This time in exactly one month I will be on holiday for two glorious weeks in the hot, Floridian sun. It may not be sophisticated or particularly grown-up, but the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is calling to me and I can’t entirely rule out the possibility that I’ll be sick with excitement before I even reach the car park. As I am going on holiday to somewhere that is a) 33 degrees and b) renowned for its water parks, my otherwise fail-safe summer holiday plan of lying absolutely flat sucking my stomach in won’t work as I will be required to ponce around wave pools, dick around in rubber rings and fling myself down plastic chutes.
A couple of weeks ago I went out for drinks with my friend Knight, who has less fat in his entire body as I do in one flabby kneecap. I believe he has a trophy somewhere for being the person in his university Tai Kwon Do class to break the most planks of wood inside a minute. With his hand. It’s something like 41. Anyway, we were sitting in some bar after work having a drink and I was complaining about my weak core and noodle arms. (I don’t mean those thin, crispy noodles; I mean the massive, flaccid white ones that look like tapeworms.) Since I realised that getting up at 5:30am to go to Body Pump every morning was frankly RIDICULOUS, I have had a lot more sleep (or at least a lot more alcohol), but at the sad expense of once (reasonably) toned arms. Bummer. What I really wanted – and what I would have got, had I been sensible and gone out to vent my body woes with a bunch of women – was somebody just to listen for two or three minutes and then assure me that my arms and abs are in fact totally fine. Unfortunately, I had picked the wrong confidant. The next thirty minutes were spent discussing, in great detail, all manner of curls, dips, crunches, squeezes and lifts. Which is of course fine; I’m as into fitness as the next man (unless the next man is Knight, obvo), but really all I wanted was a ‘don’t worry, you have lovely arms!’
The next morning I awoke with a unsettling sense of quiet loathing for my triceps, but at about 11am an email from Knight pinged into my inbox.
From: James Knight
To: Curious Emily
Subject: New fitness regime
I have talked to my PT and a few fitness enthusiasts and have selected a few exercises that you could do at home to look all buff and ting for America.
What fresh hell!? Firstly, there’s the hideous idea that Knight had been discussing my noodle arms with all of his (probably fit) mates, including his ‘PT’, and then there’s the equally appalling notion that I might one day become ‘buff’. Despite my misgivings, that evening I cleared the living room and had a crack at Knight’s DIY bikini-bod micro programme, apparently designed for people like me who don’t have a lot of spare time and who are looking to tone up a bit.
Exercise 1: Tricep dips. Use the edge of a bed or another edge or bar at about knee height to do tricep dips on. Google what this is if you are unsure. 3 x 15 sets.
I read this with a combination of indignation (that he thought I didn’t know what a tricep dip was) and smugness (three sets of fifteen – pfft. Is that all?). Tricep dips are the great bingo-wing purging move and tone up that flabby bit that hangs off the bottom of your arm like a monstrous jelly/barnacle hybrid (an armacle?) Try FitSugar for tips on performing the perfect dip.
Exercise 2: Walk-aways. Stand upright, bend your knees, place your hands flat on the floor and walk them away from you until you are in the press up position, lower your knees to the ground keeping your knees, bum and back in a straight line and do a single press-up. Walk your hands back towards your feet and stand up again. This counts as one. Do 3 x 10 sets.
This is deceptively exhausting take as long as you need. This will hit your triceps, shoulders, core and lower back.
This is, well, yeah, deceptively exhausting. And time-consuming. I went though a ( brief) period of doing Pilates before I got sick of doing classes which didn’t get me sweating but did leave me walking around the next day like I’d been savagely bumfucked. But this is one of the exercises we did. The trick is to do it verrrry slowly, focusing on tensing every tiny muscle as you go. It’s a bit slow for me to be honest – I am very impatient – but it does the job. The press-up at the end – full, manly ones if you can – in particular is a real bitch.
Exercise 3: The Plank (the Knight version AKA the Superman Plank).
(‘Dickhead!’ I thought aloud.)
Same as conventional Plank but you do 10 seconds in the normal Plank position then lift your right arm and left leg off the floor so you are in a Superman position and hold for 10 seconds. Swap arms and legs and hold for a further 10 seconds. Go back the conventional Plank and start the 30 seconds process again.
The Plank – and it’s earned the capital letter – is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most dreadful exercises there is. You lie on the floor and prop yourself up on your forearms and the tips of your toes, but while keeping your arse and back straight (for full instructions, try this site. It is very important you learn how to do it properly so you don’t hurt your back.) It doesn’t look like much, but the discomfort starts more or less immediately and the crippling, all-encompassing pain begins soon afterwards. I personally like to pretend I’ve got a bunch of helpless, wide-eyed children sitting on my back, Indian motorbike style, and that I am saving them from plunging into a fast-flowing river of molten lava. But that’s just me, feel free to make up your own hero fantasies.
That’s the regular Plank though, where I can probably last about 90 seconds at the most. The Superman Plank is particularly horrific, mainly because it is designed for people with lots of natural balance and poise. Darcy Bussell, I imagine, would be very good at it. I, on the other hand, am not a professional ballerina. I possess all the innate grace of a one-legged, short-sighted ostrich, so it took a few goes before I was even able to complete one cycle without keeling over. It does seem to work though; I don’t know exactly who this famous ‘Billy O’ chap is but I was certainly shaking like him. Shaking all over the shop.
I did feel good though, afterwards. Not hugely sweaty, which is nice, but that I had done something. The real proof came the next day though when my core muscles felt as though they had been savaged by wild dogs. I felt as though I had been beaten up.
Give it a go! Let me know if you wake up feeling like you’d managed to paralyse yourself in the night too – it’d be nice to know I’m not alone.