madonna.jpgMaybe Madonna does have an eating disorder; or maybe she is just totally buff. I’m not sure I care, other than that she’s a human being and I hope she’s okay. I read recently that “celebrity obsession” in now a real disease, listed in the official book of psychological disorders in both the US and the UK. Still, sometimes the overarching obsession does cause us to look at our own lives, and in this case, it may be a good thing.

Great arms are the gold standard of what fitness looks like on the outside. I know it’s really about heart rates and endurance, but in our visual culture, arms have become the litmus test. Tummies can be tucked, and breasts can be lifted or enhanced, but amazing arms have to be crafted out of discipline, restraint, and showing up at the gym. I think this do-it-yourself thing is why everyone pays so much attention to Michelle Obama’s arms. Some people resent her for having a charismatic husband, admiration from around the world, an (apparently) charmed life, AND biceps and triceps all ripped and chiseled. Others are just in awe: we could do without the fame and power; just give us the ripped and chiseled.

I have to admit that I’ve thought a lot about arms in my life. First, it was when I was overweight — well, overweight most of the time, when I wasn’t dieting and normal weight for brief periods. That back-and-forth with the weight is not good for arms (or psyches). Anyway, I released the last of the weight for good over twenty years ago. During this time, when I’ve worked out, my arms have been pretty great. There were times I stayed thin but didn’t work out, and the arms were the first to show it. Now I’m over fifty and if I miss working out for a week, the arms tell the tale in short order.

So here’s what I what do: I plan to go to the gym six days a week, and I plan to do an upper body weight workout three of those days. Sometimes I fail. But if I do two upper body workouts a week, I’m okay. I like free weights and that part of the gym where the big, sweaty guys are; it’s not a kinky thing: I just know they’re serious, and I’m serious, too. I do bicep curls and hammer curls; triceps extensions (seated overhead, one arm at a time; and lying down, both arms); bench press; wrist curls; and butterflies; I use machines for lat pulls, back extensions, and assisted chin-ups. If I absolutely can’t make it to the gym on an upper body day, I have dumbbells in a basket in my bedroom so I can do an abbreviated workout anyway.

I do not have biceps that rival Madonna’s or Mrs. Obama’s. But I have biceps. And triceps, too. And lats and delts that, I’ve gotta tell ya, make me happy. At an age where people expect to either spread or shrivel, I’m grateful to God (and the NY Sports Club) that I’m not doing either. Madonna: have a good dinner. And thanks: arms rule.

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