“Hello. It’s me. I’ve been MIA because my head is still in Hawaii.”
That’s essentially the only good reason I have for you. I realize that Month Three of this segment turned into Month Three-and-a-Half. Roll with it. You had to know I’d come back for you. A great trainer knows how to make people hold on a little longer than they’re comfortable. How’s that for justification of my absence?
Judging by how many hits I’ve had lately on the Get Fit in Four post series, you guys are ready. You’re ready for the nitty gritty, detail-intensive, game-changing last month. And what better time to amp yourself up for it than during the holidays, when you know you’re going to be thrown into food and drink remorse. I speak of this judgement-free since I managed to gain more than a few pounds on vacation (I blame only myself…and the market fresh coconut filled with rum…and the margaritas at Fred’s Mexican Café). The fact that I’d lost more than a few pounds beforehand during my own Get Fit in Four journey, however, kind of makes me feel no remorse. See how that worked out for me? It’s a win/win. Your turn!
If you’ve been doing your homework from Month 1, Month 2 and Month 3 then you’ve been logging your food, watching your portions, lifting heavier, interval training and choosing cleansing, less bread-like foods. You’ve also been increasing your protein intake. Well done, team. If this was a basketball game I’d slap you on the butt and fist-pump you. Since this is simply the game of life I feel doing both those things in tandem would be highly inappropriate. So you get a proverbial high five and a get-back-to-work nod of approval. We’re headed into overtime.
Get Fit in 4: Month Four
*Disclaimer: Please remember I’m giving you my plan for myself, which means you may have to tweak a few things if you’re already doing them/they don’t apply/you have an alternate effective method. I’ll give suggestions for options where I think they are applicable but otherwise try to focus on keeping true to yourself and finding areas you can improve on that are similar to what I’m tackling in this guide. Also, this is meant to escalate in baby steps, meaning each month will become more focused, particularly the last month where I’ll be in small-detail mode. Oof!*
- Limit sugars and alcohol.
You were dreading this moment, I know. If you remember back in Month One I promised I would bring you a doable approach to getting fit that allowed you to still drink your wine. Because Yours Truly here does not give up wine unless I’m having a major surgery. Even then it’s extremely temporary. If you are up for cutting out alcohol altogether for a month, do it. You’ll see even better and quicker results than I did and I will applaud you and cheers you with my Walla Walla Red Blend. Otherwise, you can simply limit yourself to one glass a *fill in the blank.* Maybe it’s one glass a night all week long (back in Month One I only committed to 1 glass/night Sunday through Thursday). Maybe it’s one glass every other night. Maybe it’s one glass a week. Commit to it this month.
Also, really cut back on your sugars now. Sure, I’m talking about all that Halloween candy you’re still sneaking or the pies people haven’t stopped gifting you for the holidays. But I’m also talking about sugar in the form of less-obvious things like beverages, cereals, condiments, baked goods, breads, etc. If you won’t be starting Month Four until after the holidays and the New Year begins, you’ll likely be in sugar coma overload.
2. H.I.I.T. train more, more, more.
Last month I told you to integrate interval training into your workouts. We’re going to build on that this last month and up the playing level with H.I.I.T. training (High Intensity Interval Training). These are generally shorter workouts done at a higher/as challenging as possible intensity. For a beginner bodyweight H.I.I.T. workout check out this post. If the treadmill is more your go-to torture device, there’s a H.I.I.T. workout here for you, too.
Essentially, the idea behind H.I.I.T. training is that by doing shorter bouts of high intensity work alternated with a fixed period of less-intense activity or even complete rest, the body will be pushed to burn fat more efficiently. You can thank your body’s repair cycle for this, seeing as you’ll actually continue to burn calories for 24 hours after a H.I.I.T. workout. Since the whole point behind Month Four is to shed as much fat as possible, H.I.I.T. training is the ringer you call in to seal the championship trophy at the end of the game.
My favorite way to do H.I.I.T. is actually equipment-free. I typically do 20 minutes of H.I.I.T once or twice a week. You can Pinterest the hell out of the H.I.I.T. workout world and find yourself a good one, or check out the two links (above) to my own posts to get you started.
3. Drink LOTS of H2O.
I mean, you should be peeing pretty much every time you blink. Or maybe just really often. Water is super important this time around and if it wasn’t already a BFD to you, congratulations – you just had a baby – we’ll call her Dasani – and we don’t leave the house without the baby, do we?
If you’ve ever said the words “water weight” you probably know you can lose or gain 1-3 pounds of the stuff over the course of a day. Traveling home from Hawaii on the red eye a couple weeks ago, I was overjoyed to discover my cankles later that day. On opposite day. Truth is, water weight is a jerk of a thing. One way to fight back is by moving lots, reducing your sodium intake and drinking more water than a hungover elephant. I know, my husband thinks I’m insanely eloquent, too.
4. Incorporate pyramid training when weight lifting.
Here’s where it gets technical and also fun. You’ve already been lifting heavier since Month Two, right? Yesssss. You’re used to doing straight sets by now whether you know it or not – they are when you do a fixed number of reps of an exercise no matter how many sets are in your workout. Straight sets are pretty common and while they are a great thing, it’s time to change it up. It’s time to introduce pyramid training.
There are two kinds of pyramid training: Regular pyramid sets and reverse pyramid sets. Let’s start with the good ‘ol fashioned way first.
Pyramid sets are when you increase the weight each set while decreasing the reps. That simple. Here’s a borrowed example:
With pyramid sets, you’ll usually do 4 (or more) sets. Four sets is my minimum when I’m doing this type of workout.
The only issue I have with regular pyramid training and what many people in the fitness industry confirm is that doing it this way means your muscles are already fatigued by the time you begin lifting the heaviest weight. Hmm…if only there were something called reverse pyramid training…
Magically, reverse pyramid training, uh, reverses everything. So instead, you’ll start out lifting the heaviest weight you can manage for a lesser number of reps, then each set you’ll lower the weight and increase the reps. Like this:
While I do both kinds of pyramid training to mix it up, I’m partial to doing it this way. For the most part I really enjoy that the weights get lighter every set. I like being rewarded for my valiant effort.
To get to work on either of these methods, simply pick out which exercises you’re going to do and pick a weight and number of reps to begin with. You can do each set back-to-back or you can do the entire routine with all exercises once, then move on to the next set. Your first time will be mostly trial and error as you figure out what you’re capable of lifting. Push yourself as much as you can and rest a little longer than usual between sets (unless your usual is long enough to drive across town for a skinny latte).
Also, it’s crucial that you warm up properly before doing either type of pyramid training. Now is not the appropriate time to shave 5 minutes off your schedule.
5. Listen to your body!
After all that talk about going into overtime and sealing the championship trophy, here is where I tell you to chill the !@#& out. Quite honestly, I gave myself some breaks here and there during this whole process. Crap happens. My life and your life are not perfect. Pretty sure I could’ve been even more fit when I hit the beach. Pretty sure I didn’t care because…I was on the beach. Be kind to yourself and your body and your perception of it. There are enough crazy-obsessive people out there – you’re not one of them (I mean, please tell me you’re not one of them, right?).
P.S. One suggestion: Do not get a spray tan two days before you jump in the beautiful, warm, salty ocean to body surf. Total. Waste. Unless you enjoy looking like a black and tan brownie.