I am a fitness anarchist.
I believe in the importance of being physically fit but not for the sake of being thin or “hot” or reaching a “goal” weight or having a perfectly shaped ass.
I don’t count calories. I do not exercise for the sake of burning calories.
I do, however, understand and respect the importance of exercise. I get the cardiovascular benefits and the fact that a balanced exercise regimen increases bone density and lean muscle mass and boosts immunity. But if you have been to this blog more than once, you know that I don’t believe in isolating body parts. I don’t buy into the Abs of Steel works outs or Buns of Steel or any of that stuff whatsoever.
Because we are not our abs or asses or triceps. We are much more than that, and when we focus on our asses, or our abs or our triceps, we are selling ourselves short.
My opinions come with no disrespect to the many wonderful fitness bloggers out there who talk about ab and shoulder and butt workouts. All of us have a unique message, and every message is an important one. However, I suggest checking your motives before buying that Brazilian Butt Lift DVD. Because if you think your new butt is going to change your life, think again.
My philosophy on exercise supports the doctrine by which I try to live, that happiness is not dependent upon external circumstances. Because if you are looking for happiness through a great ass, abs, or triceps, that happiness will last for all of thirty seconds before you are seeking happiness in something else.
With that said, I strongly believe that physical activity, when practiced with the right motives, can help us achieve happiness. There is no place that I connect more strongly with a higher power than when I am running. There is no place that I remind myself to open my heart more than when I am on my yoga mat. I broke beyond my own self-imposed limitations by finishing a marathon last November, and I plan to break through more barriers this fall when I PR on my next 13.1.
Running and yoga allow me to live a more expansive life which is why I am a devotee to both. I also understand that if I can build up more core strength, I will be able to run farther and faster.
Which is why I am in love with plank.
Yoga Journal refers to plank as an all-over body toner which strengthens the arms, wrists, spine, abdomen, upper thighs, and pelvic floor. The pelvic floor strength is a huge benefit, especially if you have had children. Your pelvic floor can take up to a year to fully heal after having a child. If you have experienced injuries in your lower extremities when returning to running or other strenuous activity after having children, it may be due to the fact that your pelvic floor was not ready for the strain you were putting on it.
Recently, I have been holding a plank for as long as possible at least one time per day. I time myself and then try to beat my “best time” to make a little game out of it.
This week, I had asked my Green Smoothie Challenge team mates and other friends if they wanted to join me for a plank-a-day challenge in July, and the response was very positive. As of right now, I have over 20 willing participants for a plank challenge.
You are welcome to join us!
I am going to hold a daily roll call on my personal Facebook page (my fan page gives me trouble with tagging people) as I did for the Green Smoothie Challenge. These posts are always public and you can find my Timeline. Feel free to join in!
I encourage you to time yourself at home, and to use your time as a benchmark upon which to improve throughout the month of July. However, you are not bound to sharing your time with others. It doesn’t matter where you start, it doesn’t matter where you end. All that matters is that you show up. And please do not feel discouraged if others who disclose their times are holding plank for longer periods of time than you. When I first began to run, I could not do one complete lap around a quarter mile track without a walk break.
As a yoga teacher, I firmly believe in the direct correlation between being physical strength and mental fortitude. Make a commitment to improving your fitness. Don’t do it for the great butt or chiseled triceps, although that great butt and chiseled triceps may be a byproduct. Do it with the faith that it will contribute to your living the life you love.
And it will. I promise!
(Scroll down for instructions on plank).
©2012 Ilene Evans
Photo Credit: Yoga Journal
Instructions from Yoga Journal to align properly in plank:
- Start in a table top position, arms perpendicular to the floor and shoulders directly over the wrists, torso parallel to the floor.
- Step your feet back from underneath you, one at a time, hip distance apart.
- Straighten your legs and stack your shoulders over your wrists.
- Pull in your belly button to support your spine.
- Broaden your chest and move it forward as your shift your shoulder blades and tailbone back toward your heels.
- Press your front thighs up toward the ceiling.
- Lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and look straight down at the floor, keeping the throat and eyes soft.
Photo Credit: Yoga Journal
If you find that traditional plank puts too much pressure on your wrists, try forearm plank, which is the same alignment as above, except you will stack your elbows directly underneath the shoulders and extend the forearms in front of you.