It all began with Michelle Obama. Or, Michelle’s Obama’s arms, I should say. As I’ve mentioned a time or twenty, I’ve acquired some substantial bat wings these last several months. Whether due to the retreat of youth, or six months of (sedentary) hibernation.
So with Spring just a [short!] couple of months away, and the vague possibility that I may at some point in the next several weeks wish to wear something other than a long-sleeved t-shirt and baggy jeans, I googled Michelle Obama. Okay, I googled ‘Michelle Obama’s arms’.
I’m sure she is brilliant and savvy not to mention stylish, but middle [North} America knows her for her well-toned arms. Put it this way, I only had to type in the ‘Michelle Obama’ portion of the phrase, Google offered up the ‘arms’ bit on its own. Women everywhere want to know why her arms are devoid of bat-wings.
Turns out she works out, at least three times a week. There is no magical solution. No random ‘I eat three mangoes a day’ sort of thing, which would have been infinitely better than…..exercise.
My three-minute-research-project led me to a blog, with a seemingly short exercise routine recommended by one Coach Rylan. A (Canadian!) man who describes himself as the ‘Problem Part Pro’.
‘If you need detailed descriptions of how to perform these exercises, check the photos and step-by-step instructions in section 3 of your Go Sleeveless manual,’ he helpfully explained. Which offered me some relief since I’d never heard of the likes of burpees and step-ups and narrow-incline push-ups.
So I did the unthinkable, I relinquished my email address for the purpose of getting the promised ‘step-by-step’ instructions. And in return, I received a link to the first lesson of a ten or twelve step video series. A lesson that contained neither exercises nor instructions. A lesson that told me to pinch the fat on my arm and if there was more than half an inch, it meant I needed to quit worrying about my arms, and focus on losing body fat. All. Over.
For five or six minutes I got to look at Coach Rylan, sitting at a table in his kitchen, telling me I had too much body fat. He was wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt over a long-sleeved shirt and I kept thinking if he was offering himself up as some sort of problem part guru, I really needed to see some evidence. Aka, his arms.
‘Well, maybe the instructions will come in the second lesson,’ I concluded after watching the first lesson in its entirety, and being no wiser about the intricacies of the burpee. So I watched the second lesson which talked about calorie restriction and how it doesn’t work. Still no exercises, no instructions. I felt like I’d gotten trapped in a bad pyramid scheme, where ‘knowledge’ or ‘riches’ is always one tantalizing step away.
I watched lesson 3, lesson 4, lesson 5…
Spot reduction doesn’t work. Cardio is a waste of time. Spurts of high-intensity-activity – interval training – is what you need to do to burn that excess body fat.
These lessons, as useful-if-slightly-common-sensical as they were, would not show me how to get in shape. For that, Coach R wanted me to buy his DVDs. So I abandoned the lessons. And attempted the prescribed routine, relying on wikipedia to teach me what a ‘burpee’ is; calling on the livestrong website to explain a ‘step-up’.
I wish I hadn’t.
Jogging in place for two ‘measly’ minutes is a very long time when you’re out of shape. And push-ups – of any variety – are killer. In my defense I will say, I can get through all the exercises….once……without dying. But Coach R actually wants me to do the entire routine three times. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to do it three times.
The professor scoffed at my in-place-jogging. He rolled his eyes when I complained about the burpees. ‘You do it,’ I dared him. He dismissed the dare, he protested, he stalled. And then he had no choice but to pony up. I set the oven timer for the two-minute jog. ‘How much longer,’ he complained. I modeled the burpee (or, my understanding of the burpee)…he did one. ‘No, you have to do fifteen,’ I explained. He did ten and quit. Ready to walk away. ‘There’s more,’ I stopped him in his tracks.
He did the step-ups and the deep-plie squats. ‘Now you get to rest for 60 seconds,’ I told him while setting the oven timer for a minute.
And then he did the planks and the push ups. ‘Done!’ he gloated. ‘You haven’t done the chair dips,’ I protested, ‘and you have to do the entire thing two more times.’ (As if I could or had.) He looked at me, ‘I’m not doing it two more times,’ and after a few halfhearted chair dips, walked away.
Perhaps I’ll try eating three mangoes a day instead.