I'm proof you CAN get rid of bingo wings… if you can bear to give up chocs, live on lentils and lift weights while you're chatting on the phone
23:25 GMT, 22 August 2012
00:29 GMT, 23 August 2012
Standing in the changing rooms in John Lewis, I realise something has to change: I catch a glimpse of my semi-naked body in the harsh strip lights and realise I have cellulite. On my arms.
I give my right bicep an experimental poke and — horror of horrors — the flesh hanging down flaps sadly back and forth. It is evident that I have finally succumbed to the bane of the middle-aged woman: bingo wings. Dimpled legs I could cope with — easily disguised with longer skirts or cropped trousers. Arms, though! I didn’t realise they could even get cellulite.
It seems so unfair: I run twice a week and am in no way overweight at 8st 9lb and a size 10 — yet I am still lumbered with flappy arms.
Shaping up: Before, left, and after – Frances reveals the result of seven weeks' work
And I’m not alone: three-quarters of women in a recent survey said they disliked their upper arms, and another study found that 56 per cent would trade in all their designer shoes to have perfect arms.
To make matters worse for me, I am going on a trip to Italy with an extremely toned friend in less than two months’ time. Even though Kate’s a year older than me, her arms don’t resemble scone mix like mine — they’re lean and sleek, and I’m incredibly jealous. I dread the thought of displaying my wobbly arms next to hers, but can I do anything to banish my bingo wings In just seven weeks
The answer is ‘yes’, according to Swindon-based fitness instructor Rich Jones. He claims that he can get rid of bingo wings for ever, whatever your shape, size or age (his oldest client is 86).
‘Bingo wings are just fat,’ he tells me. ‘Anyone can get rid of them. If we change your diet and tone up your muscles, yours will disappear.’
It sounds great, but Rich’s version of changing my diet is drastic. All my favourites — coffee, wine and chocolate — are out. Instead, I should eat lots of lentils, spinach, chicken, fish, brown rice and chickpeas to increase the protein and good carbs in my diet.
Then he starts to draw pictures of stick men to show the exercises I need to carry out at home, including press-ups, bench presses, sit-ups, kettlebell swings and free weight lifting.
I’m to do these for 20 minutes every other day, as well as going to see him once a week. ‘But I only want to get rid of my bingo wings,’ I cry. I hadn’t envisaged a life overhaul. However, he gives me a look that tells me it’s all or nothing — and I tell him I’m in.
WEEK ONE: My first job is to clear my kitchen cupboards of my beloved Crunchie bars and stock up on healthy meats and pulses. I then order weights off the internet — 5kg dumb-bells and an 8kg kettlebell (a single bell-shaped weight). They set me back 50. This had better work.
Instead of my usual breakfast of coffee (white, plenty of sugar) and a banana, I have herbal tea and a poached egg on toast. It’s lovely and filling but I miss the caffeine hit. Then I follow Rich’s instructions and do 30 press-ups and 30 tricep dips — which involve gripping either side of a kitchen chair and lowering myself up and down towards the floor. My arms are in agony. Later I try to strip my daughter Nancy’s bed. I can barely lift the duvet.
Put through her paces: Frances with fitness trainer Rich Jones who says anyone can banish their bingo wings
Day two and a delivery driver dumps my weights on my porch. ‘Blimey, what have you got in there — bricks’ he asks, as he wipes his sweating brow. No wonder. When I try to lift the kettlebell I almost topple into a rose bush.
Later, I manage to do 20 bicep curls (holding the weights with your arms straight down, then lifting them up, bending at the elbow, so that they touch your shoulders) while waiting to be put through to someone who can sort out my council-tax bill. My biceps are on fire by the end. I try to do some press-ups but give up after one. I lie on the floor for a few minutes. I’m losing the will to live.
On day four, I force myself to lift the weights 40 times while I’m drinking my coffee. Yes, I’ve fallen off the non-caffeine wagon already. But the good news is that I haven’t eaten even a square of chocolate.
By day six I’ve been lifting weights every day. Reaching to get a pan out of the top cupboard, I feel a searing pain in my shoulder. Panicking, I ring Rich. ‘I think I’ve pulled a muscle,’ I say through gritted teeth.
‘You haven’t been exercising every day, have you’ he asks in an accusatory tone. I admit I have. ‘I told you not to do that,’ he sighs. ‘Your muscles need to rest. Do the workout every other day.’
In the information overload of my first session, I had forgotten this crucial detail.
WEEK TWO: Rich now has me doing excruciating leg and tummy exercises. ‘I thought I was toning my upper arms,’ I whimper.
‘You need to build your core strength everywhere otherwise you’ll injure yourself,’ he tells me.
Feeling the burn: Frances does some tricep curls
I stagger home, barely able to cross the road on my quaking legs, but the next day I get a perverse pleasure from the pain. It’s a sign of progress. Every second day is a ‘bingo- busting’ day — and I take every opportunity to do a few minutes of exercises. I do my press-ups in my pyjamas before breakfast.
While my computer boots up, I do a few bicep curls. Waiting for my lunchtime omelette to cook, I do the plank — a hideous stretch that involves balancing my body on just my elbows and toes, back parallel to the floor.
The diet has been surprisingly easy. I stick to eggs or toast for breakfast, an omelette for lunch and brown rice with salmon and spinach or grilled chicken and broccoli for dinner — which isn’t as boring as it sounds, as I add Chinese five-spice and soy sauce for flavour. I’m so full I don’t snack, and I’ve ditched chocolate completely.
A FRENEMY BOOST'
WEEK THREE: I graduate to an exercise called kettlebell swings, which involves gripping the weight with both hands then moving from a squat to standing, swinging the weight above my head. I find them exhilarating but the other exercises are losing their novelty.
On my third visit to Rich, I can lift the weights without any trouble but I’m feeling drained. On the train home I discreetly examine my bingo wings, surreptitiously pinching my arm, and wonder if it’s really worth it.
All women in their 40s have a bit of extra flappiness under the arms — except Jennifer Aniston and Kylie, who are superhuman — so why should I worry about mine
My ‘frenemy’ Kate provides the answer. ‘There’s a heatwave in Rome,’ she emails me. ‘Shorts and strappy tops.’ Visualising her toned arms, I attack my press-ups with venom and force myself to do an extra ten repetitions.
Heavy-lifting: Our writer tones up using kettlebells
THE EXERCISE ADDICT
WEEKS FOUR AND FIVE: I CAN now do 24 press-ups and 40 tricep dips in a row. Such progress!
Admittedly, I’ve become slightly obsessed with my changing shape and do a half-hour workout every other day: 24 push-ups, 40 tricep dips, 60 kettlebell swings, 20 stomach crunches and some stretches. I’m still running, too. This is the most exercise I’ve ever done.
By the end of week five, my whole arm looks toned, rounded and strong. I’ve shifted 7lb. Breakfast has made a difference — I’m not as hungry mid-morning, so there’s no grazing on sugary snacks.
HURRAY, I HIT 8ST!
WEEKS SIX AND SEVEN: I am precisely 8st — a weight I haven’t been since I was 25. Hurray! I treat myself to a holiday dress from Monsoon.
In the changing room I flex my muscles and give a hearty wave. My flesh barely moves. Oh, utter joy! I have banished my bingo wings. I couldn’t feel happier if I’d found myself a 22-year-old Italian toyboy. And who knows — with arms like these I just might.
This plan is definitely sustainable, so I plan to keep in shape. It’s not just my arms that I’m happy with: I feel healthier and more energetic, I’m sleeping better and am more confident about my whole body.
I can see myself relaxing the regime a little, but I won’t go back to eating chocolate every night or scoffing pastries for breakfast. The results have given me the impetus to keep up my healthy routine.
I’m in my mid-40s, so I know I’m never going to look 30 again but I do feel good for my age — and I intend to stay that way.
To contact Rich Jones, email [email protected]