Personal trainers praise the almighty plank pose. It's an essential core exercise for whole-body strengthening and toning. But did you know it can eliminate back pain? It did for me!
Planking is easy to do, provided you have arms. You could do it in a business suit or evening gown if you had to. You don't need any fancy equipment--not even a yoga mat. And planking a tiny bit each day will make a noticeable difference in your waistline, as long as you're not scarfing down Whoopie Pies on a regular basis.
I started planking twice a day, for 60 seconds at at time, about a year ago, because I've always hated doing crunches but felt that my weak and doughy core needed some toughening up.
At the time, I'd been suffering from intense, chronic lower back pain, too. I blamed my mattress, my standing desk at work, my weird butt that sticks out far and my protruding SWUB causing misalignment in my spine. I'd awaken through the night in pain, then lurch out of bed in the morning and lumber down the stairs like Frankenstein's monster. Everything just hurt.
The plank seemed like an ideal move to get sweat-free exercise very quickly while strengthening my mid-section. I figured it would, at least, take care of some of that SWUB.
[SWUB = Soft White Underbelly]
So I set two alarms on my smart phone. A motivating little ditty plays for me, once in the morning and one in the afternoon, at times that don't conflict with the rest of my daily routine.
When I hear that inspiring tune, I drop to the floor and get into plank pose; sometimes on my elbows, sometimes on my hands. (If I happen to be out in public, or worse, at a work meeting, I have to snooze it or hit 'stop' and promise to make up for it later.)
I hold the pose for 60 seconds, or sometimes up to 90 if I'm feeling frisky. When I first started this a year ago, I had to begin with 30 seconds and work my way up. Seriously.
Now, on occasion, I'll raise one leg and hold for 10 seconds at a time. Continuing to make it just a little bit harder all the time yields higher and higher benefits. I love the burn I get in my belly and arms and butt from the challenge.
That burn is key, as expert trainers will advise: holding the pose until you're shaking like a leaf is when the fat-burn and true toning power take place.
Recently I've tacked on a side plank, balancing on each arm for 30 seconds. What's 2 minutes of exercise to break up the monotony of work, anyway?
So, how is my body different a year later? While I've accepted that my SWUB is just a character-building piece of me that will always be there--heck, I birthed two babies--it's shrunken, a little bit.
The better news is that my back pain is gone. And because of that, I'm sleeping better. Which makes me happier and allows me to think clearly and communicate effectively all day, with my family and at work. That boost in life quality is absolutely priceless, in my book.
I really didn't see this pleasant side-effect coming, but I'm thrilled that it has, and it
motivates me to keep it up. As time goes by, I'll continue adding little movements like that leg-raise, or tacking on 10-more-second goals to ensure I'm still feeling the burn and yielding health benefits.
If you're suffering from low back pain and you have an otherwise relatively healthy body that will allow you to hold it in plank pose for a minute while your phone plays an inspiring ditty, go for it, and let me know how it works out for you!
For more on how to plank, visit YogaJournal.com or HealthCorps.org.
I'm Janeen; writer, mother, wife, and full-time, radical Reductionist. I share stupid-easy tips on how to save money while reducing your impact on the environment, & I'm committed to helping others live a life of simple sustainability.
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