I recently had a friend ask how she could tone her arms and legs without losing her curves. And I swear, I heard angels singing. Because yay(!) she loves her curves, which is music to my ears (and most men’s, too). Curves are beautiful, womanly…sexy. She loves her hourglass figure, and that is sexy.
Even still she would like to tone up a bit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t want sexy bare arms and legs?
My immediate response was to tell her that your figure is your figure is your figure. If you’re an hourglass shape now, you’ll be an hourglass shape 15 pounds from now. Think about little girls. From the time they’re up and walking, you can pretty much see their body type. Long and lean, short and stocky, or any of a number of different fruit shapes. The point is, your body won’t go from an hourglass to an apple. It just won’t happen. At my smallest, I had the itty bitty waste and a round thing in your face (thanks forever, Sir-Mix-Alot, for immortalizing my body type) stuffed into size 4 jeans. Eighteen percent body fat, still an hourglass with a small waist and thick thighs. And now, 30 pounds later, I still have that hourglass, though it is decidedly not a size 4 at the moment.
My point: don’t be scared about losing your curves or your (insert whatever body part here, except maybe boobs, because those do dwindle on weight loss). You can still be toned and rock those curves!
Here are three recommendations I have for toning your body. Toning, not changing. Remember, I’m an ordinary girl who is into fitness. I’m not a personal trainer and I’m not a nutritionist. If you want more specifics on any of these topics, I’m not your girl. But as general rules, here are the three best things you can do for yourself:
1. Nutrition is key. This is 90% of how you look. If you do nothing else, learn how to eat to get the body you like. You can put in hours on the elliptical or do a million sit-ups, but it won’t do you a damn bit of good if you have a layer of fat covering all the ab muscles you just worked so hard to build. It may sound harsh, but it’s true. If you want to look toned, you have to think lean. Veggies. Lean protein. Nuts, seeds, etc. The closer it is to the earth (as in not processed in a plant or factory somewhere), the better it is for you. And yes, you can still be lean and have a rocking booty (hello, J-Lo).
2. Weights are your friends. Many women don’t want to bulk up, so they avoid weights. Don’t. Weights are essential to toning up, building a strong body, and burning more calories. Building muscles means increasing your metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, and the only way to build muscle is to lift weights. And I promise, you won’t start bulking up. Most women just aren’t built that way. Perhaps I’ll explore this notion further, in another article, but for now, repeat after me: weights are my friends.
3. Cardio is necessary. Of the three topics, this is probably the easiest for women, especially if you’re a person who likes to dance, bike, run, etc. Cardio is good for your heart, lungs, and stress level. You don’t have to go crazy with cardio…if you’re doing it right, you probably don’t need more than 30 minutes a few times a week. Cardio burns lots of calories in the moment (but remember, burning the most calories comes from building lean muscle) and almost always makes you feel better when you’re done. It is a great way to wake up in the morning, and it’s also one of the healthiest things you can do to relieve stress at the end of the day. If you’re not already into cardio, please, please find something you like and start doing it. Your heart, lungs, liver, bones, muscles, kids, significant others, and self will thank you for it.