Former Miss Bikini Universe Melissa Hall demonstrates some basic exercises that can help anyone get into swimsuit shape - even if the only judges she'll face are her own two eyes in the mirror.
Melissa Hall does not have the body of a woman who indulges weekly in bacon cheeseburgers with a side of french fries and seasoned sour cream.
What she does have is a fitness lifestyle. Five days a week, she varies cardio exercise with weight training, sticking to a diet filled with protein and vegetables.
It's a lifestyle that forgives the weekend indulgence. Her metabolism breaks down that greasy burger, the melted cheese, the oh-so-delicious crunchy fries and sour cream.
The proof is in Hall's flat abs, lean muscled arms and taut physique, which in 2005 earned her the title of Ms. Bikini Universe.
``You can be fit and feminine,'' said Hall, 34, a Minneapolis-area resident who came to Evolve Fitness in Framingham, Mass., to demonstrate some basic exercises that can help anyone get into swimsuit shape - even if the only judges she'll face are her own two eyes in the mirror.
``Not everyone is a size 2 or 4,'' Hall said. ``You have to go by your body type and set realistic goals. If you're in shape, if you feel good about yourself, you are going to look amazing no matter what the size on your tag says.''
One of Hall's favorite fitness tools is the stability ball, which can be used to support the body in a variety of positions.
``It's easy to use and it takes pressure off the back,'' she explained, lying on top of a blue ball with a set of 8-pound weights in each hand. ``And what's important to know - you don't have to lift really heavy (to build muscle). You just need to concentrate on your form and isolating your muscles. You're focusing on your core (muscles), and core is good for balance and good posture.''
One mistake people make when signing up for a gym is to fall into the habit of doing the same routine all the time. That might work for the first few weeks, but when the novelty wears off, so will your determination to continue. Hall recommends varying your routine - trying different cardio classes, testing out new trends like Zumba, a Brazilian dance class, or working out aggressions at the end of the day with some kickboxing.
You can even split your cardio exercises during the day if you're pressed for time, working in three 10-minute walks, she added.
``A lot of people think you have to go for the gym for an hour to get in shape, and that's simply not true,'' Hall said. ``Exercise doesn't have to be a chore. It's just knowing how to exercise and learning the basics - you really can branch out from there.''
For women, Hall recommends resistance training using small weights and performing 10 to 15 repetitions for each muscle group. Many of her clients are first concerned that any weight training will build large bulky muscles - Hall can point to her own arms andlegs to show the results this method can bring.
Demonstrating a bicep curl on the stability ball, Hall said, ``What's nice about resistance training is you can tone and shape the body. The more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn at a resting level.
``A lot of our time is spent hunched over at a desk every day and that can be such a huge problem,'' Hall added. ``We're off balance a lot of the time, which is why we have to focus on strengthening the core (muscles).''
Hall has always been active, although she says she did have weight issues growing up. After studying dance, Hall managed to cheer her way through college after earning positions on the Minnesota Vikings cheerleading squad and the Minnesota Timberwolves dance team. She was also Miss Minnesota USA in 1997.
While flipping through the television channels one day, Hall became fascinated by a national ESPN Fitness America competition. Although she believed she might be too old to compete on that level, being in her mid-20s at the time, she made it her goal and placed eighth out of 120 competitors in her first competition in 1998.
Hall was named Ms. Fitness Minnesota in 2000; Mrs. Minnesota America in 2004, placing in the top 10 at the national competition and, in 2005, she became Ms. Bikini Universe. She has appeared on the covers of Oxygen Fitness magazine, Natural Muscle magazine, Le Monde Du Muscle magazine and has been a featured fitness columnist for Oxygen Fitness.
She and her husband, Jason Young, co-own YoungQuest Fitness Center in Eden Prairie, Minn., and Hall recently launched melissahallfitness.com, which features her fitness tips.
Hall has also lent her image to product endorsements, among them the SlenderTone Flex Belt, which produces muscle contractions by stimulating the nerves that control abdominal muscles. She uses the belt while exercising other muscle groups in the gym or even while cleaning house.
``I have lower back problems, so I struggle at times with crunches,'' Hall said. ``This has really kept me at a competitive level.''
For those whose goals are simply to look good on the beach, Hall recommends a little bit of peer pressure. Working out with a partner on a regular basis forces people to exercise even when they might otherwise slack off because they are accountable to another person, she said.
Most of her female clients tend to complain about their abdominal muscles and stomach as well as their buttocks and thighs, Hall said. She tends to recommend cardio exercises that focus on the legs for women and suggests that treadmill walkers steepen the incline on the machine to burn more fat.
Nutrition plays a key role in any exercise routine, Hall added. She recommends a diet high in lean protein mixed in with healthy servings of vegetables and fruits. Carbs should be limited to selections such as oatmeal or brown rice - Hall tends to avoid breads and highly processed carbs such as pasta.
Rather than the traditional breakfast-lunch-dinner, Hall tends to have about four small meals a day.
``Monday through Friday, I watch what I eat, and the weekends, I have a cheeseburger and I enjoy myself,'' Hall said. ``I know I have that treat waiting for me.''
Contact MetroWest Daily News reporter Jennifer Lord at 508-626-3880 or firstname.lastname@example.org.