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Fitsmart: July 2012

It’s the middle of summer and everyone wants to look and feel good. Making some subtle changes to your routine can give you the edge you need to stay strong and healthy.

July 6, 2012 
By Brad Lawrence

It’s the middle of summer and everyone wants to look and feel good. Making some subtle changes to your routine can give you the edge you need to stay strong and healthy.

Goal setting
A self-evaluation is a good start. Ask yourself where you are with your fitness and workout goals and where you want to be. If you feel you want to make major changes in your body or fitness level that’s great, but realize that a wholesale shakeup  requires major changes to your preparation and work ethic. If you feel your plan needs only minor tweaking, the key is to dial in to exactly where that is required.

Regardless of your goal, make it specific so you can begin to hold yourself accountable. Some people specify their goals through numbers. For example, you may wish to be able to run for 30, 40 or 60 minutes without fatigue, or you may wish to reach a certain body fat percentage or bear certain weights in different exercises. Whichever the case, make your goals specific and reasonably attainable.

Weight training design changes
Take a look at you workout program and identify areas in which you feel you can improve. If you don’t change anything about how you prepare and train, you won’t see any changes in your body. Subtle changes in your workout can produce major results. When training for a seasonal goal, making your current workout programs more metabolic is a great way to start – in other words, create an environment in which more energy is expended and less rest is taken.


Try doing super sets to eliminate long rest periods between sets. You don’t have to pick the most challenging exercise to superset, but choose something that will maintain an elevated heart rate through your rest period. For example, here’s how you can simply eliminate rest times by implementing another exercise:

Old program (three sets)   
    1. Chest press   
    2. Chest fly

New version (three sets)
   1. Chest press   
   1a. Core bicycle           
   2. Chest fly
   2a. Mountain climbers

The exercises added as supersets are more difficult, will enable you to maintain a higher heart rate and  will boost your metabolism for much longer.

Secondly, alter your tempo during your workout. For example, make your first and third sets of each exercise explosive for your entire training session. Explosive movements quickly recruit more muscle fibres and put a different load onto your muscles.

Cardio program design
Generally, cardio is be strictly tied to your motivation level. Are you  doing enough cardio to meet your goals or are you falling short? For most of us, doing cardio two or three times a week should yield a positive result, but that may not be enough if you desire major changes in your body and fitness level.

Remember, significant changes in your body require a significant effort. Your program for cardio should be fairly simple; try a blend of lengthy fat-loss programs and short HIIT (high intensity interval training), and increase the frequency as desired.

Nutrition changes
The most effective way to shape up for summer is through diet. Healthy eating may not be your favourite option, but don’t waste your hard work in the gym by being foolish in the kitchen. You don’t have to eat perfectly to succeed but there are some simple changes you can make that will lead to improvements. I don’t have any groundbreaking advice to offer, just basic, proven methods. 

Eat a better breakfast: Breakfast should be eaten within an hour of waking (the sooner the better). This kick-starts your metabolism and gets your body going for the day. Make sure you include a reasonable amount of protein, and set the tone for your day with a strong, healthy start.

Watch meal sizes and content. Especially with these goals, I’d always stress a high-protein, low-carb style of eating. Choose smaller portions, and eat more meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism high. Each meal should include

Time your proteins. Make sure you have an adequate supply of quality protein at every meal. For your last meal, try eating protein only (or add a vegetable as well, if necessary). Eating carbs right before bed will simply inhibit your growth hormone release, potentially leading to obesity, decreased muscle mass and lower energy levels.

Drink lots of water. For most of us this means drinking three to 3.5 litres of water each day. Carry a water bottle and make this easy on yourself.

Reduce carbohydrate intake. Most of us eat too many carbs. Read the back of any rice package and you’ll see how easy it is to exceed the serving recommendations.

Eliminate simple sugars. Simple refined sugars are exactly the opposite of what you need to achieve your goals. Stick with your program and eliminate quick sugars altogether.

Try integrating these changes into your fitness program to make sure you look and feel your best. Set goals and push forward until you reach and exceed them.

Happy training. 

Brad Lawrence is a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department and a certified personal trainer who specializes in training and nutrition for emergency responders. E-mail Brad at

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