(All I need is a wall.)
There was a time in my life when I was in pretty good shape. I could run up several flights of stairs without getting out of breath, and I was a tiny-but-mighty powerhouse when a friend needed help moving.
This is not that time, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
The definition in my arms was a thing of beauty. This was due in part to my job at the time. I worked at a daycare and thus spent every afternoon, five days a week, lifting and playing with two-year-olds. That will give you a stress headache, an immune system of steel, and very nice arms.
It also didn’t hurt that I had a regular strength training routine. A trainer at the university gym told me that it was a good idea to alternate – upper body one day, lower body the next. I flat out ignored this advice and did all my strength training every other day (public service announcement – you need a day to rest in between when working a muscle group). I needed days in my life that did not include strength training, because I hated it. I hated it so hard. I did it, though, because it made everything else I did – running, dancing, swimming, lifting two-year-olds – so much easier.
This is one of the arm routines I abhorred the least, because I could do it in the privacy of my living room. I performed four sets of fifteen reps each. Some of the names are what the professionals actually call the exercises; some of them are just names I made up, because cute names make strength training less horrible. Think of it as a nice, kitschy om to go with your exhale. It will get you through it.
As with all strength training, make sure you engage your core (i.e., hold in your stomach, like a good Southern lady) while performing these exercises to improve alignment and help avoid injury. Also, remember to stretch before and after, because if you forget to be a stretcher, you might end up needing a stretcher (little nugget of wisdom from my junior high running coach).
1. Push it (complete with Salt and Pepa running through my head) – This is basically a standing push up. Stand facing a wall, and put your hands on the wall in front of your face, forming a triangle. Bending your elbows, lower your body to the wall and then push away, taking you back to your starting position.
2. Superwoman – Balancing on the right leg, extend the left leg behind you. At the same time, lift your arms in front of you, like you’re about to fly away. Lower arms and leg, then repeat with the left leg supporting and the right leg extended.
3. Ski lift – Okay, so you start out sitting in a chair, and that’s where the comparison to riding a ski lift ends. Placing your palms on the chair on each side of you, lift your butt off the edge of the chair, lower yourself toward the ground, and then push back up. Imagine yourself in a snowy wonderland. Try to ignore the burning in your triceps.
4. Pointer – Get down on all fours. Extend your right arm out in front of you and your left leg behind you. Point your fingers and your toes like you’re a dog on the hunt and you’ve just found a bush full of poor, unsuspecting quail. Lower your arm and leg into the original position, and repeat with your left arm and right leg.
5. Cobra – Lie face down with your elbows bent and your palms on the floor beside your chest. Push up with your arms, lifting your head, shoulders, and upper body. Allow your shoulders to drop as you move your shoulder blades toward one another (this is a really amazing exercise for those of us who carry our stress in our shoulders, by the way). Hold for a few seconds, then lower down.
6. Come to the table – Sit on the floor at your coffee table with your legs straight underneath it. Gripping the underside of the table, lie back as far as your arm length will allow you to go. Pull yourself back up to a sitting position. This also works at a kitchen table, seated on a stool or bench.
Like I mentioned before, my routine was four sets of fifteen reps apiece. That was my intention today. My reality today, however, ended up being two sets of ten reps apiece, and still my arms are so tired I have had to take breaks while writing this post, because I couldn’t hold them up anymore to type.
Well. That’s humbling.
It’s also motivating. I’m going to get back up to those four sets. I’m going to have that strength again.