Grandma Squats

“Squat,” said the trainer. I did as told, feeling very fit in my black spandex shorts and neon pink tank top. Just shy of 50 years of age, I had joined a gym and signed up with a trainer.  I hoped that regular strength training exercise would help keep my pre-diabetes from blossoming into diabetes. (So far it’s worked!)

The trainer paused, looked straight at me, and said, “Further down, like you’re about to sit on a toilet.”

I moved my derriere an inch closer to the ground. I was not comfortable with the suggested image. As a girl, I was taught to stand, sit, and move like a lady. That did not include public toilet behavior.

Since my introduction to this basic move, I’ve learned to just shut up and do what the trainer says. Otherwise, she’s going to study my butt and badger me into lowering it until she’s satisfied. I don’t like anyone studying that part of my body, except maybe my husband on a good day.

My introduction to the squat didn’t end with perfecting the simple move. As it turns out, there are many ways to execute this exercise. There are side squats, lunges, squat-and-twists, squats with a weight, and more. None are ladylike.

I’ve also come to understand that squats strengthen three key muscles which any grandma needs in taking care of little ones. The gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the body, is the one that gives your hind quarter its shape, or, as you age, its droop. It’s critical for movements of the hip and thigh, and in most people it’s one of the most underutilized muscles. While we’re good at using it to flop down onto the couch, we don’t get up often enough to give it a workout. Squats also strengthen the quadriceps (front of the thigh), and hamstrings (back of the thigh), both of which are important in walking, running, jumping, squatting, and controlling some movement in the trunk.

Doing squats regularly will help you better perform some key childcare activities, like retrieving the sippy cup dropped 100 times from baby’s highchair. You can make your retrieval into a squat, and get some exercise in the process. You probably shouldn’t do 100 squats in a row unless you’re very fit, so you can feel justified in taking the sippy cup away (to howls) or taking baby out of the highchair (to smiles). Or, just leave the sippy cup on the floor, so that baby can sharpen his negotiating skills as he points at the cup, grunts, and looks at you expectantly.

The American College of Sports Medicine publishes a newsletter called the ACSM Fit Society® Page. One recent issue outlines an excellent strength training program for beginners, starting with our friend The Squat.    Skip to page 4 of the newsletter for a good description of a squat and an alternative form leaning against a large medicine ball.

Happy squatting!

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