Summer is a time of watermelon juice dripping down your arms, off your elbows, and onto the grass. It is a time for cold beer in the warmth of the sun and the familiar balm of lazy evenings with friends. A time for outdoor music festivals, afternoons by the water, and a pervasive sense of ease in the city. A time that moves a little more slowly as the days stretch and the glow of sunlight lingers almost until bedtime. And, of course, it is a time of skin, skin everywhere.
Bikinis abound right now, with legs and torsos and shoulders out in force playing catch-up in Seattle's rediscovered sun. The pale bodies on display are, on the whole, lithe and lean. Typically, this means my tendency to compare myself to every other female in my vicinity kicks into overdrive, but this year, I've been (mostly) able to stay in the lower gears and actually be a little proud of my body. For some reason, I can accept what I've got, and what I've got is good.
Well, actually, for two reasons.
|Katrina and Karena of Tone It Up|
Karena and Katrina of Tone It Up popped up on my radar a few months ago when I was stumbling around on Youtube looking for... I'm not quite sure. Maybe motivation. Inspiration. Something different than what I had been doing, which was a hodgepodge of Jillian Michaels videos and a smattering of cardio, usually running, throughout the week. I had no concrete idea of what I wanted or where I was trying go with all of it - wanting to be fit, sure, but I didn't really know what "fit" looked like for me.
Now, Jillian Michaels is still my girl and she'll always have a special place in my heart. I fell in love with her years ago during college in Santa Barbara (land of the beaches and the accompanying babes), when Stacy, Barbara, Alex, and I would watch The Biggest Loser while stuffing ourselves with Freebirds nachos, ice cream and Indian food. We longed to have her body, her strength, to have her scream at our lazy asses, as surely she could scare us into fitness unlike anyone else. We enjoyed kickboxing classes through the university and we walked everywhere (and also at times I was unhealthily thin, at times unhealthily sedentary), but Jillian's drill-instructor-style verbal abuse was the kind of psychological beating that got me to push myself in my workouts. But after a few years of worship in the Church of Jillian, I gradually grew immune to her yelled dogma and my eye began to wander.
Thus, the Tone It Up girls. They are quite different from Jillian - incredibly feminine, endearingly silly, and all about having fun in fitness (and in life in general). I won't lie - I kind of hated them at first. They're gorgeous and seem to live on the beach in cute clothes and glorious hair. They're sweet and giggly and genuinely seem to enjoy doing what they do, and sometimes, on particularly crap days, it can be hard for me to handle their perpetual perkiness. Basically, they're perfect and I couldn't stand it, because I couldn't possibly ever be like them, and that's exactly what I wanted in full blown envy rage.
|Katrina's hair is so beautiful it makes me stupid.|
As I poured over their blog, I saw that they indeed hadn't always been so perfect, and that they had been a lot like me: slenderish and healthy enough, but not quite as "fit" in terms of muscle tone and overall lifestyle. I learned that what they do is achievable, and their food motto is smart and simple: "Lean, Clean, and Green," emphasizing lean proteins, foods as organic and as unprocessed as possible, and as many greens as you want - and as they say, a piece of fruit never hurt anyone. Most importantly, they still like their wine, cocktails, and chocolate, and they know it's okay to indulge sometimes (again, cold beer in the sun is just part of summer). Like I've written before, it's all about balance, and no one can, nor should, be perfect all the time - I'm certainly not. It's just common sense, elevated.
True to their name, toning is the major focus of their exercise approach; sure, you can be thin without muscle, but muscle strength and tone is what helps define a thin, healthy body. All of their videos (seriously, there are tons and tons on their YouTube channel) are rather short - no longer than 20ish minutes and sometimes as short as 8 or less. Cardio is, of course, an important part of fitness that they really emphasize, but their toning videos steal the spotlight. I love them - especially some from their first "Bikini Series," like the ab-focused Itty Bitty Bikini workout, the Beach Bum which kills my butt, and the all-over toners: the Bikini Strap and the Sandcastle Workout. They combine basic individual moves (like dead lifts with a row, or squats with side leg lifts) to make the circuits as effective and efficient as possible, and the girls' personalities are so engaging - they do the routines like sane, normal people with senses of humor, not tireless machines. They don't make it look deceptively easy all the time (push ups are hard), but because they're so laid-back - sometimes even goofy - when demonstrating the moves, it's easy to forget about the whole "work" part of working out. Again, I'm not usually one for flowers and rainbows and bunny giggles when it comes to exercise, but these girls are all inspiration without the intimidation, and it makes me want to be their friend and meet them for brunch on Sundays. Plus, their beachy sets and California style encourages the Santa Barbara blonde in me to resurface just a bit, and that's not so terrible a thing.
|Karena, those shoulders. Katrina, those abs ...and that hair.|
Anyway, long story short: I love these girls, and I owe them a lot. Because of them, I'm developing the abs, the legs, those cut shoulder muscles I've always wanted and the strength that comes with them. They've helped reinforce the message of loving your body, even if there are some days I can't always hear it. I still do Jillian videos sometimes, and thanks to Barbara's fantastic new blog, I'm getting exposure to new challenges, but Karena and Katrina at Tone It Up have won my girl-crushing heart. Now that the weather has finally caught up to the season we're in, I am happy to oblige in proper bikini-clad form: sunscreen on my white Seattle skin, watermelon in hand, cold beer in the fridge, and summer on my mind.
|Capitol Hill Block Party, the warm-up for Bumbershoot right in my neighborhood.|