Women have been stuffing themselves into corsets, girdles, and girdle-like garments since the beginning of time.
For the last ten years, many women have worshiped at the altar of Spanx, that miracle-working undergarment that promises to “promote comfort and confidence in women” while simultaneously cutting off our supply of oxygen.
Before you laugh and come down firmly on the side of “No Man Will Ever Wear These,” you need to know that, Spanx for men are a huge hit. They are selling out of stores as soon as shipments arrive, and as you might suspect, online sales are even hotter.
Of course, unlike some of the garments in the Spanx for women line, the men don’t have the traditional tummy-sucking and thigh-squeezing shapers.
Instead, they have undershirts, as modeled by men who, interestingly, do not need to wear Spanx, given the fact that they are currently sporting six-packs.
Spanx claims the undershirts feature “powerful compression zones” and are “physique-improving” and “game-changing.” The men interviewed in this article seem to support the claims, saying that the super-tight undershirts gave them “pecs…definition” and “confidence,” in addition to back-pain relief.
It seems a bit unfair that men love their Spanx. Women are held to physical standards of beauty that men are fortunate to avoid. And while we love our Spanx too, they are a necessary, and often uncomfortable, evil: pregnancies change our bodies, our breasts succumb to forces of gravity beyond our control, and losing weight has always been more difficult for us than it is for men. If we want to even approach these unattainable beauty standards, we must look a certain way.
So guys: Can’t you pretend to hate them just a little, for our sakes?
Regardless of who’s wearing the Spanx, “shapewear” has become a hugely popular (and profitable) industry. Much like the multi-billion dollar diet industry, which peddles quick-fix weight-loss miracle cures that do not touch the underlying causes of the American obesity epidemic, shapewear offers a similar short-term solution.
What do you think of Spanx for men? Guys, would you wear them? Would your boyfriend or partner wear Spanx?
And what do you think of shapewear in general? Harmless figure-enhancers or dangerous fads?
Answering your questions this month is personal trainer Dina Smock.
Dina has been with the club for over 14 years and is N.A.S.M. (National Academy of Sports Medicine) certified.
Kristi: How did you get into personal training?
Dina: I have a B.S. in Health Sciences, and I began my career at Midtown as a floor trainer. This developed into a passion for training and running special events, so I transitioned into the Events Coordinator role for awhile. After that, I became the Fitness Director and worked in this role until the birth of my twin daughters in 2002.
Since then, I’ve worked part-time as a personal trainer, with a focus on pregnancy exercise and Kinesis. I love my work, and I’m still training my very first client who started working with me 14 years ago.
Reader Question: “I have about an hour to work out every day. I would like to lose about 10 pounds and I prefer the cardio machines to the weights. Which machines should I use and for how long?”
Dina:If you can get to the gym and do a solid 30-to-60 minutes of cardio a day, three-to-four times a week, you will be on the right track. To burn the most calories, you have to work at a high intensity. The harder and longer you work, the more calories you will burn.
As far as what is the best machine, I believe that you need to have variety in your workouts. If your program has variety, you are less likely to become bored. Having variety also helps to prevent overuse injuries. If there are certain machines on which you are more likely to exert maximum effort (and thus burn more calories), the definitely fit those into your workout program. I joke with my clients by telling them that the machines on which they like to work out the least are the ones they should be doing! The Gauntlet (the never-ending flight of stairs located in the back of the cardio room) is very challenging, and running or walking with a high incline on the treadmill are also great calorie-blasters.
Reader Question: “What kind of resistance training do you recommend for toning my arms?”
Dina: There are a lot of fun resistance exercises using weights, bands, and even your own body weight that you can do to tone your arms. Push-ups are a great exercise for focusing on the upper body and arms. Depending on your fitness level, start off with a few and then work your way up to doing more repetitions and sets. Here is the proper way to do a push-up:
Lie on the floor on a mat or towel.
Flex the feet so the toes are on the floor, pointing toward your upper body.
Place hands, palms down, with palms at chest level, and fingertips at shoulder level.
Keep hands close to the body; later, you can spread your hands out further to work different muscles, or place them under your chest, but it’s important to start with the basic push-up.
Keep your head in an upright position so you are looking forward, and not down at the floor.
Slowly push up with the strength of your arms, keeping the body straight.
Hold the upright position for a few seconds.
Slowly lower yourself to the ground.
Also Yoga and Pilates are great workouts for your arms!
Reader Question: “How can you best train for mountain climbing without supplemental oxygen? How is it that only a few elite athletes can complete class 4 or class 5 climbs? How does a person train for this?”
Dina: I spoke with fellow trainer Dave Statt who has a client who has climbed several class 4 and 5 summits. There is no one correct answer to this question. In terms of training, obviously being in great shape will help with climbing, but it’s really the luck of the draw in terms of being able to do it without oxygen and there are many reasons why someone summits or does not summit.
Reader Question: “I’ve been swimming a lot this summer. I feel great after leaving the pool, but is swimming a good workout?”
Dina: Swimming is a full-body exercise. The more body parts you involve in your workout, the more calories you’ll burn. For example, spend 30 minutes doing the breast-stroke and you’ll burn almost 400 calories. Best of all, your joints are fully supported so you don’t have to worry about high-impact injuries. It’s also great cross-training for other cardio and weight-training activities.
Reader Question: “I don’t make it to the club as often as I would like to. Can you suggest some strength-training exercises I can do at home?”
Dina: When you can’t make it to the gym here are some key exercises you can do at home with weights or without. These exercises use your body weight and can be done anywhere. You can also take them on the road if you’re traveling.
Why They’re Great: Squats are one of the best exercises you can do. Squats work your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves all at once.
How to Do Them: Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes facing straight ahead or angled slightly outward. Slowly bend the knees and lower your hips towards the floor, keeping your torso straight and abs pulled in tight. Keep your knees behind your toes; make sure everthing is pointing in the same direction.
Why They’re Great: Push-ups, like squats, are compound movements that use almost all of the muscles in your body. You’ll work your chest, shoulders, triceps, back, and abs.
How to Do Them:See above!
Why They’re Great:Like squats, lunges work most of the muscles in your legs and bring focus to the glutes.
How to Do Them: Stand in a split-stance (one leg forward, one leg back). Bend knees and lower body into a lunge position, keeping the front knee and back knee at 90 degree angles. Keeping the weight in your heels, push back up (slowly!) to your starting position. Never lock your knees at the top and don’t let your knee bend past your toes. Variations: front lunges, back lunges, and side lunges.
4. The Plank.
Why They’re Great:The plank (or hover) is an isolation move used in Pilates and Yoga. Planks work the abs, back, arms, and legs. The plank also targets your internal abdominal muscles.
How to Do Them: Lie face down on a mat with elbows resting on the floor next to your chest. Push your body off the floor in a push-up position with your body resting on your elbows or hands. Contract the abs and keep the body in a straight line from head to toes. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat as many times as you can. For beginners, do this move on your knees and gradually work your way up to balancing on your toes.
5. Seated Dips Why They’re Great: This exercise focuses on the triceps (the back of the arms).
How to Do Them: Sitting on a step, bench, or floor, place hands next to your hips. Lift hips off the step and forward until lower back is almost touching the step, keeping the knees bent (easier) or straight (advanced). Staying close to the step, slowly lower your body until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Keep shoulders down and abs in. Then bring yourself back up and repeat.
You can add hand weight
s to your lunges or squats for more resistance. Do 2 –3 sets of each exercises at 12-15 repetitions, 2- 3 times a week.
Thank you, Dina!
I’ve received some really great questions from readers, so now it’s time for you to submit yours! If you have a question you would like one of the personal trainers from the Fitness department to answer, you can post your question as a comment to this post, or email it to me at email@example.com. If you email the question, I will ask it anonymously on your behalf, and post the question and answer (but not your name) on the next “Ask the Trainer” post. You do not need to be a member to ask a question.
My daughter, who turns four next week, has kept active this summer by scaling rock walls at various playgrounds, riding her bike around our neighborhood, doing “sprints” in our backyard (she wants to run like her mommy someday), and pummeling her younger brother and sister when their teeth get too close to her limbs.
Some of her peers to the North, however, are finding more “non-traditional” ways to exercise.
Oh, and the studio offers kids birthday parties too.
The media has extolled the physical and psychological benefits of pole-dancing for a few years now. Not just for strippers anymore, poll dancing can help women lose weight, tone the tummy, and embrace their inner sexpot, which helps their relationships.
It’s not something I would feel comfortable doing (13 years of Catholic school education will do that to you), but hey, if you’re an adult and looking for a fun group exercise class, I say, go for it.
But for me, there’s something deeply disturbing about young girls pole-dancing.
The studio’s owner says, “Kids love the pole” and that “Children have no (erotic) association with the pole whatsoever” because they see poles at playgrounds, fire houses, and circuses. She contends that the focus of the kids’ classes is fitness and technique, and not stripper moves.
But if it’s all innocent, non-sexualized fun and a great way for kids to avoid the allure of the Playstation and the television, why do the pole-dancing classes have names such as “Bellylicious,” “Sexy Flexy,” “Pussycat Dawls,” and “Promiscuous Girls“?
There’s a lot that’s wrong with these classes. Young girls are exposed to overtly sexual images at very young ages. From inappropriately short and skimpy clothing, to not-so-innocent music and movie idols, to messages that in order to be accepted, they must wear make-up, have mani-pedis, and dress much older than they actually are.
And because there is no denying the sexual history of the pole, five-year-olds don’t need to know how to dance on, around, or near it, no matter how “rockin” their abs might look from taking the classes.
Last time I checked, a six-pack wasn’t required to get into Kindergarten.
What do you think of pole-dancing classes for young girls?
There is depressing news from the CDC this week. From 2007 to 2009, 2.4 million more people became obese. This means that 72.5 million Americans, or 26.7 percent of the population, now have this dangerous and costly medical condition.
In addition, nine states (concentrated in the South and Midwest) now have an obesity rate of 30% or more, as compared with just three states in 2005.
And then there are the results of the Nurses Health Study, which came out at the end of June. 18,000 women in their 30s and 40s answered questions about their medical, exercise, and living habits, and it was found that women gain an average of 20 pounds over 16 years, but that those who bike or walk briskly were able to better control their weight.
I happen to think these startling obesity and weight-gain statistics can also find their causes in the recession.
Unhealthy food is cheaper than good food. McDonald’s “restaurants” are popping up in low-income neighborhoods across the country.
And with regard to the weight gain in women over a 16-year period spanning the study participants’ 30s and 40s, it’s no secret that this is the time when many women are getting married and more susceptible to the so-called “love chub.” Women in this age group are also busy raising young children.
Finding time to exercise and eat correctly while knee-deep in diapers and preschooler tantrums is no small feat.
But as someone who has spent years trying to convince a certain loved one that a healthy lifestyle change is needed, I can honestly say that when all things (education, socio-economic status, and physiological makeup) are equal, it basically comes down to one thing.
You have to want it.
I think a lot of Americans are simply okay with being overweight. They don’t exercise. They don’t belong to a gym. They choose to eat garbage food regularly. In many ways, they’ve just made a conscious choice not to make their health a priority.
But then their bodies begin to fail. They develop Type 2 diabetes or sleep apnia. They have strokes and heart attacks. Their doctors tell them that their behaviors are shaving years off their lifespan.
It’s only then that they begin to make the changes necessary to save themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. These people deserve credit too. It is hard work to lose weight. Hard when you have 10 pounds to lose. Even harder when you have 50 or more pounds that must come off. Choosing to take control of one’s life, even after health problems have surfaced, shows a willingness to stop the cycle that’s created the deterioration in the first place.
I know it’s not as simple as putting down the fork and picking up the free weights. I know mitigating factors make it supremely difficult for some people to get healthy.
Image courtesy of AnandaBlue
But I believe in many cases, it’s the drive that’s missing.
It’s the drive that motivates the athlete in marathon training to rise at 6am and run long for three hours. It’s the determination of the college student to take group exercise classes to look fabulous in her bridesmaid gown at her sister’s wedding. It’s the desire of the beer-and-chips-loving dad to drive himself to the gym after work so he can see his youngest child graduate from college.
And unfortunately, the way I see it, too few Americans have it.
I would love to know why.
What do you think about the latest obesity findings? Besides the usual culprits of poor diet, lack of exercise, and limited food education, why do you think Americans are so unhealthy?