STRONG Idea: 12 Days of Fitness; Day 1

By Emily Stapleton on December 02, 2013 from Strong Ideas via

On the first DAY OF FITNESS, my trainer gave to me a 1-minute plank.
This is the first of a series of 12 posts designed to encourage you to meet the challenge of exercising for 12 consecutive days during the holiday season. If you’re just tuning into this challenge, click here for more details.
The exercise of the day is a plank. The plank is a very simple, yet very effective exercise with many variations. The best way to describe a plank is the starting position for a push-up.  Read on for more specifics:
·         Your weight is supported by your hands and feet (for the purpose of this challenge I’m describing a high plank).
·         Your feet are hip width apart.
·         Your shoulders are directly over your hands.
·         Your neck is extended so that your spine is in neutral position. The best way to accomplish this position is to focus your eyes on the floor in front of your hands.
That’s your basic body position…but there’s more to it.  As you hold your plank, focus on the following:
·         Attempt to make your shoulder area as flat as possible. This is done by activating the lat muscles (the area between your shoulder blades)
·         Pull your belly button in toward your spine to activate the inner core muscles.
·         Gently contract the glutes and hamstrings (just squeeze your butt muscles slightly).
·         Breathe.  Take slow breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.
So why plank?  The benefits are many:
1.    Build core strength.
The core includes every muscle from your chest and upper-back down to your glutes. The plank is one of the most effective core strengthening exercises.
2.    Increase flexibility.
While it doesn’t feel like a typical stretch, the plank increases flexibility around your shoulder area, through the hamstrings, and even in the arches of your foot.
3.    Improve posture.
A stronger core enables you to stand up straighter and hold your stomach in for an overall improved posture.
4.    Boost mental toughness.
This is my favorite benefit of the plank.  By pushing yourself to hold your plank just a little longer, you’ll boost your overall mental toughness.  Here’s how I do it: When I feel like I can’t possibly hold that position any longer I take three long deep breaths…and focus.
If you didn’t do it before you read the post, now’s the time to try your 1-minute plank.  If you’re new to planking you may not be able to hold it for the entire minute. That’s okay. Take breaks if you need to.  Remember, only you can determine how to use this challenge, click here for some options.
I’ll be back tomorrow for day 2.  Until then, enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Emily Stapleton

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