Spring is almost here, and you and your friends are likely gearing up for the annual collegiate pilgrimage euphemistically called spring break. You're probably headed to the beach, or at least someplace with a pool and Jacuzzi, for a week of total hedonism. Your transportation has been arranged for months, you know exactly where you'll he staying and you've even located the hottest nightspots in the area. The only thing you forgot to do is get into peak shape!
With three weeks till you depart, you're in a chaotic panic as you realize you aren't the same person who showed up on campus in September. Winter's cold, dreary days may have even packed a few unwanted pounds onto your formerly taut physic. Desperate, you make a pact with yourself, refusing to eat until you fit into your favorite jeans. After a day of drinking only a few bucketfuls of water and half a dozen cans of diet soda, you give up, exhausted, hungry and frustrated.
Well, don't throw in the towel yet if you aren't exactly in perfect condition, this article may he just the ticket. Keep in mind that although you can't make miraculous changes to your body in three weeks, you can make some subtle modifications in that time to sharpen your physique and improve your appearance. These measures in no way replace a year's worth of hard work in the gym, but since your friends are going to drag you to the beach anyway, you might as well do what you can to avoid looking like the NCAA pie-eating champion.
The Final Countdown
1) Start a simple diet.
The key word here is simple, with an emphasis on balanced. You may he able to shed a couple of pounds a week simply by cleaning up your eating habits. Stop eating all fried foods, oils, butter, margarine, chips, sugar and other refined foods. I suggest you consume four meals daily, two consisting of meal-replacement drinks and the other two being low-fat meals.
Most meal-replacement drinks supply 250-300 calories with approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates and roughly another 30 grams of protein. They're also packed with a full array of vitamins and minerals. Your two low-fat meals should combine low-fat proteins such as egg whites, chicken, turkey or fish with one complex carbohydrate like potatoes, whole-grain bread, yams, rice or pasta and a serving of vegetables. Have a large salad with one meal. Eat slowly, and try to leave the table knowing you didn't consume an excessive quantity of food.
2) Exercise moderately.
Sometimes the starver gives up, realizing he or she must eat, but compensates with a ridiculous amount of exercise. Excessive dieting and excessive exercise are equally insane. Take the smart approach and spend exactly one hour a day in the gym. Split the time evenly between 30 minutes of weight training and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. This could burn off another 3 pounds of fat in the coming three weeks.
If you haven't been hitting the gym regularly, this exercise may have an additional benefit; by improving what's called your muscle tonus (an increase in muscular electrical activity commonly referred to as "tone"), your body can appear firmer. Your muscles probably won't get any bigger, but you can reduce your jiggling to a minimum.
Then, of course, you have the always-popular "pre-pool pump." While an astoundingly large number of men are familiar with this technique, almost no one will admit to using it. At its simplest, it involves doing a couple of sets of push-ups or curls immediately before you step out the door of your hotel room; more complicated rituals involve decathlon-style full-body workouts to engorge every muscle with as much blood as possible. If you absolutely insist on doing this, I'd suggest the former. Either one will be temporary, and a couple of sets of push-ups is less likely to leave you exhausted, cramping and sweating like a Clydesdale in a sauna.
People who love to tan believe it makes them look better, and in a lot of cases it does If you choose your local "electric beach," three weeks is plenty of time to get a very solid base. Having a base tan can also minimize your potential to get sunburned when you're outdoors on vacation. If you tan easily, you may get quite dark within 10-14 visits, but don't try to do it all in one or two sessions. You'll either end up with barely noticeable results or, if you opt for a UV marathon session, you'll probably be peeling just in time to hit the real beach.
Remember, when you subject yourself to enough rays (natural or artificial) to elicit a tanning response, you're technically causing skin damage. In fact, says the University of California at Berkeley We//ness Letter, "Tanning lamps will soon be on the list of known carcinogens." A government panel recommended that ultraviolet light, both from the sun and artificial sources, be put on the list, says the newsletter. If you decide to use a sunless tanning lotion instead, give yourself enough time to apply several applications so you can achieve the desired amount of bronzing.
A reminder about sunscreen: Use it. If you bake yourself to a crisp the first day of spring break and end up covered head-to-toe with Noxzema and watching soaps in your hotel room for the next six days, that's one thing. If you wind up getting skin cancer, that's a whole different ball game and yes, young people get it, too. Choose a sun screen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
4) Drink lots of water.
Water is nature's diuretic. Increasing your water consumption to 2 gallons a day can help you shed a few extra pounds of unwanted water over this 21-day period. If you dislike plain water, add a slice of lemon or mix in your favorite flavor of Crystal Lite.
Have you ever noticed that runway and print models, both men and women, are devoid of body hair? Shaving away any body hair that may normally be exposed when you wear a bathing suit can make your body look sharper and leaner. Imagine a bodybuilder like Shawn Ray with a thick mat of hair on his chest he might still look muscular, but much of the detail would be obscured.
You can accomplish this shorn look in one of several ways, depending on the coarseness of your hair and the sensitivity of your skin. A cream-based hair remover can cause skin irritation and patchy results for many people. For those with thick hair, try barber's clippers or the shortest setting on a heard trimmer to remove the heavy stuff, then follow up with a disposable twin-blade razor while showering. Be sure to use a moisturizer on your skin following the shave and unless you're a masochist, by no means use an aftershave lotion unless it has little or no alcohol.
6) Buy the right bathing suit.
Men have it easy: Oversized swim trunks that extend to the knee are popular, and loose-fitting, surfer-style corduroy shuns and a tank top are appropriate beach apparel and offer effective camouflage for the muscularly impaired.
For women, this issue is a bit more complicated. Bikinis reveal more of your physique than one-piece suits, so if you have something to hide, you may not want to be stingy with the material. Bikinis with wide straps instead of strings will probably be most flattering for women who are concerned that they've "missed their peak."
Make sure your suit fits properly; if it fit great six months ago but now looks like skin on bologna, you may want to invest in a new one to avoid creating embarrassing rolls where fabric meets flesh. Women can also enhance their appearance (Or conceal flaws) by adding a colorful waist wrap to a bikini.
One-piece suits with vertical stripes can create the illusion of a slender or taller physique; one-piece suits with a cutout in the midsection may he an appealing compromise between a bikini and a one-piece.
7) Get a haircut.
Politicians have the most perfect hair on earth, and these men and women obviously understand the importance of appearance. A fresh haircut conveys the message that you're neat, clean and concerned with your health. A new haircut might not get you elected class president, but it may improve the look of your student body.
8) New clothes.
Professional makeover artists could make a downright chunky individual appear lean with a change of wardrobe. New jeans, T-shirts, a skirt or shirt can make you feel better about yourself, and that's half the battle in looking simply irresistible as you head off into that perfect spring-break sunset.