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6 steps to get your body swimsuit ready: with the right moves and dedication, be ready for the beach in no time.

As the weather heats up, many minds and hearts wander to the sun and the beach or swimming pool. Is your body ready to follow your heart? It's not too late to counter the effects of lazy winter months on your body. By following these exercises, you can get your I body ready to sport the latest in swimwear. Keep in mind that if you have been inactive, you should consult your physician before starting a vigorous fitness routine. And while working out is a must if you want to tone your body, you must also be mindful of what you eat. So, here you go. With diligence and commitment, you will be ready to sport that swimsuit before you know it.

1 Bootylicious.

Let's face it, Black women prize their butts, and they are prized for their butts. During swimwear season, the derriere is often the visual focal point. So now is the time to shape up your gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus by doing exercises that will make your swimsuits look awesome. Flab and cellulite must give way to firm and toned muscles. Leg lifts are my favorite exercises to accomplish this goal.

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* Think of these leg lifts as isolated moves with the rest of the body remaining still and under control because the abs are contracted. Do each version in succession with no rest in-between.

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2 No backsliding.

Well-defined back and shoulder muscles give swimsuits definition and tone, and can minimize troublesome body parts. I have a tried-and-true, upper-body exercise routine dubbed the "round robin" that hits every muscle in these areas and is one of my classes' favorite challenges. The four exercise moves are done in succession with no rest in-between; consequently, the muscles get fatigued and maximize results in a short period of time. Do each move 16 times for two counts each time, then repeat. Use soup cans or 3-pound/5-pound weights.

* Keep core contracted and chest lifted through all these movements.

3 The legs have it. No matter what shape God gave your legs, you can enhance calves and thighs with a couple of moves borrowed from ballet classes. Plies, releves and grand battements (big leg kicks)in all directions can give your legs the muscle-defining lift they need to create the total swimsuit figure.

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Grand battements, Stand in first position. With right leg turned out gracefully, kick leg six times each, to the front, side, back and to the side again. Repeat a second time. The kicks are isolated moves with the abdominals contracted to keep the rest of the body still and chest up. Repeat and then move to left leg.

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Releves. Stand tall with heels touching and toes pointed out ("first position" in ballet stances). Press toes into floor and slowly lift heels, fully lengthening legs, pulling up through the calves, knees and thighs as if you are trying to get taller. Return to standing position. Repeat 16 times. End with 16 repetitions, gently raising and lowering heels without them touching the floor. Repeat for two sets.

Plies. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart and toes facing out. Contract core (abdomen) and slowly lower body until heels almost come off floor. Squeeze glutes (buttocks) as you straighten knees and come back up to standing position. Repeat eight times and then execute in bent-knee position 16 times. Keep chest up at all times. Repeat.

4. Burn the fat.

Cardio or fat-burning exercises will add meaning to the above steps. It is difficult to see muscle tone if the muscle is covered by fat. Cardio exercises include walking, running, dancing, swimming and some heart-pumping classes at your neighborhood gym. Target your heart rate so that you are exercising in a zone that burns fat. That target zone can be different for each person, depending on your heart and health condition. A healthy 45-year-old woman who has not been sedentary may target a heart rate of 150 bpm (beats per minute) as her fat-burning goal. She should be perspiring and exhausted at the end of her 20- to 30minute cardio push. Cardio exercises should be performed every day for 20 to 30 minutes.

5 Size matters.

Although my expertise is exercise, the nutrition component is an equally important consideration to getting your body ready for swimwear. I only have one viewpoint that I live by, and that is portions! Never underestimate the amount of food on your plate. Whatever amount of food in front of you, try to leave at least a quarter of it on your plate. For instance, a proper portion of, say, a chicken breast will fit in the palm of your hand. When you go out to dinner, assume that you are getting two meals, and take half home for the next day. Getting your mind set on portions is much easier than tracking how many carbs, protein and fat calories you're consuming. The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) food pyramid is a good source for this information.

6 Dance away the pounds.

Shaking your groove thing can be both a cardio and a body-toning success story. I teach a Zumba class that combines world dance moves and music, and it keeps my students moving nonstop for 45 minutes. Zumba's undulating Latin hip moves mixed with arm-pumping hip-hop work the abdominal, arm and leg muscles while members of the class enjoy every second to exhaustion.

* Following these steps tot the next four to six weeks will deliver a fabulous swimsuit body. The muscle exercises should be performed two to three times per week. The beauty of performing muscle and cardio exercises in combination is that they will also strengthen your abdominals and get them in great shape! See you poolside in July!

--Benita Perkins, a former financial executive on Wall Street who also has a professional dance background, is founder and president of BennieGirl Productions, which focuses on the fitness needs of African-American women.
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Title Annotation:BODY TALK
Author:Perkins, Benita
Publication:Ebony
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:993
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