June 23, 2018
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Trading fit for fat: don’t lose fitness ground over the summer

Illustration by Eric Zelz | BDN
Illustration by Eric Zelz | BDN
By Wendy Watkins, Special to the BDN

It’s here at last, the time of year most of us get fit for: summer. You’ve gotten your legs into shape for wearing shorts and maybe this is the year you’re feeling comfortable in that bathing suit. Good for you!

Clients come to personal trainers across the country to get into shape for summer.

And then after a few months of work, they take a break from the gym and vow to move their fitness activities outside. This only makes sense, as summers in Maine are glorious. The thing is, those same clients often come back in September weighing more than they did before they began their fitness quest. And they aren’t very happy about it.

What is up with summer weight gain? I do not follow my clients around so I’m not able to say with certainty, but I think it has something to do with the fact that we view the entire season as a holiday. There are vacations, gatherings with friends and family, visits to the beach and camp, and the appearance of lots of physical activity. Food, and sometimes beverages of the non-water variety, comes along with all of that.

The thing is, most of us, especially in summer, think we’re much more active than we actually are. For example, that “hike” around Jordan Pond is really just a mile-long walk. A 140-pound person walking the loop in about 20 minutes will burn a measly 74 calories, and a 180-pound person will burn around 95 calories. A mile walk on the beach will burn the same number. Swimming/playing around in the pool burns, generously, 290 calories in an hour (that’s for a 135-pound woman) while the same person would burn 520 if they actually swam the whole time, but who among us actually does that regularly? Waterskiing for a half-hour? A 125-pound person burns 180 calories; a 155-pound person, 223 calories.

All that perceived extra activity is well and good — the problem is, we tend to eat like we’ve actually hiked up a mountain or swam a mile. There are the chips eaten with lunch, the post-“hike” Jordan Pond House popovers (around 180 calories each), the cold ice cream on a hot summer night (330 calories in a medium-sized soft serve vanilla cone, no chocolate dip or sprinkles), the butter with the lobster, the burgers, the drinks on the patio, and well, you get the picture. We can get away with that for a week or two, or maybe once or twice a week, but when it becomes a regular habit, as it often does during the dog days of summer, those extra celebratory calories start to add up.

So what do you do? Give yourself a reality check on your activity level, and when it makes sense, boost your speed on that walk, throw in some walking lunges, skip with the kids (it’s fun!), and toss some actual swimming into the mix when you’re paddling around the pool or lake.

And don’t deny yourself the treats of summer – but keep them treats by limiting them to special occasions. Come September, when you’re ready to get serious again, you’ll be that much ahead of the game.

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