"Bikini." Does that word conjure up fun images of lounging at beaches and pools, or does it make you feel guilty as you reflect upon the french fries you had with lunch?
With swimsuit season drawing ever closer, thoughts inevitably turn to the figure you'll be cutting at various warm-weather engagements this summer.
If these thoughts make you imagine countless hours spent in aerobics class this spring, we have two words for you: circuit training.
Circuit: The All-in-One Workout
Circuit training is the practice of performing one set of a specific exercise and then quickly moving to another exercise and then another. A recent trend of adding cardio intervals to the resistance training circuits has become popular for a number of reasons.
"Cardio circuit training manages a person's fatigue through short bouts of exercise," says Tim Moore, PhD, CSCS, a health and fitness consultant who has spent the last 25 years training elite athletes, Hollywood celebrities, Fortune 500 CEOs, and everyone in between. "And when you intersperse it with strength training, you get the most bang for your buck."
The calorie-burning synergy that is created by a cardio circuit is hard to beat. In fact, in just one 30-minute bout of exercise, you combine a resistance-training workout with an aerobic session and the results pay dividends for hours.
"For 24-48 hours after doing an interval workout, your metabolism stays elevated," says Moore.
Keeping it Fresh
Not only does this type of workout help burn fat and build muscle, the fast pace keeps boredom from setting in and combining the two workouts is a boon for the time-crunched. Additionally, the flexible nature of the program allows the user to easily control the intensity and take as much or as little rest as needed.
"I like to set up my clients for success rather than failure," says Moore. "For a circuit workout that comes in interval form, you want to increase the time working and decrease the time resting. It is easy for a beginner to do that."
If you can stay with this workout plan for four to six weeks, you can build an exercise habit that will seamlessly become part of your daily routine.
"I'll have clients come to me and say 'I can give you two times a week for half an hour.' A year later they are doing four times a week for an hour. It is a natural progression," says Moore.
After that, you'll be in bikini shape all year long.