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By Scott Scanlon

REFRESH EDITOR

Rain washed out much of your outdoor spring exercise plan and you spent what nice days we’ve had in Western New York this spring juggling landscaping, gardening and outdoor dining feasts.

Now, your cousin’s kid is about to get married and you’d better be there for all your family to see. It doesn’t matter that you’re several pounds heavier than you wanted to be this time of year.

Or worse, your high school reunion is just around the corner, the one you vowed months ago to attend in grand style, rubbing your classmates’ faces in how much younger and slimmer you look than they do. Now, you’re not sure you look either.

Take heart, says Robbie Raugh, considered by many as one of the region’s top fitness gurus. You still have time to harden your body, drop a few pounds and look better as you watch Independence Day in the rear-view mirror.

Raugh, a holistic health and nutrition practitioner with the Buffalo Athletic Club, says you can start by owning this reality: You have to combine exercise with healthy eating to get there.

“Great abs are made in the kitchen and the gym,” she said. “You can do ab exercises till you’re blue in the face but you’re not going to see results unless you burn the fat over the muscle by eating a healthy, disease preventing, body-shaping diet.”

Raugh – a registered nurse, fitness instructor and nutritionist with her own exercise DVD series and website, RobbieRaugh.com – recommends the following steps to get into shape fast for those special summer occasions:

1. Commit to more exercise: “Consistency counts. You can’t just work out one or two days a week and get quick results,” Raugh said. Plan to spend at least an hour a day in challenging exercise at least three times a week. For faster results, five to seven days is even better, for at least 30 minutes a day. Check with your doctor first, then push yourself out of your comfort zone. “Longer and harder will give you better results,” Raugh said.

2. Vary your exercise routine: Variety is key to building muscle, Raugh said. Many gyms offer fitness classes and equipment designed to create workouts that create “rhythmic variations” and “muscle confusion,” giving you the best results in the shortest amount of time.

The ideal plan includes cardio exercise, “which burns fat, utilizes calories, improves your cardiovascular system, helps sweat toxins out of your body, increases your energy, reduces your stress, decreases the aging process and gives you an endorphin high,” Raugh said. “Then, to shape your body, you need to use resistive training,” either using your own body’s resistance or incorporating weights or other equipment. “Muscle dictates metabolism, so the more muscle you have in your body, the higher the metabolic rate, and the more efficient you are at losing weight and burning calories, even at rest.” To stay limber, increase range of motion and prevent injury, you need flexibility work that includes yoga, Pilates or something like it.

3. Understand the limits of exercise: “You’re never going to see the muscle before you lose the fat,” Raugh said. The trick to let better muscle tone show is to combine strength, cardio and flexibility exercise routines with better eating.

“Decreasing your body fat through your diet and also burning fat through the exercise works better and faster,” she said.

4. Good food for inside and out: Vegetables are among the best muscle defining foods, Raugh said. “Protein and fiber with every meal, and that fiber is vegetables.” Avoid beef in favor of leaner sources of protein, she says, including plants, beans, nuts and organic meats. “You don’t want to be ingesting antibiotics, steroids” and other things “that are being injected into animals,” she said.

5. Sugar is the enemy, not fat: People who avoid processed sugars – including artificial sweeteners – see the quickest dieting results, Raugh said, and “good fats,” including nuts, seeds, coconuts and their related oils and butters, are fine additions to any diet.

6. Avoid wheat: Raugh is among the fitness proponents who recommends “The Wheat Belly,” a book by Dr. William Davis, who maintains that today’s wheat and other processed grains have been genetically modified, making them harder to digest and use for energy, causing or worsening a host of health woes. She recommends replacing wheat with “sprout” breads, particularly Ezekiel bread. This way of eating costs more at the grocery store, Raugh said, but can end up saving you in health care expenses.

7. Consider joining a gym: “You don’t have to,” said Raugh, “but you’ll be more motivated if you do.” Take advantage of trial offers or a short-term membership. Among things to consider should be cost, location, friendliness, class availability and schedules, hours of operations and child care services.

Follow these tips, Raugh said, and you’ll look and feel better faster than you may have imagined. Maintain them, and you’ll stay in great shape going forward.

“It’s not rocket science,” she said, “but there is a science to it.”

email: refresh@buffnews.com

On the Web: Robbie Raugh walks you through some tightening and toning exercises at BuffaloNews.com