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If You Want to Get Fit, Stay Real and Forget the Latest Trends

Elise A. Miller is the author of Star Craving Mad, and her new satirical romance novel, Tracing the Bones, is out in June. Elise is also a kettlebell instructor in Philadelphia, PA.

I was at the pool with my son the other day when a woman — in her 40s like me — said, "I hope you don't think I'm nuts, but you win. You have the best body here. You're ripped!" I elbowed my 11-year-old in the ribs and said, "Honey, did you hear that?"

"Thank you so much. You just made my month," I said to my new best friend ever. We got to talking because how could I not. I spent years envying other women's bodies before I finally learned how to truly transform my own and feel not only confident in a bikini but MILFy.

One of the things the woman asked me was what I did. I told her resistance training. She glazed over when I mentioned kettlebells, so I didn't elaborate. Between you and me, I also use dumbbells, a pull-up bar, my own bodyweight, resistance bands, parallettes, and a barbell. I have about 10 moves I do per day, most days of the week, and I've been doing them since 2011. That's four years of dedicated training using basic exercises. All this and I make sure I eat around or above 100 grams of protein a day, letting fats and carbs take care of themselves.

My new BFF didn't ask me for specifics. She didn't ask me for diet tips. She asked me if I'd heard of some hot new workout. Maybe it was Ugi Fit, or Bodyblade, or Bokwa — some of the "hottest new workout trends." It may have had something to do with weighted drumsticks, or ropes, or ribbons.

Here's one more anecdote. At a party a few months ago, there was a guest I'd overheard bemoaning her body. She desperately wanted to lose weight and had about 20 extra pounds of body fat. When coffee hour arrived, she chose the fat-free, dairy-free creamer, while I reached for the whole milk. She saw me do this and said, "I wish I could eat like you." I said, "The reason I look like this is because I use the whole milk." She told me she was signing up for Weight Watchers and said its Bliss Brownies tasted just like the real thing.

People who need the most help, I've realized — even when they hire me — are seldom ready to hear the truth. And here it is. The truth that will set you free and vastly improve your body composition:

  • Eat basic food — meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables. Grain is fine. Dairy is fine if you tolerate it. The yolks are good for you, as are white potatoes. Bread is OK too, but not as a main course, and not the kind that rolls into little white bouncy balls. Ditto pasta. There is no magic berry or leaf or tea or seed that you must consume in order to lose belly fat. There just isn't. Branded low-calorie foods are typically bought and consumed by the people who have the most trouble losing weight. Seriously. Be a food spy the next time you go grocery shopping. It kills me every time.
  • Your body only moves in about five different ways, so you don't need a hundred different exercises that take you two hours to complete. We push, pull, hinge at the hips, and squat. And we rotate. That leaves us with push-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, squats, and walking. Not running 10 miles. Not jumping up and down like a lunatic with a patented gizmo that promises crazy results in 30 days. Not hot yoga. Not barre. Not pole dancing.
  • You will not transform in 30 days. Give yourself six months. A year. Better yet, a lifetime. If your fitness and diet regimen is so restrictive and hostile that you can't wait for it to be over, you'll never stick with it, and you'll go right back to the habits that made you overweight in the first place. You've got to love what you eat and how you train. And I admit, if you love your Wave Shape or your Ropes Gone Wild, then by all means, do them. But do them as a lifestyle you never give up.
  • The only cure for cellulite is shedding all your body fat. That means you'll stop getting your period, be irritable and depressed, and probably grow fur. A certain amount of body fat is crucial to optimal health, including fertility and happiness. You can lessen the dimpled appearance by growing the muscles underneath using resistance training. It works.

Here are the exercises from my routine — everything I've kept after cutting out the bullsh*t. Do the unweighted versions using three rounds of 10 reps each.

  1. Deadlifts. I use kettlebells or a barbell for these. If you don't have weights, do them on one leg at a time for more reps and rounds.
  2. Kettlebell swings. One hundred a day. This would count as my "cardio," but really there is no formal cardio in my training. I huff and puff plenty just by moving heavy loads around my home gym.
  3. Squats. Kettlebell front squats or goblet squats are supreme. Weight-free try pistols and Bulgarian split squats.
  4. Pull-ups. If you don't have a bar at home, climb under your dining room table, grip the edge, and pull your body to your hands.
  5. Push-ups. These can be done on an incline, on a decline, with close hands, with staggered hands, with far-apart hands, or with one arm.
  6. Mini-band walks. Put the band around your feet — not your ankles — hinge at the hips and knees so you resemble an old geezer and make sure that band is stretched between hip-width feet. Then take little steps forward, backward, to the left, and to the right. Twenty steps per direction.
  7. Hip thrusts. These are glute bridges, but you sit up with your back against a bench (or a sofa). Thrust your hips until they're fully extended and you're looking at the ceiling. I bought my barbell (with a bar pad) just for this exercise. Without weight, elevate your feet as well and do them single-legged. Two sets of 20 here.
  8. Handstands. Crow pose. L-sits. This is like playing. You learn a skill, increase your upper body and core strength, and build a hot body. It doesn't feel like exercise, but it is.
  9. Overhead presses. I use kettlebells for these. No kettlebells? Just invert yourself and get going with handstand push-ups. There are many different progressions, like Down Dog push-ups to start with for just a few reps, building up slowly as you go.
  10. Walking. Briskly. With or without dogs.
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