Grit Doctor: Bye bye bingo wings: tips to beat arm flab

My upper arms are massive, strong, yet strangely devoid of tone. Far from a good look

Q I've been running regularly and I love it. I love what it does for me all round. Even my kids love that I run and tell me to go for a run when I am in a mood (I suspect my other half puts them up to it). Anyway, I'm a convert, and my body and mind are thankful. However, there is one part of my body that no amount of running can touch and it's starting to look worse against the better tone of my bum and legs. It's my upper arms. I have awful bingo wings and I would love to shave off some fat from this area and tone it up. Do you have any advice? BingoLady

A I was thrilled to get your question because, as a fellow sufferer, it gave me a reason to investigate a subject close to my heart. Thus far into adulthood, I have dealt with my bingo/bat/baggy arms by simply always keeping them covered. This has served me well. It’s a pretty foolproof technique, but one that is about to let me down – badly – with my sister’s wedding and a strappy bridesmaid’s dress hitting my post-crimbo-binge-bod in early January.

For the record, my upper arms are an unfortunate cross between a professional weightlifter’s and those of a caricature dinner lady – massive, strong, yet strangely devoid of tone. Needless to say, this is far from a good look.

This first exercise I discovered on my “Tackle Bingo Wings” mission, you can do right now. Oh yes, while reading this, start targeting those bingo wings using your kitchen chair. With the chair behind you, grip its arms and lower yourself down, feeling the stretch throughout that long wing.

Give me 30 of these tricep dips and feel the burn baby. Throw in 30 press-ups if you can, as this too is a brilliant exercise for the upper arms. I managed only 10 press-ups before almost passing out, so don’t be disheartened if you are the same.

The tricep dip is highly effective and reaching the goal of 30 repetitions is achievable, which is so motivating. I am going to forget about the press-ups (dispiriting) and just stick to the tricep dips, remembering to do them every morning and whenever I am cooking in the kitchen.

Aching and sore

Just a few days of this has my upper arms properly aching and sore which means it must be working. I also found a brilliant


webpage, an illustrated bingo wing workout which was crystal clear and very easy to follow. After a few times using the

, I was able to commit the exercises to memory and incorporate some of them around my tricep dip reps.

All of this, crucially, can be done in the kitchen (if you have a yoga mat, try storing it in here. I shove mine down the side of the fridge). I like the idea of committing to doing these exercises whenever I’m in the kitchen; the kitchen then effectively becoming a trigger in mission “Tackle Bingo Wings”.

I’m tempted to put my name up on the fridge underneath the boys’ “kindness chart” and start awarding myself stickers every time I do a set of reps.

Unhealthy staples

While we are at the fridge, a very quick word about diet. Yes, it matters. It counts and if you are eating chocolate every night and scoffing pastries for breakfast, your bingo wings are lapping it all up, thriving as those loose pockets of unwanted fat do on such unhealthy daily staples.

Starve them out by feeding them lentils, brown rice, vegetable proteins wherever possible, lean meats and fish and plenty of green leafy veg. Needless to say, gallons of water is the arch enemy of the bingo wing, while she thrives on sugary cocktails and bottles of chardonnay and all things Christmassy.

When out running this morning (arms suitably achy from earlier kitchen activity), I wondered if there was something I could do to improve my arm tone when running.

There is a very obvious solution that I was surprised I hadn’t thought of before which is to run with wrist weights. I’ve always been slightly intimidated or embarrassed seeing anybody out running with them, but who am I to judge? Their upper arms are, after all, in way better nick than mine. And it is a very obvious time-savvy solution to incorporate arm strengthening into our already decent running routines.

Yes, it does involve spending some money, but it won’t set you back nearly as much as a pair of dumbells or a kettlebell, which may all end up just taking up space and gathering dust. We won’t even mention a gym membership.

I suspect my wrist running weights will become something I routinely strap on when I put on my trainers to go running. You can order a pair easily on Amazon. I just have and spent less than €10. The weights are made of durable fabric and can be filled with sand, gel or steel shot. Putting the weights on is easy, just wrap them around your wrists and secure them with the Velcro closure or buckle. Some come as gloves, others look like donuts, some have pockets for adding additional weight bars.

However you choose to wear yours, the idea is to pump your arms as you would on a normal run, consciously engaging those upper arm muscles.

The added weight (3lbs max please) will make the run that much harder work, so our hearts will beat faster (up to 10 beats per minute) which in turn means greater calorie burn (up to 15 per cent more according to the American Council on Exercise). What a great way to intensify our runs.

The Grit Doctor says:

Talk about getting more bang for my running buck. Thanks BingoLady, Christmas is coming early for me.

Ruth Field

is author of

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