"Hi. I'm 31 and I've always been on the thin side. I've been lucky because I've stayed thin even though I eat whatever I want and I've never stepped foot inside a gym. I'm what you might call 'skinny fat,"- I look fine in clothes but underneath I'm not toned at all- my tummy is especially soft and I feel like as I get older, the softer it gets. I'm in fine health and I know this is going to sound totally shallow but my husband and I are renting a beach house for a week this August and I want to be able to wear a bikini and feel good about it. I don't even know where to start-I'm totally not athletic and when it comes to exercise, I tried running with one of my friends and I hated it. Should I just suck it up and learn to love running? What is the best workout for someone that's skinny fat?"- Jamie J., Stony Point, NY
Hey, Jamie, thanks for the email. Don't worry about sounding shallow. Vanity has led many a person down the fitness path (myself included) and, regardless of how you stumble upon it, the other benefits of exercise like sleeping better, decreasing stress, functioning better outside the gym and preventing future health problems, in no way conflict with your main objective at this time, which is to look hot in a bathing suit. Good on you for taking the initiative to start exercising.
I have a lot of good news for you, Jamie. First, you are more athletic than you imagine yourself to be, I assure you, and once you're exercising with consistency, you are going to surprise yourself. I know what it's like to feel like you're late to the game in terms of exercise. I didn't start exercising until I was in my early 20s and had always considered myself to be decidedly non-athletic (as did Mr. Perez, my tenth grade gym teacher who once told me to get off the basketball court, "before you hurt yourself") but through consistency and hard work, I am physically capable of things I never imagined possible.
More good news; you don't have to run if you don't want to run. You need something in your fitness program to get your heart rate up but there are so many other options to satisfy this need that if you don't want to run, don't run. If you're someone that does well in a group setting, you might want to try spin, dance or boxing. If there's something that you enjoy or at least find bearable, do it. If none of those things strikes your fancy and you just don't enjoy long-form aerobic activities, there are exercises you can do where you can get your aerobic fix in a shorter amount of time. I'm especially partial to High Intensity Interval exercises such as Burpees or movements like these. In terms of the most bang for your buck in the shortest amount of time, you really cannot beat Kettlebells, which allow you to build strength and work aerobically at the same time.
The single most essential element of your program (or any program, for that matter), both in terms of your beach-specific goals and in terms of overall health, is an emphasis on developing a strong core. A strong core will prevent risk of injury, improve your posture, and, in time and with the aid of a healthy diet, give you hot-looking abs. In terms of toning up, you definitely are going to need to do some resistance training, probably with weights but at the very least using your body weight or resistance bands. Since you are already thin, you will probably see results sooner rather than later.
One more word of advice on getting started is that, since this is a new endeavor, you want to establish habits that are sustainable. For the first month of your program, schedule 2-3 exercise sessions per week. If you are able to add another day here or there, that's gravy. If after this month, you feel like you can add an extra regularly scheduled session, by all means, do it. Your first fitness goal should simply be showing up consistently-at least for this month.
Good luck, Jamie. You may not ever love exercising but if you stick with it, you are going to love what it does for you.
Questions? Email Michael@buckleybodysolutions.com