On Monday, the first six days of my 30-Day Plank Challenge were complete. I jumped onto my scale to see the results.
Up two and a half pounds.
I stumbled back and blinked my eyes. Placing my feet with gentle precision, I stepped back onto the scale, closed my eyes, and willed the number to change.
It did not.
In the past, I worked with a couple of fitness professionals: a personal trainer and a pilates instructor (who is also my sister-in-law). During the time I worked with them, my weight-loss stalled but my body slimmed considerably.
I didn’t want to disturb the darling panorama of my sweetie surrounded by snuggling kitties snoring on the bed so I tiptoed with haste, diving into the den for my knitting bag where my tape measure lives.
The tape measure would show how my effort paid off! Slipping it around my waist, I sucked in my gut. Hard.
An increase of one and a half inches.
A frustrated yelp squeaked through my lips.
However, having declared online that I would complete this challenge, I continue on my quest. After all, how much progress can I expect after a grand total of two minutes and twenty seconds of planking over six days?
More that what I got, that’s for sure!
Oh! Oh my. Excuse my outburst there.
Despite my disappointment, I will persevere.
That said, this week contains one of my biggest obstacles: the jump from one minute to ninety seconds.
In the past, this increase defeated me. I’ve gotten through it with the help of the aforementioned fitness professionals, but never on my own.
Before I planked with a trainer, I pushed myself off the ground with my shoulders and elbows, all of my weight and tension landing on my upper body, never the strongest part of me. I turned myself into pyramid shape, butt in the air and the top of my head touching the ground.
Never a good look. I mean, I have a very generous and lovely butt, but….
The trainer immediately smacked my butt into place. He also suggested that I allow some space between my feet. When I kept my feet together, I formed three points of contact with the floor which meant that I struggled just to keep my balance – never mind holding myself aloft. Spreading my feet about twelve inches changed my contact with the floor to four points. Decreasing the effort by balancing my body from the beginning helped me hold my form for another few seconds with the same amount of effort.
Most important, he told me to focus on pulling my midsection tight rather than pushing all of that tension into my shoulders.
When I discussed this form with my sister-in-law, she agreed that concentrating on my core was key. With pilates, most of the effort extends from the core. Once I got the hang of pilates (and I can’t recommend it enough!), I found that a strong core eased my effort as I climbed through the Rockies on my hikes. Those two-foot tall boulders, which once meant a tough scramble, could be taken like a high step.
I felt like a mountain goat, leaping from foothold to foothold with an easy strength I was surprised to possess.
Yeah. I’m ready to get that back.
All of that said, as I continue through this maddening 30-Day Plank Challenge, I am focusing on my core. When I start to feel weakness, I’m pushing hard into my center, tightening up my belly, pulling my bellybutton towards my spine. I try to relax my other muscles and imagine that I am being held by an invisible cord pulling me up to the ceiling by my center.
But not so high that I’m a pyramid. Plank, lady! Plank!
The Physical Living website has a great visual which shows the proper form without being crazy perfect like all of those other fitness websites. I like this picture a lot because 1) the instructions and details are right there on the photo and 2) the dude seems real – not one of those beautiful ladies planking without destroying their perfect makeup with sweat and tears.
No, I’m not crying when I plank. Why did you ask?
Okay, back to the matter at hand. My other technique? Cheating up on my time. While holding my plank, instead of stopping at the given deadline, I push my luck for just a few more seconds.
For example, on days three and four, I was supposed to hold the plank for thirty seconds. On the first day, I held the plank for the required thirty seconds and stopped. The second day, I made myself hold until 35 seconds. Then on day five when I was supposed to hold the plank for forty seconds, I was only increasing by another five seconds instead of ten.
That said, once I held a plank until I collapsed under the strain and really hurt myself.
Don’t do that!
I’m hoping these two strategies keep me going up until I hit the five minute mark on day 30.
Unless I give up because my body refuses to lose an inch.
Maybe there’s something wrong with my measuring tape.
Or maybe I just need to keep thinking about that mountain goat.