Every Tuesday and Thursday morning I am "greeted" by the 5:55 AM alarm, reminding me of the semi-tortuous group training session about to take place. Actually, my circuit training sessions with my esteemed trainer are something I look forward to, as I could seriously live at the gym (I'm a freak like that). I'm especially excited when we are faced with the challenge of doing a variety of planks. Today was my day!
Every training session focuses on a group of muscles. Last Tuesday we worked our leg muscles, while my very fit mother complained about her knee and how she's the oldest person in our group (yes, my dear mother is in the training group, which motivates me to kick it into high gear, as I am NOT about to be outperformed by my mother!). Leg days are great (I *LOVE* the Smith machine - perhaps the subject of a future post), but I do prefer days that include planks. A seemingly simple exercise, the plank is one of my absolute favorites. It works practically everything. Here's the gist of the plank:
-Start by lying face down on the ground or use an exercise mat. Place your elbows and forearms underneath your chest.
-Prop yourself up to form a bridge using your toes and forearms .
-Maintain a flat back and do not allow your hips to sag towards the ground.
-Breath (I know it's obvious, but this is what really helps me hold the plank for a longer time period).
Simple, right? And, you can do them anywhere. And you can do variations (more to come on that subject). Okay, so it took me a long time to develop a love for planks, but the journey was well worth it. Six months ago, I probably couldn't hold it for more than thirty seconds (I had a weak core), while now I can do them for up to two minutes (goal is three minutes). I started doing them as a way to build core strength, as well as improve my running economy. Planks have helped me strengthen my core and running posture. As I started putting in the miles for my half-marathon training, I noticed that I was able to keep a good posture late into the run. I've also improved my speed.
When I first started running, I thought that I could do a couple of days of somewhat easy, unfocused strength training. I didn't think about how to incorporate strength training into my running. I just went from one weight machine to the next for a couple of hours every week. While some runners prefer just to run six days a week (with no strength or core training), I've learned that I NEED strength training to build my core and get me through some of those tough runs. And the plank is my main weapon!