Whether you’re ramping up your diet and exercise for bikini season, or you just want to be as healthy as you can be, look no further – we’ve got a plan for you, courtesy of professional athletes like Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, pro boxer Cara Castronuova, and pro soccer player Leslie Osborne (and a must-read tip from Serena Williams). Your best bet for getting bikini ready in time for Summer? Thinking like a pro. Approach your workout with an athlete’s dedication with these diet and exercise tips from the pros.
- Create Goals: For pro athletes, there’s always a race or game to train for; for the rest of us, the stakes may not be as high. No matter, says boxing champ and former Biggest Loser trainer Cara Castronuova. Having a short-term goal for yourself can help motivate you to stick with a workout routine. “Any type of goal can make you focus 120 percent. It’s a mental thing. Book a trip every three months or sign up for a race in the summertime,” Cara told us at a recent Puma BodyTrain event. Or use events in your life, like a wedding or a family photo shoot, to spur you on.
- Get a Workout Buddy: Having a regular workout buddy can turn help you commit to working out. Women’s Professional Soccer league player and US Women’s National Team member Leslie Osborne credits having someone to work out with wherever she goes to help keep her on track. Even if you don’t have a fit friend in every major city, finding a workout buddy, especially if you are ramping up your exercise routine in time for bikini season, is often paramount to your weight loss success. “When you have a group you are more responsible; you know you are going to be there at 10 a.m. to work out,” Leslie shared at the Puma event. “Find a group of people or one person who can be your buddy.”
- Cook at Home: If you’ve been sticking to a workout routine, don’t waste all that hard work with a high-calorie diet. Know what you’re putting in your body by limiting eating out. Cooking at home can help you in your weight loss goals in many ways; not only will you know exactly what’s in your food and be able to add more fresh fruits and vegetables into your meals, but cooking at home can also help you de-stress, especially after a long day or a grueling workout, says Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Natalie Coughlin. “Because I work out so much, my way of decompressing after a long day is to get in the kitchen and cook up a storm,” Natalie recently explained.
- Eat Out Right: You don’t have to avoid your favorite restaurants if you’re trying to transform your body into tip-top shape, but you do have to do a little strategic prep before you order. Cara recently told us her secrets for restaurant eating; for one, always have a snack, like a salad, a piece of toast with nut butter, or yogurt and granola, before you go so you’re not starving when you get to the restaurant. And once you’re at the restaurant, “drink a glass of water as soon as you sit down; drink the whole entire glass. Don’t order appetizers, but if you have to make it protein-based,” Cara recommends.
- Drink Smart: Alcohol is full of empty calories, and if you don’t watch out, they can add up to the equivalent of a greasy burger with fries. But if a girl’s weekend calls for more than one drink, just make sure you choose wisely and don’t go overboard. “When I drink, I’m still somewhat conscious of what I’m putting into my body, but I still like to have fun,” Leslie says. That means steering clear of sugary drinks and making the slightly healthier cocktail choice instead, or mostly sticking to red wine as Leslie’s does.
- Take It Day by Day: Some days your workouts are great, and some days you feel like you never found your rhythm. Don’t let cramps, feeling sluggish, or other workout mishaps discourage you. “Bad days, frustrating times, and moments of doubt are just part of being human,” Olympic gold medalist and 2012 Olympic hopeful, gymnast Shawn Johnson, recently blogged. “I know if I stick with it I’ll appreciate these days because they lead to the great ones down the road!”
- Use Your Surroundings: Now that Spring is around the corner, move as much of your workout as you can outside. No matter where you are, you can take advantage of the outdoors, Cara says. “If you’re in Miami run on the beach; if you’re in LA, run in the canyons; if you’re in New York there’s Central Park; and if you’re in the Midwest you have a ridiculous amount of land to use. Figure out what is the best way to work out in your surroundings,” Cara recommends.
- Remind Yourself: Even if you’ve made short-term goals, it still helps to have a visual daily reminder to help get you there. Put up a quote or picture or reminder somewhere where you can see it. Leslie is a big fan of this motivational technique and explains, “I put something up on my mirror every day . . . a cool quote or my goal or a picture. And before I start my day, I can just look at it and it really gets me going. I also put it on my computer, so on my desktop I have my quote or my goal. So even though I don’t want to be reminded of it, I’m always reminded of it.”
- Treat Yourself: As an Olympic hopeful, Shawn takes her workouts seriously. She also is a fan of setting small goals, either daily, weekly, or monthly, and is equally fond of rewarding herself when she meets this goals. “I treat myself once I’ve accomplished them – whether it’s a little dessert or even a recovery day of massage and spa! It’s all about acknowledging the hard work,” says Shawn.
- Love Your Body: No matter how fit, strong, and lean pro athletes are, they aren’t always immune to an occasional nagging doubt when it comes to body image. A few years ago tennis champ Serena Williams said she struggled with her own body issues, but came out of it with these words of wisdom: love your body’s unique shape. “Since I don’t look like every other girl, it takes a while to be OK with that. To be different,” Serena said. “But different is good.”