Taking on a 30-day arm workout challenge, and seeing if it pays off
For the month of April I decided to take on a 30-day ‘slim arm’ workout challenge. I’ve been doing a lot of indoor exercise while the gyms are closed, and working on my running when I can get out, so it’s been nice to have a relatively easy workout to do when I’m feeling like doing something, but not very much.
Almost completely at random I chose April Han Fit and Fashion’s challenge. The exercises are easy enough to be manageable, but hard enough to feel like you are actually working out. There is peppy music, and subtitles if you need them (like me!).
There is a lot of fat-shaming rhetoric surrounding women’s arms. From ‘bingo wings’ to ‘bye-bye fat’, there are so many little digs and insults used to shame women for not having toned arms. Even seemingly positive comments, like the relentless adoration of Michelle Obama’s arms, can reinforce the idea that those of us with softer arms just aren’t trying hard enough. I’ve had an up and down relationship with the ‘problem area’ of my triceps. I’m not immune to fat-shaming remarks, and part of me just wants to get toned arms because that’s what society says I should want. And then I don’t need to worry about people judging me.
But I’ve tried to separate the arm workouts from aesthetics, and link it back to something that gives me a genuine sense of achievement: running. I love getting home from a run feeling I’ve gone further or faster than I did last time. There’s something kind of primeval about it, and as someone who’s always loved the great outdoors, it feels awesome to know that I’m contributing to my long-term enjoyment of it. I want to climb mountains and descend into valleys, and improving my fitness, however that may be, will help me do that. My arms, and particularly my shoulders, often get tired running, so the arm workout should help me feel more comfortable and in control when I’m covering long distances. And it should just improve my fitness a bit in its own right. An easy to achieve daily challenge also helps keep up my morale when I’m not getting out of the house as much as I’d want. So I think that in spite of everything, I’m managing to find healthy ways to keep this challenge goal in perspective.
But did the workout actually work? Here’s where things start to get a little fuzzy. I think overall it has made a difference, but not quite how I expected. My shoulders and upper arms certainly have more definition, and are more flexible. Surprisingly, I feel I’ve gained some strength. My triceps haven’t changed as much as I had thought they would. Before the 30-day challenge I was doing a casual personal challenge to do some tricep-dips every day, and that certainly made more of a difference. An unexpected gain has been between my shoulder blades and around my pecs/armpit region, where, again, I feel more toned and defined. Of course, the arm challenge isn’t the only exercise I’ve been doing (I try to do HIIT workouts alongside my running), but it is the only one exclusively focused on my arms. I don’t have a precise before photo, but hopefully this one should give you a sense of what my arms look like now.
All in all I think it was a challenge worth accepting. It helped give structure to my workout routine, and I’ve seen some increase in muscle definition. I’d say it was a good beginner’s workout: if you’re looking for something to ease you back into regular exercise, this would be a good choice. I think going forward I’ll find something slightly more challenging to help me keep improving, and working towards my long-term goals.
What do you do to help focus on the mentally healthy aspects of exercise, and to stop yourself getting too hung up on your appearance? Please do share your experiences and thoughts in the comments. Have you taken on any fitness challenges, and if so which did you find really worked? I’d love to hear your suggestions for what I should try next!