September 2013……….Goal set: 29:00 minute plank
As my 28th birthday approached I was inspired by several people to set a new goal for myself. I was in the process of training to run farther than I ever had before, showing myself that anything was possible with a great training program, mental toughness and some encouragement along the way.
I’d heard of several other fitness enthusiasts using their age as the number they would strive toward in their chosen mode of exercise. Examples I’d heard: A friend’s mentor running 36 miles on her 36th birthday (a marathon plus 10 miles)! Another trainer I knew was going to run her favorite long staircase 45 times on her 45th birthday and invite friends and family to join in on a few rounds. I LOVED THE IDEA! I would be 29 by next September regardless, why not strive to be my best! I considered several options but finally settled in on a goal that suited me since I love to train core (as my clients are well aware of). And so it was decided! I would have roughly one year to train for a 29 minute plank. I focused on my running program through October and ran my first 10 mile race. Afterward I took two weeks off to recharge both physically and mentally, then got started!
#1 November 2013……….3:33
During an afternoon run with a friend she asked me how my planking was going. I sheepishly replied that I hadn’t even done my first long plank to get a baseline. She reminded me that there’s no time like the present and since I always carry a mat in my car I pulled it out to officially get started on my challenge. Having her there to encourage me made all the difference as I hit my own personal record to determine my starting point.
From there I simply subtracted 3:33 from my 29:00 goal. Then I wrote a training program to cover the remaining 10-11 months. I would incorporate core strengthening and endurance, Pilates Matwork and other stabilizing exercises, strength training for most of my upper body (shoulders, rotators, chest and upper back) and also do a minimum of one long plank per month to ensure that I was on track to meet my goal.
#2 December 2013……….5:34
Not my most beautiful plank…I STRUGGLED! From the moment I started, my shoulders were all I could think about. I had done a shoulder workout earlier that morning (without intending to do a long plank that day) but got a ‘wild hair’ to just see where I was at. I was back and forth between high plank and elbows, attempting to give my shoulders some reprieve. It was somewhat helpful but each transition made my abs fatigue.
My husband coached me through this one, even lifting my hips a little at the end ( like I said, it wasn’t pretty)! However, when it was completed I felt confident because I made my first bench mark! I enjoyed telling anyone who asked that I was progressing toward the ultimate goal.
#3 January 2014……….7:00
My goal was 6:45 but somehow pushed it to a full 7 minutes. I was thinking the farther I get today, the less of a jump I’ll need to make on February 1st! I used the same technique of pushing up into high plank for a minute or so and then returning to elbow plank. It gave me smaller benchmarks to focus on and gave my shoulders a much needed rest. After about 4 minutes my form started to break down and my husband kept telling me my butt was in the air! For the last minute he encouraged me to strive for a perfect plank position for ten seconds then get a small reprieve by piking a little for ten seconds. It was a great distraction and a tool I’ll use in the future to help me work on my form as I fatigue.
To progress this month I did a lot of core strength training with cables and weights. Over the next month I plan to incorporate more shoulders and upper body strength and endurance training. One positive over the last few weeks is that I feel my back working less and less while planking as my abs get stronger. I also was able to relax through my shoulder blades, a noticeable difference between planks 2 & 3. After my plank I treated myself to a massage! Happy New Year!
Here’s a funny photo from right afterward….MY SHOULDERS WERE SORE IMMEDIATELY!