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Start Your Spring Prep Now
When the temperature drops, there's probably just one number you dread seeing climb: your weight. Concealing coats, cold weather and everything from the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie you baked to Valentine's Day truffles courtesy of your husband conspire to expand your waistline. But you can greet spring with your figure intact. First, follow this effective strength-training routine from exercise expert Suzanne Bowen, star of the Gorgeous Core DVD and creator of the BarreAmped Fitness Method. "You'll burn fat and build lean muscle mass, which will help prevent weight gain," says Bowen. These moves work multiple muscles simultaneously, and our smart tips will keep your motivation—and your metabolism—soaring.
—Favorite jeans a little tight? Do all moves and repeat sequence twice.
—Denims fit just right? Keep it that way by doing the sequence just once.
—Knock out this workout 3 or 4 days per week.
No Butts About ItWorks legs, butt, and core
Stand with a chair on your right for support and your left hand on your hip. Step into lunge position with your right leg, keeping right knee aligned with ankle and thigh parallel to the floor. Return to standing and lift your left knee while contracting right leg and hip. Repeat sequence as quickly as you can for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Take it up a notch: Pick up the pace or place both hands on hips.
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Trim to a "T"
Works legs, butt, and core
Place feet hip-width apart and hands on hips. Shift weight to your left leg with knee slightly bent and tap right foot behind you on floor. Keeping hips parallel, hinge forward slowly and lift right leg behind you so your body forms a T. Your upper body and right leg should be parallel to floor. Return to start and repeat slowly for 30 seconds. Switch sides.
Take it up a notch: Extend arms overhead and keep elbows by your ears as you tilt forward.
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Skinny Jeans Squat
Works legs, butt, and core
Stand with hands on hips, heels two to three feet apart, and toes turned out to sides. Descend into a squat until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor, keeping your weight in your heels and your back straight. Return to start and repeat for 60 seconds. Do a second set for 30 seconds, this time keeping your right heel lifted as you squat. For the third and final set, keep just your left heel lifted as you squat for 30 seconds.
Take it up a notch: Rather than doing slower squats and releasing to start each time, stay low for smaller, deep squats within the time frame.
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Works legs, butt, and core
Stand with feet together, right hand on hip and left hand on a chair. Point toes on left foot and, bending left knee slightly, lift left leg as high as you can without sacrificing posture. From this position, do small leg lifts for 30 seconds with foot pointed and 30 seconds with foot flexed. Release and switch sides.
Take it up a notch: Extend arms to sides at shoulder height, palms down, as you do the lifts.
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Wings Be Gone
Works arms, legs, and core
Sit on floor with knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Lean torso back slightly and place palms on floor directly in line with shoulders. Lift your hips off floor, bend elbows and lower butt toward floor without letting body touch the ground. Push back to start. Repeat for 30 seconds. Rest and repeat.
Take it up a notch: As you lower body, bring one knee into chest, alternating knee each time you dip.
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Works core, chest, and legs
Get into plank position with elbows under shoulders on the floor and body in one straight line. Contract abs so back doesn't sag. Rotating body slightly, lower left hip toward floor. Return to start and repeat, this time dipping right hip toward floor. Repeat for 30 seconds, alternating side each time. Rest and repeat.
Take it up a notch: Do the move for 45 seconds instead of 30.
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Sexy Shoulder Sculptor
Works chest, arms, and core
Get into push-up position with hands slightly wider than shoulders, and knees and feet on floor. Contracting abs, bend arms and lower chest toward floor. Press back to start without locking elbows. From this position, lift knees off floor so body forms one long line. Hold this position for two counts. Return to start and repeat push-up to plank for 30 seconds. Rest and repeat sequence again.
Take it up a notch: Keep knees off floor throughout the entire move.
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Get into sit-up position, with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Extend arms in front of you, palms together. Lift shoulder blades off floor and, holding this position, lift hands through center of legs, then to right of legs, back to center and then to left of legs. Return to start and repeat sequence for 30 seconds. Rest and repeat.
Take it up a notch: Start with arms extended overhead so your elbows are by your ears.
Extra trips to the fridge are fine—so long as you open the door with a plan. "Eating healthy snacks prevents you from giving into cravings and overeating," says Rima Kleiner, R.D., a dietician based in Washington, D.C. Dine on these fast fixes:
—1/4 cup of low-fat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup peach slices
—1/2 banana smeared with 1/2 tablespoon of natural peanut butter and sprinkled with cinnamon
—1/4 avocado smeared on 1 slice of whole wheat bread, sprinkled with sea salt
—30 pistachios, shelled, or 45 edamame in pods
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Try These Bonus Moves!
Working out is only part of the equation. Add a few other slimming habits to your to-do list for success you can see and feel.
—Weigh yourself weekly. "Although weight fluctuates due to water retention and menstrual cycles, seeing numbers consistently creep up over a couple of weeks may be motivation to make some changes," says Kleiner. If you're noticing bigger digits, step up your activity level or trim portions.
—Consider a supplement. Levels of vitamin D, which your body makes when exposed to sunlight or gets from food, plummet in the winter. And people with excess weight have lower levels of the nutrient. "Taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day can benefit you during the winter, unless your doctor says you're low in it and may need to take more," explains Scott Kahan, M.D., associate director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore. Studies show taking D also decreases depression in women during winter and may help you fend off colds and flu.
—Sneak in movement. Instead of e-mailing your colleague, walk to her office; if you're waiting at the pediatrician's, choose to stand versus sitting; and swap resting on your couch as you chat on the phone with walking around your house. Surprisingly, these little actions can add up to large rewards. "Studies show that you burn most of your calories doing everyday activities versus formal exercise," says Lavinia Rodriguez, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Tampa Bay, Florida. So add a little movement to ordinary sedentary tasks for a big payoff.
—Start your day right. "Regular breakfast eaters have a leaner waistline and less fatigue through the day," says Kleiner, adding that studies have found that breakfast skippers eat mindlessly and often binge at dinner. For meals that won't make you covet the kids' pancakes, try oatmeal mixed with apples, nuts, cinnamon and honey; whole-grain waffles with blueberries and walnuts; or an egg sandwich with spinach, cheese and turkey sausage on a piece of whole-grain bread.
—Brave the elements. Building snow forts and going ice skating isn't just child's play. Turns out, getting outside in the chilly air could do you some good. "Your body has to work hard to warm you up, which means your metabolism will get a significant boost," says fitness and nutrition expert JJ Virgin, Ph.D., author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy (Simon & Schuster).
Originally published in the February 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.
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