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I can do a pushup. A real one…from my toes. I want to shout it from the housetops. Now, you have to know my history before you can understand my excitement.
When I was in elementary school, I was the classic bookish girl – the non-athlete who was always chosen last for the kickball team. Actually there was one other girl who was as bad an athlete as I was. She and I were in weekly competition, hoping we would be next-to-last and not last.
I did not like team sports, and in my school that’s all there was. Today’s kids can run track or swim or participate in any number of individual sports, but in elementary school kickball was king. In high school there was volleyball, which I hated even more than kickball.
This was during the Cold War era and the US was focused on the Space Race. There were government incentives to encourage school children to study science and get physically fit. Oh I hated those yearly fitness tests. Because I didn’t like sports, I was always below the acceptable level. I did tolerably well at sit ups, but my 100 yard dash was pathetic, and I could not do a push up. Not even one. Not if the teacher insisted on correct form.
I’ve blogged at other times about how as a newly wed, my husband introduced me to running, which showed me that I not only had athletic ability, but that I relished it. Running is one thing, but upper body strength is something else. I still couldn’t do a push up.
When I first started the BTD, I learned so much from Heidi’s column. She was recommending the Royal Canadian Air Force Fitness plan. I downloaded it and used it for about a year. That plan built up my arms to the point where I could do a knee push up with correct form. But any attempt to do a push up from my toes brought total collapse.
Last summer DD and I used the weights in our neighborhood fitness room a lot. She left for college, and I left off going to the fitness room. I forgot one of the key concepts for women over 50 who want to remain healthy. Because your hormone levels are dropping, you will lose muscle mass unless you make a daily commitment to build it. If you want to get a shock – Google “menopause ‘pound of muscle.’” Here is just one quote,
“You lose about half a pound of muscle every year after the age of 35. Because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, it requires eight times more calories to maintain, even at rest. Therefore, as you lose more muscle you burn fewer calories. If all other factors remain constant, this translates into about four pounds of muscle lost and 15 lbs of fat gained every decade!”
I believe this is the root of my knee pain. I was focused on cardio exercise because that’s what like the best. I wasn't gaining weight, but I let the muscles in my legs lose their tone and strength.
DD came home for the summer after spending a year lifting weights with the football and basketball boys. She is so petite, that it amused them to see her lifting weights. They taught her a lot of new exercises and muscle building techniques. I was convinced that I had to increase the muscles in my legs unless I wanted to live the rest of my life with knee pain. So she and I have spent the summer focused on building muscle.
Several weeks ago, we were doing an exercise tape that included knee pushups. I was doing 10 – 12 with out much effort. I decided to try a real pushup. I couldn’t do it, but I didn’t completely collapse. I felt the same way I had felt when I first started knee pushups on the Royal Canadian Plan. So several times a week, I’ve done five knee pushups to warm up, then worked at pushing up from my toes. Every day was a little better. Last night I did it. Two pushups from my toes with correct form.
If anyone from my elementary school is reading this blog, they have now fainted. I have proved to myself that I can – even at 55 years old – defy my hormones and build muscles. If you are a woman over 40, I urge you to get some kind of a weight or muscle building program. The only alternative is pain.
Now I have a new goal. I want to do a pull up.
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