The Workout That Gives You Flat Abs After Forty

Dancing, sweat and tears

Michele Bender

Recently, I turned 40 and I swear that mere seconds after I blew out those candles, my metabolism went on vacation. At first I thought the extra roll around my middle was from eating cake for breakfast the morning of my birthday and continuing to celebrate in a similar fashion for more than a month. But then I realized the culprit was the aging process. As an avid exerciser and fitness writer, I thought I was exempt from this metabolic halt. I’d written lots of articles on the subject but thought the advice I’d culled was for other people.  After all, I’ve been working out since my 20’s and actually like brown rice and broccoli. 
When I mentioned that my recently slim stomach didn’t look so hot since turning 40, my doctor assured me that my healthy habits probably kept matters from being much worse. He said I looked great. That was comforting, but it did nothing for the mushy roll that hung over my workout pants and the butt that seemed to have spread seemingly overnight. And it certainly wasn’t going to help me fit into my jeans. I knew that if I skipped dessert and ran more often I could burn off the extra flab. Unfortunately, the other birthday present my body gave me was creaky knees. 
So I decided to step up my efforts in a toning and cardio class called Physique 57 that I’ve taken on and off (made famous by celebs like Kelly Ripa and Christy Turlington).  I bought a one-month unlimited package, knowing that it’s sky-high $400 dollar price tag would motivate me to do it almost daily. And it did. (A note on the price: not all their packages are as pricey as the unlimited). Almost every day I headed to this class, which consists of dance-inspired moves done mostly at a ballet barre using your own body weight. The exercises target everything from your shoulders to calves with moves like plies, a human chair position, standing splits and lunges.

There’s also knee dancing –where you kneel on the floor with your butt hovering a few inches off your heels and tuck and shake your hips. (Sounds easy, but try it for longer than a few seconds and your burning thighs will scream!) Between the carefully ordered segments that make up the class- an upper body warm up, three thigh segments, two butt segments and three ab sections-you get to stretch the body part you just worked. But the instructors also throw in things like a set of push ups, tricep dips and planks. No rest for the weary in this class! What amazes me is that I’ve had more than a dozen teachers and each one of them puts you through this ringer of a workout with a smile on his or her face- even while telling you that “you should feel nauseous right now.” (They give new meaning to the expression “killing you with kindness.”)
My 30 days of consistency went well. After two weeks, there was still flab hanging over my waistband but not as much. My thighs felt the tiniest bit slimmer nothing anyone else would notice but enough to keep me motivated. Not only was my body toning up, but I felt calmer after each class and it wasn’t just because the torture was over.  I realized that because the class is so intense I simply can’t think about anything else. After all, how can I worry about my kids or work when I have to pull in my abs, tuck my pelvis, bend my right leg, straighten my left, point my toe, take the tension out of my shoulders and relax my face all in one move! 
After three weeks, I was addicted to the feeling of challenging my body almost daily. I planned my weekly workouts on Sunday (you can sign up online) and shifted my schedule around just to fit it in. (I knew I was obsessed when I started to dread vacation because I’d have to miss a week of classes. Luckily, Physique 57 just came out with three workout DVDs $24 at " style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer;" target="_blank"> so I can bring the workout with me.) But this healthy obsession has reaped results. Four weeks –and about 26 classes later- my triceps have returned for the first time in months, my abs are trim and my butt is perking up. Even those creaky knees I mentioned feel better. I don’t look or feel a day over 39 and it’s been worth every nauseating, muscle-burning, sweaty second.

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