After I turned 50, it dawned on me that I had been letting myself go, packing on the post-menopausal pounds and not doing any regular exercise. It's not that I didn't care, but simply too busy with work, family, friends, life, to focus on . . . me. Sound familiar?
Unsure of what steps to take, I did what so many of us do under these circumstances: nothing. When the weight gain was inching past 15 pounds and my arms took on the look of flabby bat wings, I took action.
I started eating all the right things (and stopped eating the ones that were wreaking havoc with my health and weight) and embarked on a run/walk program developed by Olympian runner Jeff Galloway, eventually losing all 15 lbs. and going down an entire pant size. (Stay tuned for more information about that simple-to-do program in an upcoming column).
But even though I was fitter (and a lot healthier), my upper arms were still as mushy as ever (my daughters would say "squishy"). It's true that as we get older, firming up certain parts of our bodies isn't as easy as it once was. But I soon found out it is far from impossible, and never too late.
For many years I had heard about the NYC-based celebrity trainer David Kirsch, who regularly works with Heidi Klum, Anne Hathaway, Ellen Barkin and many others. In the name of research (I was just starting to write "The Best of Everything After 50", I called David and told him that I wanted to get stronger and firmer -- with a special focus on my upper arms -- so he graciously invited me to come to his world-famous gym for a little assessment. When he asked me to get down and "do 10" (push-ups), he didn't laugh or smirk or roll his eyes when I couldn't even do one. Instead, David gave me a challenge I couldn't refuse:
Barbara, do these two exercises -- which I will show you -- every day for four weeks. When you come back to see me again, your body -- especially your upper arms -- will be transformed. I guarantee it.
Result? My arms developed curves I never thought I would ever have, and I can now do 20 or more push-ups (yes, at the same time, smarty pants). I am stronger, feel more powerful and I know I'm doing everything right to fight osteoporosis. (I'm proud to report that the National Osteoporosis Foundation will honor me at an awards luncheon on September 24th in NYC for my articles about healthy and positive aging.)
That was three years ago, and I still do them every day. Just as David challenged me, here's my challenge to you: Do these two exercises every day for four weeks, exactly as I outlined below (correct form is key: check out the short video showing me doing push-ups, below) and then look in the mirror and let me know what you see. Or better yet, have someone take a "before" and "after" photo of you wearing a spaghetti strap dress. You'll look even better if you follow the healthy eating plan designed specifically for post-50 women and burn some calories by running and/or walking -- see the chapter on fitness for exact details. But even if you do nothing else, you will see a change. And keep it going! These exercises are not a quick fix (although they do work remarkably fast) . . . they are for life.
Here's what you'll need (all or most your probably already have):
- rug or yoga mat
- form fitting workout clothes (so you can check on your form)
Here are the rules:
- Get the green light from your doctor.
- Do these every day.
- Do one set in the very beginning, but work up to three sets.
- Do these moves as a "circuit" (move very quickly from one exercise to the other so you're getting a cardio workout, too).
- Follow the exact directions for each move (details below).
- Remember to breathe.
- Take a 10 second "breather" between each set.
Other things you can do to help with your overall fitness program:
- Do some kind of cardio exercise every day for at least 30 minutes: Walk, run, elliptical, swim, bike, Zumba, dance . . . whatever you enjoy doing, just do it.
- Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day (every two to three hours) that include whole grains, dark leafy greens and cut back on processed foods and sugar.
- Drink lots of water and green tea (and a glass of wine every day has been shown to help fight osteoporosis, too!)
Here is the first exercise that will magically transform your upper arms and have the added--and even more important--benefit of fighting osteoporosis. I'll show you the second one next week! Stay tuned . . .
Nothing symbolizes fitness quite like the simple push-up. It tests your entire body by engaging every part of it -- arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. Doing them is the easiest, fastest and most effective way to get fit. They are the gold standard. You may need to start with a modified push-up (on your knees), but eventually, you'll build up to the full push-up.
How to do a full push-up: Make your entire body straight, like a plank, with your toes and the balls of your feet on the mat, and hands directly under your chest. Using your arms, go down to the count of four, and back up to the count of four. Do 12 to 15 reps. Watch this YouTube video of me demonstrating how to do a push-up, below. David taught me that how low you go is not the most important thing. Keeping the proper form is.
You can do it!
Make sure to come back next week to find out about the second essential exercise that fights the flab . . . especially on your arms!
PHOTO CREDIT: HISTORY.COM