Monday, August 5, 2013

40 Days of Fitness Reboot: Arms!

Despite my dairy-free, vegetarian diet, I'm really not someone who spends too much time anymore stressing about being a particular size or weight. I say "anymore," because when I was in my teens and twenties, despite always having a slim figure, I definitely had body-image issues. Thankfully, I learned good lessons about food from those days instead of developing more issues around it. I enjoy food and I enjoy healthy food; I always have. It didn't take me too long to decide that I'd rather learn how to cook good, healthy food than starve myself on weird diets, drink chemical concoctions the likes of "Slim Fast", or eat frozen, "diet foods." I'm not a foodie and I don't love to cook, though it's not a terrible chore to me. What I do love is good-tasting food that I know actually nourishes my body and keeps it in good operating condition.

I also exercise regularly to help maintain good condition too. I have exercised in some form or another all my life, some seasons of life more active than others. The best condition I have ever been in, believe it or not, was just 3 and 4 years ago at ages 41 and 42. I would venture to guess that I was even in better shape than when I was on the danceline in high school and college, since I eat so much better than I did back then.

The combination that my body responded so well to at that time was regular running and regular yoga. I had a yoga class two days a week at the fitness club in Florida where I had a membership. I often practiced one day a week at home too, or would catch the occasional Saturday morning class. And then I ran on the other days. My average run is around 3 miles, so we aren't talking incredible distances; just good, cardiovascular workouts.

But then I purchased a new pair of running shoes and things started to go wrong with my lower back whenever I tried to do my yoga. It was a real problem and even began interfering with my running. Of course, I didn't figure this out until last year. I just thought I had injured myself somehow... or that it could be getting older... I didn't know. I've never gotten older before... I don't know what to expect! :) It did seem odd to me, though, that I'd had nearly two years of yoga and running without problems. I don't even remember how I exactly put two and two together, but I believe I was having a conversation with my sister about how much I missed the yoga and it dawned on me that I had gotten new shoes around that same time.

So. Now I have new running shoes and the little yoga I have practiced on and off since then has proven to not cause problems. I just haven't gotten into a regular habit of maintaining my yoga practice. It was easier when I was taking a class, but I don't have that luxury financially at this time. The beauty of yoga is, of course, you certainly don't need a class to do it! I just haven't had the right kind of motivation, I suppose, to stick with it regularly.

However, I really do now. My arms were so beautifully toned when I practiced regularly. It was one of the benefits I loved about yoga: it is complete and works the whole body. I didn't have to focus on separate muscle groups or remember which day I'd last worked which group; I just did my practice and it was all covered.

Women's triceps are a common weaker area in women, especially as we age. Nicole Nichols from the Spark People blog in an article entitled Study Reveals Top 3 Triceps-Toning Exercises writes,

"No one wants saggy or flabby arms that flap like wings when you wave to a friend or raise your glass for a celebratory toast. That back-of-the-upper-arm area is a common trouble zone for women, a place where extra fat and excess skin seems to gather, hang out (literally) and never go away!

One of the best ways to improve the appearance of your arms is to tone up those triceps. While there is no such thing as spot-training (the idea that you can lose weight in a specific area of the body by exercising it more), strength training does help you improve your overall muscle tone. Combine that with a good diet and cardio exercise (the real key to burning the fat that's hanging off those arms), and you'll achieve a fitter, more toned appearance. (And let's not forget that strong muscles are functional and healthy!)"

Nichols affirms that there is no such thing as spot-training, but I'm not planning on spot training, even though I titled this post, "40 Days of Fitness Reboot: Arms!". Nope. I'm aiming to incorporate regular yoga again into my life for the next 40 days and though I know I will benefit in many ways (because yoga is just so delicious!), my focus and reward is going to be my arms.

Another extremely important benefiting factor is one that we won't get to see and that is strengthening our bones. Resistance training for our muscles actually strengthens our bones, which as most women know, in addition to those difficult triceps, is another weakness of our sex. Maintaining our good health on the inside is just as, or I would argue, even more, important than the benefits we enjoy on the outside. Strength, flexibility, and endurance are all traits that help us feel youthful and just plain good. They allow us to continue in the physical activities we want to participate in for as long as we can. There may come a day when I truly will not be able to run and the resistance I feel to it on a day when I am tired will no longer even be a choice.

Some days, I run just because I can.

Remember that it is a privilege to have an active body. Not everyone has one or has one any longer. See it for the gift it is and give thanks by using it!

I plan to mix things up to keep it interesting. I've got a few yoga DVD's; not planning on buying anything new. I also thought I'd put this list I found on Pintrest into practice. She calls this an "ab" workout, but look at all the work with the arms:

The main test I'm going to do for myself is to not only just plan to see visual effects of toned arms, but I'm going to measure them too.

Before:





Holding my arm out I'm at about 11 1/2 inches and with my arm down it looks like an even 12.

At the end of 40 days it will be a lovely, lucky, Friday, September 13th! I will have turned 45 and I expect to be in measurable better shape than I am now, whatever that means. I will be practicing little by little as I mentioned in this post and will not beat myself up if I miss a day here or there. My goal is to reincorporate/reboot yoga into my schedule. That may prove to be an interesting task as the school year arrives, but I think it's a good time to start now when I have the time and just find a way to keep it up. It's always easier to stick with something once you see the results as well as having already begun a good habit. Plus, this way, I will have my challenge in mind as I set up the new school day schedule.

It's going to mean getting up earlier and, therefore, going to bed earlier (which is actually the harder part for me). Presently, I don't really have to adjust my schedule, since we're still on summer break, but I'm going to practice getting up a half hour earlier this week and make it an hour earlier next week in order to fit in what I want to get done.

As I mentioned yesterday, if you have a goal you're trying to meet or a habit you're trying to incorporate, I welcome your participation and camaraderie! Your reboot doesn't have to be the same as mine. Also, it could be a complete beginning. For me, I'm just trying to get back to something I gave up, something I knew was possible in the past, and I know is still possible in the present. Leave a note in the comments if you think you'll join in - today or at any point in my 40 days - so I can cheer you on too. Then, join me back here next Monday and we'll chat about progress and pitfalls - hopefully more progress than pitfalls! :)

Have a great week!
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