Throughout my twenties, I tried in vain to develop six pack abs. I did hours of aerobics and endless crunches. I ate healthy and watched my portions. Although I was a healthy weight, the defined abs I wanted remained elusive.
Until my thirties.
Soon after my thirtieth birthday, I made several changes to my diet and exercise routine. Much to my surprise, those changes led to the abs I had always desired even though I started spending less time in the gym and grew more lax on my diet.
So, if defined abs are in your dreams, give these six tweaks a try. You just might start looking forward to bathing suit season!
Cut it Out
One of the most drastic changes I made was cutting gluten out of my diet. This was way before it was fashionable; I made the decision based on how my body responded to the protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley. If gluten does not bother you, then there is no need to eliminate it. However, it is worthwhile to check to see if your body responds negatively to gluten, dairy or soy, three common food groups that cause bloating and inflammation.
Drink it Down
I also swapped my morning oatmeal for a green breakfast smoothie, made with fruits, greens and protein. I found that this exchange painlessly led to a slight reduction in daily calories while sustaining energy levels and avoiding hunger. Furthermore, the smoothies are filling without being heavy, making it easier to consume one prior to a workout.
Speed it Up
My life became busier as I entered my thirties. I had less time to spend in the gym so I looked into ways to ramp up my workouts while shortening their duration. High intensity interval training (HIIT) was the answer. I incorporated outdoor sprints (100 or 200 yards for 8-15 repetitions), Tabata sprints on the elliptical (4 minutes of unbelievable intensity!) and kettlebells into my routine, replacing longer workouts with intervals twice a week. HIIT helps to shred fat from the body while maintaining muscle mass. It’s win-win.
Put it Together
Still on a quest to save time, I made some changes to my gym routine as well. Gone were the multiple exercises per body part. Instead, I utilized more compound, full-body movements such as squats, lunges, pull-ups and push-ups. These shave time off your routine and have the added benefit of strengthening your core as you train everything else. I also ramped up the resistance so that I was challenging all my muscles, including my abs.
Crunch it Up
I no longer do endless crunches in the gym but now I pack plenty of crunch in my lunchbox. I pack a large portion of cucumbers (vinegar, salt and pepper), tomatoes (technically not crunchy, but still satisfying) or watermelon for a snack each day at work. I find that the large volume and high water content helps to stop the grumbles while the chewing satisfies me and keeps me away from the chocolate dish. Well, sometimes, at least!
Stretch it Out
The final modification I made to my routine was the addition of power yoga. This practice helps to tighten and stretch the entire core as you work to balance the body. Yoga also has the additional benefit of improving breathing and posture, helping to improve your appearance and, even more importantly, how you feel.
Just because you are in your third decade or beyond does not mean that you cannot improve your body for the better. You never know, your own abs may be hiding just around the corner!