Around mid-morning yesterday, I was telling my co-workers about this plank challenge. They were not just impressed; they were inspired. One of them asked if they thought if they could beat me in a plank challenge. I wasn’t intending to brag, but said that I would probably do better simply because I had been doing this for nine days. They took that as a challenge and rounded me and a couple others into the conference room for an impromptu plank challenge.
At that time I was wondering if I spoke too soon. I had just done a difficult plank a couple hours ago, so I doubted whether I’d have it in me to do a long one. Either way, this was happening. We got the stopwatch out, and four of us started doing planks with one serving as referee to make sure we stayed up and used proper form.
The challenger realized in an instant how difficult this was, yet managed to hang on for a minute. That was impressive for someone who hasn’t done one before. I knew that the biggest challenge would come from a guy who works out often. We were the last two remaining up at 1:30, and then he started shaking and decided to bail out. It was just me and a room full of cheerleaders. “Keep going, Aaron!” they encouraged me. I dug in and stayed up for a full three minutes, which was my best time since the challenge began. Even though that felt good, the plank wiped me out. I was out of breath, panting, exhausted. These planks are hard!
My first plank on New Year’s Day was 63 seconds. Everyday I have gained time gradually, and finally broke two minutes on the 5th day. By the time we changed from level one to level two, my best time had been 2:17.
For the second week, we switched to dynamic planks. We start in the regular plank position and alternate into a high plank every 5-10 seconds. It is almost like doing an awkward push-up, only not as difficult. I was worried on the first day whether I could handle this plank because I don’t have much upper body strength. To my surprise, that first day I had my best time to date at 2:30 minutes. Part of that success was because changing positions made it easier to a certain degree. The difficulty of a standard plank is in large part due to having to stick in an uncomfortable position. Mixing it up helps a little bit. At least it did that first day.
On the second day, I found that day one lulled me into a false sense of security. What I didn’t count on was getting sore arms from being in high plank position, which is a similar soreness as having done a number of push-ups. My second day in level two resulted in a setback. I could only manage two minutes, and found it a lot more painful. That was the same day as the plank challenge I did in the office, which reinvigorated me.
On the third day of level two, which was today, I managed my longest time doing any sort of plank – 3:03. I only beat my previous best by three seconds, but I’ll take it. The dynamic planks are now even more difficult than they were, but part of what this exercise has taught me is how to endure, just like with cycling. When it gets difficult, the biggest challenge is to hang in there, just as it is when you’re in the midst of a long, arduous and painful climb.
I’m not the only one in our group that has shown improvement. One of the guys has already reached five minutes, although in fairness, his first plank was three minutes and I think he had more experience going into this challenge. Aside from me and him, three other people have hit three minutes. Others have shown gradual yet consistent progress. Some have skipped days for whatever reason, while other seem to have given up on the challenge.
When I first started, I couldn’t imagine how difficult or how rewarding this challenge could be. For awhile I wondered whether I could even make it through the month doing this, especially with the dynamic planks in weeks two through four. Now I’m not quite as worried, and I am pretty confident that I’ll meet my five minute goal. After 10 days, my core already feels stronger. I have better posture and my back hurts less often.
This challenge was a great idea!