"Waist" not, want not is Barbara Pearlman's philosophy for toning and firming flab.
"None of us has time to whittle our waists with hours of exercise, we have to make the time," says Pearlman, who is national director of exercise for Elizabeth Arden Salons. So Pearlman has devised a set of what she calls "sneaky" exercises--mini-workouts that can be slipped into even the busiest schedule. Not only are they a constructive use of time, she says, but with such body-conscious fashions for fall as stirrup pants and slim skirts, they're ideal shortcuts for staying in shape.
Pearlman is the author of "Barbara Pearlman's Slendercises" (Doubleday: $12.95) and recently appreared at the Beverly Hills Elizabeth Arden salon.
Question: What can "sneaky" exercises do?
Answer: Sneaky exercises won't re-contour your body, but they will tone and firm and punctuate. By creating body awareness, you will look and feel sexier in addition to keeping supple and flexible.
Q: Where exactly can you firm up upper-arm flab or tone your buttocks without looking, well, foolish?
A: In line at the grocery store, at the bank, watering plants, even while doing housework. In short, just about anywhere. Most sneaky exercises can be done more or less invisibly, and it's easy to steal an extra stretch, twist or bend anytime, anywhere. For instance, there's a simple abdominal exercise for firming stomach muscles you can do that's completely inconspicuous. I often do it while reading, cooking or putting on my makeup. Pull in your abdominal muscles as tight as possible, but don't hold your breath. Maintain for six slow counts, then release. Likewise with the fanny squeeze. Tighten and contract you buttocks and hold for the same number of counts before releasing. This brings vital oxygen to the cells in these regions.
Q: Will contracting my stomach back in toward the spine and holding it (without holding my breath) actually make it flat?
A: It helps. Something is always better than nothing.
Q: A majority of working women now have office jobs and are confined to a desk all day. Any suggestions for waist-whittling while you work?
A: One way to "relaxercise" on the job is to sit tall at your desk with you tummy tucked in. Interlace your fingers behind your head, elbows wide apart. Now, straighten your arms upward, palms up, rapidly for 25 to 30 counts. This will do wonders for the tension in the upper back, shoulders and neck area, while strengthening arms, bosom, waist and pectoral muscles. Another one I like to do, especially on airplanes--though they can be done anytime you're sitting--are ankle rotations. Lift your foot and rotate it clockwise 10 times, then reverse. This will also alleviate swelling in the area. Whatever you do, don't forget to sit up straight. There's no substitute for good posture. By holding your back out of line, the muscles that support your spine lose their elasticity and strength, causing nothing but aches, pains and overall fatigue.
Q: Is there any way to avoid secretarial spread?
A: Long hours of sitting will give you a spread in the buttocks and hips because you are cutting circulation. The best thing you can do is get up and contract either your stomach or your buttocks.
Q: Do you recommend toning in the tub?
A: Most definitely. It's very therapeutic, and the water acts as a resistance. Simple shoulder rotations, head rolls and slow stretches are excellent and can turn your tub into a spa. For lean legs, try bending your left knee and wrapping your hands around it for support. Flex your right foot, and lift it slightly out of the water and back down several times. Then do the other leg.
Q: Is it possible to sneak while you sleep?
A: Unfortunately, you have to be awake, but many beneficial exercises can be done while you're still in bed. Lie flat on your back, tummy tucked in, and lift your legs upward so they are at a right angle to your body. Place hands under the small of your back for support. Spread legs apart, either pigeon-toed or heels facing, and repeat several times. This is great for inner thighs. For hips and outer thighs, I recommend lying on your side (you can bend the bottom knee slightly for support). Raise the top leg to hip level and draw into the chest rapidly 10 times.
Q: What would you stress the most while exercising?
A: Placement is key. It's always better to do 10 exercises properly than 30 incorrectly. Be sure to pay close attention to proper breath control. Usually any lifting movement is more beneficial when accompanied by an inhalation of air.