Do you remember the planking craze that swept the world earlier in the decade? I can remember taking pictures in some pretty odd locations always trying to get more creative with the next social media post. These planks were a bit different than the traditional exercise plank. In the craze you would take a picture laying flat with your arms next to your body.
A very common form of the exercise version, the forearm plank, is when you place your forearms on the floor with your elbows positioned below your shoulders and arms pointing forward. This is while your body is suspended in the air similar to when you are extended doing a push up.
Why do I mention this crazy comparison? I’m not sure really but when I decided to write about my planking challenge this memory immediately popped in my head and brought a smile to my face.
I just started a 30 day challenge and thought I would share why, the benefits and how to create a new habit. This transpired as I added several pounds between the time I raced at Duathlon Nationals in April, injuring my knee immediately following and getting back into training mode recently. Now that my knee is responding well, it’s time for me to get back to my proper race weight and race again.
In addition to shedding weight, I need to strengthen my core in general as I log more training hours. I will also be competing in my first long distance race in two years this November at the USA Triathlon Long Course National Championships so I will be putting additional strain on the core region. Planks benefit so many places besides the obvious abdominal muscles. I am also focusing on my glutes and lower back…lots of cycling and run miles ahead.
I am starting with a 30 consecutive day challenge. Who knows what it will transpire to but I don’t think I will match the prowess of current running streaks by Nigel Duffet or Betty Blue. Nigel is currently on a streak of 1,163 days (3 years, 2 months, 7 days) running a minimum of one mile each day. Betty has run a minimum of three miles for 800 consecutive days (2 years, 2 months, 9 days). I simply want to create a habit that will help me get stronger and more consistent.
To do this I did two things. I referenced one of my favorite books I read last year by James Clear, Atomic Habits, to refresh my memory on habit formation. He has a lot of information in the book but I targeted the habit generation phase.
I also asked my great friend Elia Luti to hold me accountable. If there is a person that holds me accountable whenever I share something I want to do it is Elia. Elia also planks daily with lengthy durations. I think he really enjoys them… Today marks day seven and if I don’t send him an update he asks for one. What an accountability partner!
So what are some of the techniques I am taking from James Clear to make this stick? These are the five steps he recommends to build a new habit and how I am applying to this challenge:
- Start with an incredibly small habit
- I started day one with a one minute plank
- Increase your habit in very small ways
- I will increase by any duration each day even if it’s one second
- As you build up, break habits into chunks
- This started on day three as I could not hold my plank for the entire duration
- I split the exercise into two parts but I did it and increased my overall time
- When you slip, get back on track quickly
- This is my second attempt as I started the challenge on my recent vacation in Toronto and forgot to do it one day..I use the vacation excuse…ha!
- James advises that we all mess up but don’t beat yourself up…look forward and maybe incorporate a plan to not miss two days in a row. Life happens…look forward…and I have Elia checking on me…
- Be patient, stick to a pace you can sustain
- I started out with one minute on day one and I’m going up from there simply increasing by any duration
- On day seven I certainly feel what I have set out to do is sustainable
Where will I be on day 30? It doesn’t really matter my duration other than creating the habit that will help me strengthen my core, reduce my risk of injury, get me ready for racing again, and as Elia says, “it looks good too.”
If you want to join me on this challenge, let me know…could be fun…I know I have a warped sense of what fun is but what the heck…
– Add Health to your Life