A few weeks ago I was pointing something out to the kids and I noticed that although I was no longer moving, my outstretched arm was. Part of my arm, anyway. Specifically, the triceps area. It was sort of … wobbling, briefly, before coming to a rest.

I immediately thrust my arm out again while peering at the underneath, and damned if it didn’t perform the same gelatinous trick. Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle—J-E-L-L-O! What the fuck.

I’d like to tell you I didn’t spend the next 20 minutes and at least once per day ever since staring with fascinated horror at myself in a mirror while waving my arms in order to gauge exactly how long it takes for the flappy part to stop flapping, but, well, let’s keep it real, shall we? REAL FLAPPY.

This is a new thing, the armflap. I have (had?) nice arms, too. Dammit, I’ve worked hard for these arms. I can do pushups and burpees and I can lift children who have the superpower of suddenly assuming the density of Osmium. I have visible definition in my arms and my once-impenetrable veins now happily accept doctor’s blood-draw needles on the first stab and there are honest-to-god dents in my shoulders.

And yet, the armflap. I know I’m supposed to be all, I love and honor every part of my imperfect and beautiful body, but you know what, I do not love and honor the armflap. Right now I feel that the armflap is a bunch of bullshit, a similar physical injustice as my waistline which has taken on a sort of canary-in-a-gold-mine role where it rapidly expands by one full pants size for every half-pound I gain.

Gripped by the conviction that my body is newly succumbing to all sorts of depressing age-related and gravitational damages, I fled to Amazon and purchased a Tracy Anderson DVD.

Tracy Anderson, for those not intimately familiar with ridiculous celebrity fads, is a sort of trainer to the stars. Her main claim to fame is being the sculptress behind Gwyneth Paltrow’s tight quarter-bouncing Iron Man ass and Madonna’s terrifyingly ropey physique. She’s got a whole diet and fitness METHOD which purports to redesign anyone’s body, as long as you’re willing to do her workouts (2 hours a day, minimum) and follow her diet (eating fuck-all).

It’s totally the kind of thing you buy at 11:30 PM after you’ve just wedged a sleeve of graham crackers in your food-hole while staring at your armflap.

The DVD I bought is her mat routine, and at first I was kind of laughing at it. Stick my arms out and wave them around while trying vainly to copy Tracy’s pornlike facial expressions? This is a WORKOUT? Oh, how my CrossFit coaches would be laughing at me now.

But goddamn if that stupid arm-waving business isn’t about the most painful thing I’ve ever done. It’s not that one of the moves is challenging, it’s the fact that everything is repeated for like twelve years. Seriously: extend your arms, and rotate your hands up and hands down. Do that for twelve years. When you’re done with that, it’s time for legs!

It isn’t exactly thrilling and Tracy really kind of seems like an anorexia-promoting douche, especially when she harps on how her workout is designed to make you SOOO TINY and how it’s mission-critical not to use too much weight or you’ll BULK, but the repetition and music are oddly soothing after a while, and I swear I see new lines in my arms. My shoulders look more defined and I feel like my posture is a little better. I can raise my left arm without hearing my collarbone pop out of joint (this was a phenomenon that appeared after a few months of trying, badly, to do kipping pullups), and my legs seem more flexible.

I can go on and on about what exercise does for my confidence, my energy, my patience, and my overall outlook on life, and it’s all true. It’s also true, however, that most of the workouts I’ve tried have been for utterly vain reasons. I almost always discover the surface results aren’t what I think they will be (running: it won’t necessarily give you an athlete’s body if you don’t eat like an athlete!), but there are often other payoffs (running: it can make you feel like you can handle any challenge, including holding off the desire to shit one’s pants!).

So, Tracy Anderson’s mat routine: silly, girly, probably scientifically fucked, but somehow rewarding. Maybe it’s all those bizarre rotations strengthening up the supporting muscles. Maybe it’s the Power of Gwyneth.

The armflaps, however, are still fully present and accounted for. I think the best solution is to make very, very slow gestures from now on.


47 Responses to “Wings of desire”

  1. Blap on May 17th, 2011 12:39 am


  2. Barbara on May 17th, 2011 2:58 am

    Arm flaps, huh? Oh darling, do I have one on you: how about bending over to put something away in the bottom drawer and noticing that your BICEP skin hangs like a turkey neck? And this is on one who works out regularly, and has for years. Yeah. Turkey neck hanging skin on biceps. I win.


  3. Erika on May 17th, 2011 4:15 am

    Have you ever been told that you are a wonderful writer? Well, you are.

  4. Christine on May 17th, 2011 4:24 am

    Thank you! I need to buy it now…

  5. another sue on May 17th, 2011 4:52 am

    I read recently some hollywood type fitness guru to the stars saying that every single woman he has ever worked with complains of the arm flap. I have come to the conclusion that the “fix” needs to be applied to the space between the ears, not to the arms. If all women everywhere are experiencing this, perhaps the proper conclusion is that this is the way the body matures? Not that we are somehow defective? Yeah, I talk big, but I hate the arm flaps with a passion. Add to that the fact that I used to be a lot heavier and thus have extra skin and loose flappiness just about everywhere. UGH But you know, power to you! I’ve always thought you look absolutely wonderful.

  6. Amanda Brown on May 17th, 2011 5:34 am

    “It’s totally the kind of thing you buy at 11:30 PM after you’ve just wedged a sleeve of graham crackers in your food-hole while staring at your armflap.”

    Best line ever.

  7. Jennifer on May 17th, 2011 5:58 am

    The ab portion of her Mat workout kicks some serious ass..er abs. It’s not very long but packs a serious punch.

    I have her post-pregnancy workout also, and in that she said she gained 60 lbs with her son. First, she has a SON? ( I don’t know why this surprises me), and second, 60 lbs on that frame? HOT DAMN

  8. Erin@MOmmyontheSpot on May 17th, 2011 6:10 am

    Yeah, I have that same exact problem. It’s so frustrating. I’m with you on making slow, deliberate movements.

  9. JennB on May 17th, 2011 6:18 am

    Bingo arms!!
    I go for my WLS next week and then as I lose the 100+ lbs that I want to get rid of, I plan on having to struggle more with this excess skin issues… fun!

  10. nonsoccermom on May 17th, 2011 6:35 am

    Ha! I reached across my husband for something a few weeks ago and he stared at my arm in horror for a minute before saying “How can someone who runs and works out as much as you do have such jiggly arms?”

    Miraculously, he is still alive.

  11. Jenny on May 17th, 2011 6:46 am

    Is there a way to “like” nonsoccermom’s comment? :) What was he thinking?

  12. Amanda on May 17th, 2011 6:59 am

    nonsoccermom – how did you let him live? No really. How?

  13. Lori on May 17th, 2011 7:06 am

    I, too, looked for the “like” button on nonsoccermom’s comment. As a runner I might have shown his crotch my leg strength.

  14. Jen on May 17th, 2011 7:46 am

    Batwings. Sigh.

  15. Christina on May 17th, 2011 7:58 am

    Do you have Comcast? It seems like most of America does. If so, under Sports and Fitness On Demand, there is an Exercise “tab” where you can do a million different workouts including Tracy Anderson and any of the Jillian ones. If you do have that it is totally worth checking out in that you will not have to buy the DVDs unless you LOVE the workouts!

    I feel your pain about the arm flap. I come from a long line large and flappy arms. WAIL.

  16. PinkieBling on May 17th, 2011 8:15 am

    There is so much I love about this post that I don’t even know where to start. The arm flab wings are total bullshit, though. HATE THEM. No matter how toned your arms, that is often a super tricky place to shed body fat. Diet is absolutely key to that, and that’s why Tracy’s diet is so anorexic-y. Sad. Her toning exercises really are great, though. I just need to follow them up with some wing lipo! :)

  17. Amy M. on May 17th, 2011 8:16 am

    I asked for a Bosu ball to try & rid myself of the post-baby tummy flap. Love it! And the kids love it! I try to avoid looking at my arms while using it, or anything else that flaps. :)

  18. MRW on May 17th, 2011 8:23 am

    When I reached some point in my life, mid-30s maybe, those arm flaps appeared. I wasn’t eating more or working out less or anything, they just . . . happened. I’ve solved the problem, however, by living someplace where it’s cold and rainy as shit 9-10 months of the year so I hardly ever wear anything that requires me to look at my arms.

    Also, am guessing only the concern about doing time for murder kept nonsoccermom from killing her husband after that comment.

  19. Donna on May 17th, 2011 8:48 am

    One word. Sleeves.
    On a week long vacation my grandson discovered the arm flaps and now flaps them any time I raise my arm. And then he says, “but they’re so soft!”

    I’m writing it all down. I have a list. They’ll regret this someday.

  20. EPMaxwell on May 17th, 2011 9:00 am

    Even when it’s pure muscle it will flap when not completely engaged/tensed up. Sorry for bad news!!! But I am all for toning it anyway. I work hard at that too. ;) Happy Rotating!

    P.S. LOVE YOUR BLOG. It’s full of the awesome.

  21. jonniker on May 17th, 2011 9:19 am

    I read some crazy article about Tracy Anderson and how yes, her diet makes you lose VITAL MUSCLE MASS and PUTS YOU NEAR DEATH and all that jazz. But you know, I WANT to care about those things and I WANT to be all noble about it and decide that I will stand for what is right, blah blah blah, but you know … her videos are kind of awesome.

    Jillian Michaels, too, associates with the Biggest Loser and hawks crazy-ass SUPPLEMENTS for crying out loud, but I still love her 30DS and Yoga Meltdown and all that shit, and I just think, well, you know, what are you going to do? Perhaps I am just morally bankrupt.

  22. jwoap on May 17th, 2011 9:22 am

    I fondly refer to them as “batwings” and you know they suck.

    For better arms: (and I know, I am a fat girl who has seen results and has a lot more bat wings to deal with than your sexy arms)

    The 9-minute arm workout:

    This “arm-shaping superset” is designed to sculpt the biceps and triceps. It’s only two moves, but you’ll feel a big-time burn.

    How to do it: Perform one set of exercise 1, then, without resting, do one set of exercise 2. Immediately repeat the entire routine until you’ve completed 2 to 3 sets of both exercises.

    Exercize one: Tricep pushdown with grip flip
    Attach a straight bar to the high pulley of a cable station and grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Tuck your upper arms next to your sides and bend your elbows more than 90 degrees. Without moving your upper arms, push the bar down until your arms are straight. Pause, then return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 15 reps, then reverse your grip so that you’re grasping the bar underhand and immediately do another 15 reps.

    Exercize 2: The one-minute hammer curl
    Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them next to your thighs, palms facing each other. Raise the dumbbell in your left hand as high as you can in front of you by bending your elbow and curling the weight toward your shoulder. As you lower the dumbbell, curl the weight in your right hand. Alternate rhythmically back and forth for 1 minute.

  23. Emily on May 17th, 2011 9:25 am

    I’m a Crossfitter, so as long as you don’t subscribe to Tracy’s belief that women should lift no more than 3lbs (I’m pretty sure my purse is more than 3lbs…), I am totally all for people doing what motivates and works for them!


  24. Erica on May 17th, 2011 10:30 am

    The arm flaps … they come to us all.

  25. ssm on May 17th, 2011 10:44 am

    My grandmother had the most remarkable chicken wings (as I coined them) (to her FACE). I remember grabbing onto them and pulling for ten minutes at a time, fascinated by her loose skin. And now I have them and my kids ask me why my arms are so squishy. Conclusion: kids are assholes.

  26. sheila on May 17th, 2011 11:16 am

    “Tracy really kind of seems like an anorexia-promoting douche.”

    you rock!

  27. eve on May 17th, 2011 11:32 am

    I just ordered her mat workout dvd from Gilt yesterday! And then I ate lunch and dessert at Cheesecake Factory today. :( I’m afraid my vanity and my love of dessert will always be at odds.

  28. Holly on May 17th, 2011 12:07 pm

    8 minute arms!
    it’s ridiculous, you will laugh the entire time, but i will be goddamned if it doesn’t tighten you up quick. it’s on youtube, it’s only 8 minutes, and i usually extend the tricep part at the end for awhile longer, for the very same arm flappy reasons.
    (also? 8 minute abs & buns. not kidding, they rock.)

  29. Sunshyn on May 17th, 2011 12:17 pm

    Just wait till the bye-bye arms get wrinkles from the tanning… Ugh.

  30. Stacy on May 17th, 2011 12:55 pm

    My sister and I decided that if Tori Spelling (all 100 lbs of her) has bingo wings, we wouldn’t beat ourselves up for having them as well!

  31. Jennifer on May 17th, 2011 1:02 pm

    Guesture…slowly. Awesome!

  32. Aunt Linda on May 17th, 2011 1:08 pm

    I remember all those years ago my friends (and, yes, ME) pointing out that the day would come when that gorgeous arm tattoo would swing and sway and stretch until the design is unrecognizable. But, hon, I’ve seen those lovely arms of yours. And you will NEVER reach that awful state of affairs. At least not until your gut and ass drop so far that you’ll no longer care.

  33. BabyKMama on May 17th, 2011 2:29 pm

    I’d take a little arm flab if the rest of me looked as good as you! I had a friend once say that swimming works wonders for that area though, in a way other exercises don’t…

  34. Barnmaven on May 17th, 2011 3:50 pm

    Seriously, a two-hour daily workout? Like when am I supposed to do that?

    I’m not going to obsess over arm flaps. I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing — eating as healthy as I can without obsessing about my diet, getting as much exercise as I can with my busy lifestyle, spending as much of my free time as I can doing what I love and enjoying my children while they’re still small. When I’m 90 years old and ALL of my skin is one big damn armflap, I don’t think anyone will remember (or care) that I banished my armflaps once.

    Of course, to each her own. I believe that we are harder on ourselves than we need to be when it comes to our bodies and our looks, but I do find that the older I get the more I have learned to love my body and what it can do. If I take good care of it, it will take good care of me. But I also need to nurture my soul. Starving myself and working out for two hours a day doesn’t sound like something my soul would enjoy.

  35. Libby on May 17th, 2011 6:50 pm

    I’ve heard hat if you hold a full water bottle with both hands over your head, and then lower it down behind your head to your shoulders, it’s supposed to help the armflap jiggles. Let me know how that goes, m’kay?

  36. Kristin on May 17th, 2011 7:45 pm

    That’s like on 30 Day Shred, where you have to do lunges and squats for 12 years. That’s why I quit doing that DVD. That and the lunges really did a number on my knees (I know, I know–don’t extend past the foot. I’ve never really gotten the hang of them, I guess.)

  37. MaryPoppinSertraline on May 17th, 2011 9:13 pm

    Libby is spot on. Back in the halcyon days when I had a personal trainer three days per, he had me do the same exercise with dumbbells. The movements were simple, the reps far less than decade-plus, and the results phenominal. Today, the batwings are back with unholy vengeance… but I console myself that I’m not saddled with the ginormous swinging “hams” my grandmother sported under each arm. *Douche chills* :/

  38. Jen on May 17th, 2011 9:49 pm
  39. Jem on May 18th, 2011 4:21 am

    I just lost almost 70 pounds…(I have more I’d like to lose too although it’s nice to look vaguely normal now) and I can’t bare my arms, legs or stomach…they’re all basically experiencing the same problem, and I work out a lot. I feel you.

  40. Jullie on May 18th, 2011 6:51 am

    So I was on NPR’s Tumblr page and happened to look at the bottom where there are other posts and was surprised to see your picture. Did you know you’re on Funny or Die? http://www.funnyordie.com/pictures/5153beabcf/baby-photobombs-himself?playlist=featured_pictures_and_words

  41. sooboo on May 18th, 2011 11:54 am

    That F or D picture is hilarious. Commentors don’t seem to notice your arms either!

  42. Cheryl on May 19th, 2011 8:33 am

    Ugh, I totally feel your pain. I had my second son in February, and fully expected my body to return to pretty close to normal shape afterward like it did with my first. Not only did my body not live up to my expectations, but I’m in worse shape now…three months after the fact. My legs, butt and arms are all a disgrace, and I won’t even get into what my waist looks like.

    I used to be in great shape…riding horses, woodcarving, skiing…what the fuck happened to me? Oh yeah…those little things called boys, lol.

    Well, I strained my hip joint a couple of months ago and am in physical therapy for that, and once that’s done, I fully intend to join the gym down the street from us. For now, I do stretches three times a day, eat better (when I’m sleep-deprived due to a child, I tend to grab comfort food…Hi McDonald’s!), and I’m walking as often as possible – I hope security at the mall doesn’t think we’re casing the stores, lol, we often go there just to walk when it’s raining.

    PLEASE, let me know if you find something that works for the arm-flabbies…mine do nothing but make me feel like an old lady.

  43. Ashley on May 19th, 2011 11:13 am

    Down here in the South, we call those flaps “Lunch Lady Arms.” Remember when the lady in the cafeteria would thwack a spoonful of mashed potatoes down on your tray, thereby triggering a pendulous counterpoint swing from her triceps? yeah, that.

  44. Shawna on May 19th, 2011 6:24 pm

    Yeah, I have women who take my BodyPump class complain about the arm flap. My mom hates it too. I tell them the truth: it’s a combination of genetics and aging and the vast majority of people can do nothing about it sort of surgery. You can tone the muscle, but when that part of the arm is slack, that’s just the way it is.

    Unless someone looks like their wearing an 80s-style batwing shirt, when in fact they’re wearing a tank top, I NEVER notice that whole arm flap thing. My advice is to give themselves a break. Don’t stop coming to my classes of course, but as long as they’re doing what they can to take care of themselves, their bodies deserve some love and forgiveness for not being perfect.

    I am so not a hard-ass drill-sergeant instructor.

  45. Kristine on May 20th, 2011 10:08 am

    I lost 100+ pounds after WLS and I will take my batwings over having upper arms that looked like a bone-in ham ANY DAY. I told my son they are the Batwings of Power. That they are my hidden superpower that allows me to do amazing things. Being 8, he thinks this is hilarious and regularly wants to touch them, and asks me what they’ve done lately. He also loves my jiggly belly, WTF, it makes me think, why should I hate it? It’s bringing so much joy with its jiggling. Again, I will live with the jiggle because I have a lap now!!!

  46. Kristine on May 20th, 2011 10:10 am

    Adding a PS that “wants to touch them” looks really creepy now that I typed it… not exactly what I meant to imply!

  47. Pat on May 21st, 2011 9:14 pm

    I learned today that my great-niece calls the arm flaps “drippies” and loves to play with them. Cute, but depressing. :-)

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