothing builds glutes like a good squat either. If you’re looking to work on either of those things, this exercise is for you!
9. Triceps Dips
Do you have a chair? Then you can work on building up the backs of your arms into that nice, enviable V shape to show off in your sleeveless shirts! Start by sitting on the edge of the chair with your legs partially bent and your heels resting on the floor in front of you. Place your hands on either side of your hips. Slide your bottom off of the chair so your weight is supported by your hands, and try not to let your weight sink into your heels. The exercise is exactly as it sounds: dip your body down by bending your elbows, then press back up until your arms are straight. You should feel muscle activation in the backs of your upper arms. If you can only do one rep, that’s a great start! Keep working at it. See if you can do 10, and try doing multiple sets of 10 in a workout.
10. Jump Rope
A good jump rope is $20 or less, is small and portable, and can be done anywhere the ceiling is high enough…especially outside! Jumping rope is an intense cardio workout that will work the muscles in your arms and your legs while building your coordination and reflexes. Plus, since you have to keep your core tight to maintain good form, you’re working on your abs and lower back too. Jumping helps to circulate fluids in your body. Your blood is pumped by your heart, but your lymph and other fluids are circulated by movement, and jumping is one of the best kinds of movements for circulation. This translates to removing built up wastes in your cells and faster regeneration of tissues, so you can expect to see clearer skin and feel less stiffness in your movements if you regularly use jumping rope in your movement practice! Make sure to drink lots of water and electrolytes so you can facilitate great circulation and hydration!
Try all of these practices this summer to see which ones have the biggest impact on your wellness and feeling of vitality! As always, support yourself with great, whole food nutrition and smart supplements that keep you hydrated and energetic to take on whatever life throws at you!