Shape Up for Summer: Ultimate Workout Plan

Whether you like to bike, swim or run, turbocharge your routine with our workout plan and get in your best shape ever for summer.

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Summer Slim-Down


If you think the term "fun in the sun" refers only to cocktails and lounging, it's time to expand your definition to include a workout plan. Research has shown what you inherently know is true—it's easier and infinitely more enjoyable to exercise outside. We talked to four fitness pros who shared beginner routines, suggested essential strength-training moves and offered get-up-and-go motivational tips to make your chosen workout plan one you will really stick with. The results-driven advice: Mix up your workouts, fitting in at least four days of cardio each week plus as many strength moves as you can manage. Stick with the program for the next month not just to drop pounds but also to boost your mood.

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Make a Run for It


If you worry about becoming winded while running, we have a really simple trick: Slow down. "When you come out too fast you can't sustain that speed for the duration of the run," explains Jessica Green, a Road Runners Club of America–certified coach for Hot Bird Running, a running company in Portland, OR. Her interval workout not only includes a break but also mixes in strength training segments to help you get stronger faster, even as you incorporate those few moments to catch your breath. Before your first workout, check that your running shoes don't rub or slide, and wear a supportive sports bra and a top and shorts that wick away moisture. Choose a route that has areas for doing strength moves. As you run, Green suggests breathing deep into your belly, rather than taking shallow breaths in your chest. This will keep you from feeling winded.

Running Workout Plan: Customize this running-stength combo by doing moves such as bridge lifts, push-ups and dead lifts. You can also make each run segment longer or pick up the pace.

0:00 to 5:00 Walk fast or jog at an easy pace. This should feel like a 3 or 4 on a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale of 1 to 10.

5:00 to 7:00 Dynamic stretching: high knee run or march, butt kicks, leg swings front to back and side to side.

7:00 to 12:00 Run at an easy conversational pace, RPE 5 or 6.

12:00 to 14:00 Strength blast

12:00 to 12:30 Squats

12:30 to 13:00 Calf raises

13:00 to 13:30 Squats

13:30 to 14:00 Calf raises

14:00 to 17:00 Run at an easy conversational pace.

17:00 to 19:30 Strength blast

17:00 to 17:30 Reverse lunges (left leg steps back)

17:30 to 18:00 Reverse lunges (switch sides)

18:00 to 18:30 Rest

18:30 to 19:00 Reverse lunges

19:00 to 19:30 Reverse lunges (switch sides)

19:30 to 22:30 Run at an easy conversational pace.

22:30 to 25:00 Strength blast

22:30 to 23:00 Side lunges (left leg steps side)

23:00 to 23:30 Side lunges (switch sides)

23:30 to 24:00 Rest

24:00 to 24:30 Side lunges

24:30 to 25:00 Side lunges (switch sides)

25:00 to 28:00 Run at an easy conversational pace.

28:00 to 29:00 Forearm plank

29:00 to 32:00 Static stretching

Best for Running: Forearm-to-Hand Planks

Tone your whole body—especially your core—and perk up your posture, says Paul Arciero, DPE, director of the Human Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory at Skidmore College. Both are important for form and speed. Start in plank position with hands under shoulders. Bend right elbow, lowering right forearm to ground. Bend left elbow, lowering left forearm to ground so you are in a forearm plank. Straighten right elbow, then straighten left elbow so you are in a full plank. Repeat to left for 1 rep. Do 4–6 reps.

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Cycling Workout


Love the feeling of the wind in your hair? Then strap on a helmet—and consider some padded shorts—because cycling is the sport for you. Yes, you may have to work hard to pedal up a hill, but the thrill of sitting back and coasting downhill makes it all worthwhile. For those who don't have a two-wheeler, head to a local cycling shop with this advice in mind: "Don't buy a bike for where you are right now as a rider; buy the bike you'll need in a year or two," suggests Tara Parsons, a cycling coach in New York City and director of Rider Development for the Century Road Club Association. Focus on function as well. Although you may fall for a cute cruiser, if you're planning to cycle for exercise in addition to transportation you may want to shop for a sportier model. For those who already own a bike, you should still visit a bike shop for a tune-up (most run between $50 and $75 per hour), tips on maintenance and suggestions for fun places to ride.

Cycling Workout Plan: Before pedaling off, make sure your wheels are secure and your brakes work and put on a helmet. Leave the headphones at home so you can pay full attention to traffic. This workout has two big power surges. Once you feel like you've got them down, challenge yourself by repeating minutes 16:00 through 20:00 once, twice or more.

0:00 to 5:00 Pedal slowly to warm up.

5:00 to 13:00 Gradually increase your pace from easy to a very hard effort so that you're breathing hard and can't say more than a word or two by the final minute. You'll work your way up to a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8 or so on a scale of 1 to 10.

13:00 to 16:00 Pedal slowly to recover, RPE 3 or 4.

16:00 to 17:00 Pedal at a very hard effort.

17:00 to 20:00 Pedal slowly to recover.

20:00 to 30:00 Pedal at a moderate rate, slowing down and lightening gears so that you are spinning at the end.

Best for Cycling: Reverse Snow Angel

Sure, your feet power the pedals during cycling, but a lot of that energy comes from your glutes, says Arciero. This exercise makes it easier for them to work overtime. Lie facedown with legs together and arms straight overhead. Lift legs, arms and head. Circle arms down by hips. Circle arms back to start position, as if doing a snow angel, keeping legs and head lifted and still. Do 5 arm circles for 1 rep. Rest for a few breaths. Do 5–8 reps.

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Take the Plunge


"Many adults I work with talk about how the water is a magical place for them, where they can escape day-to-day stress," says Alexis Keto, head swim coach and aquatic director at Colorado Athletic Club at Inverness, in Englewood, CO. If that doesn't sound enticing enough to make bathing suit shopping worthwhile, we're not sure what is. But if you feel more like a mere mortal than a mermaid in the pool, here's the likely reason: It's your breathing. Having to think about this automatic behavior while also controlling your limbs and keeping afloat requires, well, practice. Before you dive in, take a few normal breaths. "Try to avoid a big gulp of air—just take a small sip and remember to exhale into the water when you're in the pool," advises Keto. Should you lose your rhythm once you get moving, pause and practice a little more while holding on to the edge of the pool. Not a fan of putting your face in the water? Stick to the backstroke.

Swiming Workout Plan: If you don't swim regularly, sign up for some lessons at the start of the season. Proper form can make strokes feel a lot easier and your workout more effective. You'll need fins, pull buoys and kickboards for this routine, but most pools have them.

0:00 to 3:00 Swim freestyle 4 lengths (100 yards total). This should feel like a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 to 10.

3:00 to 9:00 Swim freestyle 8 lengths with a kickboard and fins (200 yards total). Rest 15 seconds between lengths, RPE 5 or 6.

9:00 to 12:00 Swim backstroke or breaststroke 8 lengths (200 yards). RPE 3 or 4.

12:00 to 20:00 Swim freestyle 12 lengths (300 yards). Rest 20 seconds between laps (2 lengths), RPE 5 or 6.

20:00 to 25:00 Swim freestyle 8 lengths using a pull buoy between your legs so that only your arms work (200 yards total). Pull as hard as possible. Rest 20 seconds between lengths, RPE 7 or 8.

25:00 to 30:00 Swim backstroke 2 lengths to cool down (50 yards), RPE 1 or 2.

Best for Swimmers: Lunges with Overhead Press

Strengthen every area with this move that challenges coordination—a must for swimming, says Arciero. Stand holding an 8- to 15-pound medicine ball or dumbbell in front of your chest. Step right foot forward to a lunge, reaching arms overhead. Return to start. Step right foot to a side lunge, lifting arms overhead. Return to start. Step right foot back to a reverse lunge, lifting arms overhead. Return to start. Repeat to left for 1 rep. Do 5–8 reps.