Signs of spring means its swimsuit season

MELISSA BAGNALL: FITNESS FOR TODAYI saw my first Indian Paintbrush this week when I was out running one morning. Always a good sign that spring is on its way.

With spring come thoughts of swimsuit weather. Are you ready? If not, let's get started!

First, to lower body fat, you need to up the intensity of your cardio workout. The best way to increase the caloric burn during a workout and for several hours afterward is to utilize interval training. This technique involves short bursts of intense work followed by a slower pace that allows you to recover. You can increase the intensity in several ways. Increasing speed is the usual method, but you can also change the incline or resistance levels to achieve the same result. A 10-minute warmup followed by a 30- to 40-minute workout with three to five intervals in it followed by a cool down will burn more calories than an hour of a steady-state workout on the same piece of equipment.

The next step to be ready for swimsuit season is to ramp up your resistance routine. You need two to three days a week of weight lifting to tone those muscles groups that will be seeing more sunlight. If you are short on time, try doing a routine that combines exercises. Some examples include squats and bicep curls, lunges with shoulder press, crunch with a bench press, one leg squat with a lateral raise. Each of these hits multiple muscle groups at the same time, which increases the caloric burn and saves you time.

If equipment is an issue, stick with body-weight exercises. Some of my favorites include pushups, dips, squats, lunges, pull-ups, planks, mountain climbers, four-count burpee, side shuffles, jumping jacks, high knees, one-leg squats, and jumping drills. With endless variations on these types of exercises, your workout can stay fresh and challenging.

If you have access to equipment and you have been doing the same routine for more than four to six weeks, it is time to shake things up a bit. Instead of doing a shoulder press on a machine, try doing the same move with dumbbells while sitting on a stability ball. You are still working the same muscle group but in a slightly different way. By changing things your body will respond to this new challenge and you will see improved results. Another example is a bicep curl with dumbbells. To add spice to this move, try it with a body bar of the same weight while standing on one foot. To add even more variety change your hand grip from the standard shoulder width apart to a narrow grip where your hands are together in the center of the bar.

Tweaking your workout routine will add freshness that will lift you mentally and bring you results that may have alluded you before. If you need more ideas or a demonstration of some of the ones presented here talk to a trainer who can help get you started today.

Don't wait, the beach is calling!

Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Melissa Bagnall is a certified personal trainer and owner of Fitness Solutions. You can email questions to fitnesolutions@gmail.com.