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Summer fitness tips

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

Get in shape for summer

It may be hard to believe with the snow still falling in some parts of the country, but summer - and with it bathing suit season - is just around the corner. When that reality sets in, it's hard to not want to find the fastest and easiest way to get in shape. We contacted celebrity trainer Sophie Olson to give us the summer fitness dish. A fitness, dance and yoga instructor in Los Angeles, Olson knows a thing or two about staying in shape: not only is she an actress herself, she also coaches some of Hollywood's most stunning celebrities (whose names we've been sworn to keep secret).

Dance Class for Women

A passion for health and fitness

Sophie Olson has been a dance instructor for 17 years and has taught fitness for the last seven years. She's also a certified yoga instructor. She does one-on-one fitness training and is a Physique 57 teacher in Beverly Hills, California. She also works as a choreographer for Hart Pulse Dance Company and has her own dance for film company S.O.D.E. (Sophie Olson Dance Explosion). We caught up with this impressive fitness professional for the best summer shape up tips. Here's what Olson had to say.

Start small

SheKnows: What is the one thing people can do to tighten and tone their body now?

Sophie Olson: First off, it's important to remember to take baby steps. You want to tone your whole body right? Give yourself a goal and make a specific plan. Start small, like 20 minutes of cardio three times a week or focus on an upper body workout on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and a lower body workout Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I personally don't believe in "one" thing to do in order to tone the whole body. Toning requires you to invest in a good diet, plenty of water, cardio and some sort of weight training. Start slowly, keep it simple and remember consistency and persistence is the key to transforming your body.

Stay motivated

SheKnows: Staying motivated during a workout (or even getting motivated for one can be tough). How do you help your clients get psyched up for a workout session?

Sophie Olson: Okay, don't laugh; I have a book of quotes that I bust out before each session or class. I use scented aromatherapy oils; it helps to clear the mind. Staying energetic is key. I speak directly to my students, using their first name, to encourage them during the workout. I also try to make them laugh. Don't be afraid to get silly and laugh at yourself. Music is also important: if the music is bad, chances are the workout will be bad. Use amazing, uplifting, energizing tunes. When the going gets tough, visualize your body's muscles working and getting toned with every move you make; for example, picture your abs flattening as you crunch forward.

Find an effective workout you love

SheKnows: What is your absolute favorite workout?

Sophie Olson: I love taking Physique 57 classes. Physique 57 (based on The Lotte Berk Method) is a focused cardiovascular program of isometric exercises and orthopedic stretches. The classes focus on toning your seat, abdominal muscles, thighs and arms; strengthening your legs and back; and there's a huge focus on interval training sets using your own body weight for resistance. It's the perfect class! It shaped my body, kicks my butt and is always a challenge. I love it so much I became a teacher at the company's Beverly Hills studio.

Mix up your cardio

SheKnows: What cardio workouts do you recommend to your clients?

Sophie Olson: Do something fun and switch it up. Don't do the same thing every day because it's going to start to feel like a chore. Instead, make it fun. Try a long uphill walk, a small jog, the elliptical machine at the gym, a dance class or synchronized swimming. Make a promise to do some sort of cardio work twice a week, even if it's walking up and down the stairs in your house. Once you've mastered that, up your workouts to four to five times a week. Another key? Always allow yourself one day of rest each week. Your mind and body need it!

Use your body weight

SheKnows: What about muscle toning exercises?

Sophie Olson: Let's keep it simple.

Pushups: As far as the most effective way to tone the arms, I always suggest pushups. Straight-arm pushups are the most effective, but you can always start in a modified position which is done on top of your thighs. Regardless of which pose you take, you must remember these five golden pushup rules: 1) place your hands directly under your shoulders, 2) squeeze your seat, 3) pull your navel to the spine, 4) bend your arms fully and 5) breathe! Try two sets of 10 pushups a day for a week then add more.

Ab crunches: For core work, stick to basic crunches, remembering to start and end each crunch with your shoulder blades off the floor, chin off the chest, navel squeezed in tight and your eyes focused on the ceiling.

Squats: For your legs, the most effective exercise for me is an assisted semi-squat holding onto a ballet bar or the back of a chair. In the dance world, these are known as "pliés." Place your feet in a narrow "V", heels together, toes out and heels two inches off the floor. Pull your navel to the spine, bend your knees slightly and lower your seat a few inches down toward the floor. Then, pull yourself back up again.

Dedicate yourself to regular fitness

SheKnows: You're in excellent shape. What does your weekly gym routine look like?

Sophie Olson: Thank you. It's hard work and dedication. I need to switch it up. I do Physique 57 classes regularly, but some weeks, I go to the gym three times a week, get on the elliptical and crank up my music and just go for it. I do turbo kickboxing when I can. I try to add dance classes into my workout as well and yoga and long hikes with friends. I have to keep it fun or I just won't do it.

Be hot all year round

SheKnows: How important is nutrition and hydration to getting your body bikini ready?

Sophie Olson: First off, I don't wear bikinis. Well, almost never. I think there is way too much pressure on the whole "bikini ready" thing. I believe in being fit and comfortable all the time. There shouldn't be a "deadline" or a "window" where one looks "hot in a bikini." Instead, why not thrive on healthy eating six days a week. Create a steady exercise plan that works for you and makes you feel good about yourself and your body. Drink water, instead of soda, coffee or juices. We need to give ourselves permission to wear board shorts and a T-shirt to the beach and still feel "bikini ready." That's what's important to me.

Appreciate yourself

SheKnows: As an actress, you've also experienced the "Hollywood" pressure to stay thin. How have you been able to overcome those pressures and insecurities?

Sophie Olson: As long as you live in Hollywood, no matter how secure you are with yourself, you will feel, at some point, fat, ugly and old. No matter what you look like. It's just the culture we live in here. Yes, it's a challenge for me. Luckily, I surround myself with "real" people who enjoy food like me. I've learned, over the years, that being thin is not the most important thing in life. The fact that I have excellent blood pressure is pretty cool to me. I have good skin and my teeth are white and cavity-free. I have friends and family who will love me whether I'm 110 or 130 pounds. Most importantly? I can look at myself in the mirror and, on most days, I can say, "yeah, you're looking good Sophie." That's how I deal with Hollywood.

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