Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Secret Upper Body Exercise

Lindsay, from Chasing The Kenyans, asked what I do to get my arms and shoulders tone. It's funny...I get this question a lot, but the truth is I don't do anything crazy. My secret is...wait for it...push ups! Yeah, I know, not much of a secret, and when I tell people they don't usually believe me. Seems so simple, but those push ups (when done correctly) are hard!

It all started freshman year in college. My coach instructed us to do 3 sets of 10 push ups 5 days a week. He also showed us the correct form. When I tried it for myself in my dorm room, I realized I couldn't even do two consecutive push ups correctly! I was beside myself with irritation. I mean, honestly, how hard could it be. As it turns out, for me, getting to 3 sets of 10 was difficult. I worked at those push ups every day. By the end of the season, I could finally do my sets. Then I started making a set longer, until I could 20 as a set. Then I started adding sets. By my junior year, I was doing 6 sets of 20 push ups 5 days a week. Sounds like a lot, but it only takes about a minute to do a set of 20. Push ups are great because you don't need anything special to do them. You can do them anytime, anywhere. And unlike certain weightlifting exercises, push ups work your whole core.

Truth is, push ups, are the only strengthening exercise I do for my upper body. I don't lift weights. Not that I'm against lifting per se, I'd just rather be running or doing some other form of cardio with my precious workout time. I do love the row machine, which I discovered after college. When I'm training for a specific race, I try to do one or two row workouts a week. The row machine is cool because it works most of the same muscles as push ups (plus some others), and it's also a great cardio workout.

Here's where I have to admit that I've been slacking off a bit when it comes to the old push up routine. I don't do 6 sets of 20 like I did in college. I do try to do 3 sets of 20 most days, but the last month or so I've fallen off the bandwagon. Sigh. Now that I've written a whole post about them, I feel compelled to get my butt in gear and start up the routine again. I'll let you know how it goes. What do you guys do to tone your upper body? Do you have any stellar secrets to upper body toning?

In other news, I've still been tired. I'm off the inhalers again, which is great, but I still have a runny nose. I guess I'm not completely over whatever I had. It's okay though. I managed to squeeze in 40 miles last week, albeit slow miles, but still...

Training Journal 1/4 - 1/10
Total Running Miles: 40
Total Running Time: 6 hrs
Average Pace: 9:00
Total Stationary Bike Time: 2 hrs


Heather said...

I agree that pushups are great exercise but I have the worst time with them. I can go from the floor to straight arms just fine but I can't lower down. My arms just lock up about halfway down. Weirdest thing. I'm not sure if it is an unconscious fear of falling or what. I do them with my hands on tables of various heights and that's no problem. Your post is motivating me to aim for 60 every day now!

Running and living said...

I've noticed and commented on your upper body too:) Yes, push ups don't take much time, but they are so hard! I can do hundreds of abs, I do pilates, etc, but I procrastinate when it comes to doing them. Now I got motivated to try again!

lindsay said...

thanks for answering my question :) i am glad it was a simple answer! i need to enforce the easy, at home stuff like pushups, body-weight squats, abs... i was good at pushups in the spring/summer last year and noticed a difference in my strength but, then i slacked.

Julie said...

I suck at push ups....really suck. I am trying to get my upper body strength up to snuff. I just started doing push ups for a training program. I was terrible at doing them! Hopefully with some time and practice I will get better. I can't lift weights because if I do I end up looking like a man:) Thanks for sharing.

Runner Leana said...

Push ups! I really dislike push ups, which means I should probably try to do them more. Great post!

Michelle said...

So are you strong enough to do an unassisted pull-up? I have never been able to do one.

I do a boot camp class one day a week and we do various upper body stuff. I know that is not enough though, and have been doing some exercised with hand weights at home. I try and do sit up/ crunches almost every day. I will add the push-ups too!

Colette said...

Ahhhhh- my worst enemy- the pushup, but I confessed to training buddies that the pushup was my new year's challenge this year. I'm horrible at them. I hate them. This all means that I should do more of them! and your arms look awesome! Great post....I'm gonna need you to show me how to do them!