Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Push-ups Are For Girls, Too.

I'm one of the first generation of lucky girls who got to have full, required PE classes and sports programs from elementary school on thanks to Title IX. And I took full advantage of the opportunities, so I've never been afraid of the gym or the weightlifting room or playing sports.

The thing I hear a lot from older friends is that the gym is too intimidating, or they need to lose weight before they start exercising, or that people will look at them funny because a fat (or old, or out-of-shape, etc.) person is in the gym. But how else are you going to start the process if you don't get moving and using your body?

Outfitting For Your Workout
One of the biggest challenges is finding clothes to work out in because clothing manufacturers seem to think fat women don't exercise—and they're wrong! The Title Nine store is just as guilty of this as other clothiers—and they should know better! (Okay, sorry, small rant. It drives me a little nuts that the store that's supposed to embody all women participating in sports doesn't make anything over a size 14—a small 14 to boot. If this has changed, please let me know.)

Unfortunately, I don't have a good solution. When I was at my heaviest I got a lot of my t-shirts and sweats from Landsend or JMS. Now that I'm coming down in size I can shop at Lucy (they go up to about a size 18).

Recently there has been a lot of press about push-ups and their use as a measure of your overall fitness level. (I know some of you have probably just had a bad flashback to the President's Fitness Test we all had to endure every year in junior high and high school.) There are some good, practical things that you can get out of being able to do full push-ups.

There's muscle memory. If you fall, you're instinct is to throw your arms out in front of you. Wouldn't it be nice if you were actually strong enough to stop the fall before your head hit the sidewalk?

And then the ability to get up off the sidewalk once you've broken your fall. The good news is you probably won't be bleeding from anywhere important because you managed to avoid a face plant.

Core strength. Guess what? You don't need to buy an ab coaster or some other ridiculous piece of equipment that eventually becomes a clothes rack. Being able to do 2 or 3 sets of good form push-ups will help tighten up your stomach and back muscles.

Getting started. Kristn started me out with planks, which are basically the "up" position of a full push-up. And she didn't wait until I'd lost weight either. She had me doing these by my 4th training session with her, when I weighed 240 pounds. I could barely hold myself up for 10 seconds at a time. And the planks stayed in the workout—only now it's 90 second holds (and I fear 120 second holds are in my near future). It took a few months before I could do the basic push-up with knees on the ground (instead of toes). Gradually, I added 2 or 3 full push-ups before I dropped to my knees to finish the set. It was really cool the day I did my first full set of 10 "real" push-ups.

You don't have to drop and do 20 on the first day. Start by just training your body to hold you up for 10 seconds at a time. Rest for 30 seconds to a minute. Do it again. Keep your back straight (don't let it sag) and stomach muscles tight. When you feel like you can, lower your body slowly to the floor at the end of your plank. That will start giving you the idea of what a push-up feels like.

Just a reminder that getting your nose to the floor by moving your neck is not a push-up. You need to keep your body in a straight line from your toes to the top of your head and lower your whole body as a unit.

Krista over at stumptuous has a really great step-by-step on how to get to a full push-up.

Goals. I found out a couple weeks ago that Condoleezza can allegedly do 40 push-ups at a time—that lit a fire under me. I tend to lean towards the liberal and it bothers me that this woman can do more push-ups than I can. (I'm not competitive. Nope. Or rational, apparently.) So the goal is to be able to pump out 41 push-ups without stopping by the end of the year. Halfway to goal so far.


Karen said...

that makes me want to do pushups...(i mean, if condoleeza can do 40, i too want to do MORE!) what a challenge...thanks for the info and lighting a little bittie fire under my sluggish self! good point about breaking one's fall and potential faceplants...and it never occurred to me that pushups also work the whole body. duh karen.

KnittyOtter said...



They have plus size athletic clothes that fit well and keep you comfy. ;^)

I'm enjoying reading about your journey. I'm doing my own thing and its good to read what is working for others.

Ginger said...

You might want to take a look at http://junonia.com . They start at XL/0x and go upto 6x, about 10 years ago they were mostly sport/activewear, now they have more casualwear. They still have quite a bit of activewear including some with QwikWik, and tennis, swimwear, yoga, running, sports bras, etc.

Ginger said...

okay, knittyotter posted the same info while I was writing . . .

visionsister said...

Rock on girl! I have started walking on my lunch break. 20-30 minutes of walking at a good pace. It's a start, maybe I'll add a pushup or two...

Kathleen C. said...

If anyone can blow Condi out of the water I'm sure you can!
Though overweight and pretty badly out of shape I still have a surprising amount of muscle strength. But you have to use if you don't want to lose it. And things like pushups, planks, stomach curls... that's just a few minutes in the office (with the door shut)... no gym needed.
Now to add some cardio... I'm thinking of coming in early and taking a walk around the block before starting work.

Hey, whadda ya know... you're inspiring me! ;^)

Diane T said...

I agree on the Title Nine catalog. I had them remove me from their mailing list because their core demographic is at least 20 years younger and 30 pounds lighter than me. Too bad too because I like their stuff and I'd like to support them.

As to push ups, I do a little yoga and found that the plank position gets easier the more I work at it. Now I'm working on the four limb staff pose -- where you hold yourself about 3 inches off the floor. It takes tricep strength to do it and that I don't have -- yet.

I like your blog. You explain things clearly and precisely. I learned a great deal about diabetes in two of your entries. Keep up the good work.

Diane T said...

Oh yeah, I forgot: about Condi and the pushups. Not to get all political here, but I bet it's 4 pushups, not 40. Afterall, when has this adminstration ever told the truth?

OK, OK, I said I wouldn't get political.

Kristen said...

I also recommend Junonia. They aren't inexpensive, but their clothes fit well and help you get out there and get going!

Kristen said...

I almost forgot--if there are any other plus-sized cyclists out there, there's always Team Estrogen (teamestrogen.com). Mt. Borah also makes a dual layer padded bike short (I have a pair I love).

Angie said...

Thank you for blogging TMK, I'm at the beginning of my journey, but your encouragement and success is a beacon of light. I know you'll make 41 push-ups - Take THAT Condie!