Posted by Michelle Larin on

Staying in shape during the summer festive season can prove a challenge. Evening cocktails by the beach, long lunches with friends and a cheeky afternoon gelato… just to name a few of our vices! Yet feeling healthy and looking fabulous is at the top of most people’s goal list; especially in summer, when the bikini becomes every girl’s key wardrobe staple!

With our chaotic fast-paced lifestyles, it can be difficult to kick-start a plan for healthy living; so we tapped into the knowledge of an experienced personal trainer, Paul Stevenson, to help us all out!

Q: Paul, what are your top 5 tips for getting in shape and staying in shape?

I’d have to say…

1) Set a goal - this provides your training with direction and focus. The goal should be personal to you and something you’re eager to achieve. Make the goal time-framed; a goal without a deadline is merely a dream!

2) If improving body composition is your goal, base your exercise program around resistance training and interval work.

3) Be consistent with your program - the best program is always going to be the one you can stick to.

4) Understand the importance that the food you eat has on the way you look and feel.

5) Enjoy the process! Find something you enjoy doing and fall in love with the process of getting into shape, not just with the end goal. Make healthy eating and exercise a way of life.

Q: How many times a week should we be training and for how long?

As with most questions I get asked regarding health and fitness, the answer is generally 'it depends'! Personal circumstances and goals come into the equation a lot when it comes to the amount of time one can invest in exercise. Generally speaking, more is better, but only if you are able to adequately recover from the stress training places on your body. Too much exercise can be detrimental, especially if your diet isn't great, you have a stressful job or you aren't getting enough sleep. In general terms, anywhere between 3-5 training sessions per week will result in a marked improvement to your physical appearance.In terms of session length, I'm a big advocate of being efficient with your time. Make sessions focused and intense. In other words, don't waste time in the gym! Resistance training sessions should take no longer than 1 hour, with the bulk of the work being done in a 45 minute timeframe.

Q: What's the best type of training for women?

Again, the answer to this is 'it depends'! If the goal is purely aesthetic (that is, losing body fat and gaining lean muscle), then resistance training has to form the basis of any training program. This is true of both men and women. ‘Resistance training’ is a broad concept and can involve various methods of training and various types of equipment ranging from standard weights to Kettlebells, TRX's, medicine balls and good old bodyweight exercises. Whatever the methodology and equipment, the focus should always be on progressively overloading the body and stimulating as much muscle mass as possible. This will rev up your metabolism. This type of training will not only help to add lean mass, but effectively burn body fat too.

Q: What daily exercises would you recommend for getting a killer beach body?!

To look your very best, whether on the beach or in the office, posture is vitally important. I would focus on the muscles that tend to be neglected by most people seeking to improve their physical appearance: calves, hamstrings, glutes and muscles of the upper back. In essence, the muscles you don't see when you look in the mirror! This may seem strange at first but many of these muscles are responsible for improving posture. Try the following bodyweight circuit:

A1) Single Leg Hip Bridges - 3 sets of 12 (2 second pause at the top of each repetition)

A2) Prone Skydivers 3 sets of 12 (2 second pause at the top of each repetition)

A3) Single Leg Standing Calf Raise 3 sets of 12 (2 second pause at the top and bottom of each repetition)

A4) Prisoner Squats - 3 Sets of 20 (focus on keeping your elbows pulled back with fingers interlocked behind your head)

This workout is designed for no rest to be taken between each exercise, but you can take 60 seconds of rest between each circuit.

Q: Do you have a view on diets? The 5:2 diet is pretty popular at the moment!

Everybody is on a diet, whether we choose to call it that or not. Our diet is simply what we consume on a daily basis. If your goal is to improve body composition I would recommend that you:

  • consume a high protein diet (meat, fish, eggs and nuts are all good sources of protein) with at least two servings of green vegetables thrown in with each meal;
  • avoid processed foods when possible;
  • drink plenty of water; and
  • minimise your alcohol intake.
With regard to the 5:2 diet, or any kind of diet involving fasting, evidence seems to point favourably to intermittent fasting, not only in terms of its health benefits, but also for the weight loss results. However, there is no one best diet for everyone to be on. Everyone’s body is different and responds differently, which is why an individual approach needs to be taken to diets (factoring in things like lifestyle, health history and sleeping habits).

    Q: Should we be taking any supplements?

    Supplements certainly do have a role to play, providing our bodies with key vitamins and nutrients we may struggle to get enough of in our diet. For example, those who train on a regular basis tend to be deficient in magnesium, so that is always a supplement I would recommend taking. I also recommend taking fish oil to ensure you’re getting the right balance of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, a protein supplement to be consumed immediately after training sessions to ensure adequate recovery, and a greens drink for overall health and wellbeing.

    * * *
    Paul Stevenson is a fully qualified personal trainer with over 7-years’ experience. He is a qualified Sports Massage Therapist, Level 2 Poliquin Strength & Conditioning Coach, Kettlebell Instructor, Functional Movement Specialist and is Precision Nutrition Certified. Paul is currently the Senior Trainer at Protrain Fitness in Darlinghurst, NSW.


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