Hello my little lightbulbs!
You guys know that I love an early rise. Getting up early and cracking on with the day gives me such an energy boost: I’m more productive, active and positive when I’m up early and I’m always striving to be up as early as possible . This wasn’t always the case though. I used to be a bit of a night owl (the Sims 2 made sure of that) but a lot of time has passed since those late nights spent scamming the Goth family out of their fortune and spending countless hours agonising over the proportions of my Sims’ faces, outfits and interior decoration. That is until I started working behind a bar during my trip to Guernsey.
All of a sudden I was catapulted back to late nights, and getting home at ~2am meant that early rising was less of an option. There was a lot to gain from mixing up my routine and one of the main benefits was that I was able to analyse my priorities and get creative in managing my time to fit in the things that I found important. I had less time to workout and the convenience of a gym membership was no longer available either- so I innovated and I decided to start a plank challenge. This way I’d be able to work out consistently with short, at-home workouts from a free app. The workouts would increase in difficulty every day in an attempt to build core strength which worked to reduce the feeling that my fitness as slipping!
I started with the intermediate challenge and FELT the growing intensity with each day’s workout. There were days when I didn’t do the challenge, either because they were set rest days or because I was too busy/ tired. There were also other days when I’d modify the workouts based on how I was coping – so some planks would become knee planks or I’d drop for 10 seconds and try again. When this happened I’d try to repeat that workout the next day, ensuring I was generally comfortable with it until I moved onto the next day.
To give you a better idea of the progress I’ve included the workout lists for Day 1 and Day 30. The app is free so, if you’re able or interested, why not give it a try?
Day 1 – 5 minutes
Straight arm plank (30 seconds)
Plank (30 seconds)
Kneeling side plank (16 seconds each side)
Reverse plank (20 seconds)
Plank (30 seconds)
Cobra stretch (30 seconds)
Day 30 – 22 minutes
Straight arm plank (2 minutes 50 seconds)
Plank (3 minutes)
Side plank (1 minute 6 seconds each side)
Single leg plank (46 seconds each side)
Single arm plank (1 minute)
Plank (2 minute 50 seconds)
Straight arm plank (2 minutes 40 seconds)
Cobra stretch (30 seconds)
Working through this challenge taught me a lot and most of the lessons weren’t about planking at all! I want to share my lessons with you guys to inspire you to challenge yourself in a healthy way , ensuring long term progress and self-love! It might also inspire you to give a challenge like this a go even if it’s not focused on planking or fitness at all. You could make/ find challenges for literally any goal you might have; stretching to gain flexibility, increasing time spent reading or trying to learn a new language.
What’s something in your life that you want to improve?
Lesson one , planking is HARD
Planks are notorious workouts, excellent for slowing down time and making your body shake like a 20 year old washing machine. Despite knowing this already, I came to learn it again and again with every planking exercise.
I learnt more about my fitness style
Everyone works differently and we workout differently too. Some people do better at longer, low intensity workouts while others prefer shorter, high intensity activities. When I’m running, I fall into the latter category- making up 5k’s with sprints and slower jogs/ walking rather than keeping a steady, slower pace. Turns out it’s the same with planking. I did better at exercises that came in short intense bursts rather than the longer holds.
The perk is that I can use this awareness to tailor my workouts and maximise how much effort I can put in and gain from each session. I also think this extends outside of fitness, as I perform better with 25 minute bursts of work rather than plonking myself in front of the laptop for hours without a break. What kind of style do you prefer?
Planking is a mental workout
When shuddering through a 50 second side plank, I found myself reflecting on MADFIT YouTube videos; with Maddie’s words – ‘the mind gives up before the body does’ echoing in my head. I’d start a plank, a plank that I’d managed to hold for 100 seconds the day before, and 5 seconds in would hear my mind screaming to drop – ‘IT’S TOO MUCH! WE’RE GOING TO DIE!’ There were times that I’d listen straight away, but overtime I became more familiar with this voice and it’s slowly but surely becoming easier to block it out.
I have a lot to practice on the discipline front
Following on from the last point- recognising that voice in your head that tries to convince you to stop and choosing not to listen takes a lot of discipline. Joe Rogan very delicately calls this voice the ‘inner b***h’ and often posts his constant battle with that voice on his Instagram, where he gives very truthful and inspiring updates about his fitness. A post from a high intensity sauna session will explain the battle he has with his ‘inner b***h’ and how hard he works to manage that tendency to give up.
I have to admit that there is a lot more work to be done when it comes to being disciplined. It’s a delicate balance for someone who is always too heavy with the self-guilting, so I’m working to recognise that there’s progress to be made and try to enjoy the journey of progress- instead of beating myself up. I hope that with practice I can keep on gaining that discipline.
Strengthening core is self-care
Posture, mental discipline, the ability to lean down and pick up snacks without getting off the couch… there’s a lot to be gained from strengthening core. For me the main perk is the feeling of alignment; when I’m working on engaging my core, my whole body feels in tune. I feel more…together- both emotionally and physically, in mind and body. I feel strong and capable, able to support myself.
Fitness brings me closer to my dad
My dad has always played a big role in the fitness side of my life, mainly because it was such a big part of his own. While he was alive he was a model for what was possible; a consistent workout routine alongside ridiculous working hours and a thriving social life, unbelievable power and stamina and the courage to try a new sport at any age.
Soon after he died, I found myself using my dad to guilt myself into being better. If I couldn’t spring the full length of a song he liked I’d tell myself that I’d failed as a daughter. Needless to say, this wasn’t the healthiest method and it wasn’t even the most effective. You can’t beat PRs when you’re sobbing and snotting all over yourself.
Now that some time has passed I’ve constructed a different attitude and allowed my dad to help my fitness journey in a more productive and positive way. I imagine him cheering me on no matter what. I know that he’d be impressed by my dedication to fitness, variety of sports that I engage in and he’d be chuffed to see me genuinely enjoying exercise. It makes working out a lot more enjoyable, rather than the Mulan-style – ‘If I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart’ vibes.
Effort is more important than result
I didn’t learn the most or gain the most from the challenge on day 30. It was an ongoing thing and that’s because the work you put in, the progress and the journey, matters more than the end result.
Even if I knee-planked when the app told me to full plank- my core would be more engaged than it would if I was sat on the couch. If I dropped during a half plank and picked myself up after a breather, it’s better than giving up and going for a brew. If I missed a day and came back the next day, that’s better than refusing to do it ever again.
Plus, remember that your body looks different at different times. Straight after planking I might have a cheeky little ab sneaking through, then I’d eat lunch or have a drink of water and BOOM it’s gone. Does that disregard the hard work? Not at all. It’s my body doing what it’s supposed to be doing to keep me alive because that’s more important that looking ‘good’ 24/7. If we focused solely on results then we’d be perpetually disappointed.
Surprise surprise, I’m not just talking about abs here! There will be ugliness and discomfort and character traits and parts of our lives that don’t fit into an Insta story- even when we’re doing everything right. You can self care your life to the max and still burst into tears because you can’t find your charger. You can journal and drink kale smoothies but still have times when you feel down or fatigued. You can meditate and do yoga and still snap at a loved one. The most important thing of all is the effort and the direction and recognising how often you feel good compared to feeling bad. Follow your positive intention no matter what, even if you don’t always feel the ‘desirable’ result at all times.
Your participation is so important and you’re more likely to participate if you have a strong reason to keep going like developing your discipline or confidence (rather than wanting to look better for other people). You’re also more likely to participate if your goals are achievable and your ‘mistakes’ are forgivable so be kind. The fact that there’s always room to improve is a positive. It keeps life from stagnating and introduces limitless opportunities for self-growth and development. Just remember, from time to time, to stop and appreciate how far you’ve come from when you started.
What 30 day challenge are you going to try after reading? Let me know!