Planks, or, How Long Can You Hold This?

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I want to share with you a story of mental strength over physical fitness. Most of you have heard that you have to overcome your physical barriers with the proper mindset. Whether or not you call this determination, willpower, dedication, perseverance, or just mind over matter is up to you. The result is the same.

This story involves something I never gave a lot of thought to, and an eight year old boy that never spends time in his thoughts of physical willpower because, well, he is eight years old and doesn’t really have too.

My wife had entered her third 5k run and asked if I could pick up her number and shirt for her. I told her no problem, since it would give me a chance to network the fitness exhibits at the Columbus Convention Center, downtown Columbus, Ohio.

The Cap City Marathon was sponsored in part by Ohio Health. They had a booth set up as did many other vendors. I had just finished listening to a speech by author and fitness advocate, Julie Wilkes. When she wrapped up she announced that there would be a planking competition. I wanted to watch that but got caught up chatting.

Just as I got to the Ohio Health booth, they were announcing the winner of the plank challenge. It had barely lasted three and a half minutes, with three contestants. I thought to myself, “I can do better than that”, but I missed out. I turned to the guy next to me and he was wearing a ‘Trainer’ shirt from a local gym. I told him I was surprised he wasn’t in it. He replied, “Yeah I should’ve, I can hold a four and a half minute plank”.

Now it gets a little interesting, I’ll get to the eight year old in a minute. One of the Ohio Health people asked if we would like to do a head to head, and I said I was in. Well, they ended up recruiting nine participants for the challenge. The best time by the way was from the day before at six minutes, fifty seconds.

We all got into position on our forearms and toes and when the time keeper counted us down to zero we were up in a horizontal plank position. (For those of you not familiar with a plank, it is an a show of core, or abdominal strength. You tighten your muscles so that you are straight as a board. Most people would be happy with a three minute hold. No sagging or butt in the air.) And for the record, the world record is four hours, twenty six minutes, set by a Chinese Swat policeman from Beijing.

We were counted off at each fifteen second interval and it wasn’t long before participants started dropping . Every muscle in your body begins to tighten up, you start to shake uncontrollably, and you succumb. Most of the plankers dropped before the six minute mark, and it wasn’t long before it was just myself and a young lady next to me. I cheered her up when I said the trainer on the end had dropped.

As we approached eight minutes, she said she couldn’t keep up, I told to make it to nine. Honestly, I couldn’t believe we were both still in this thing. At nine minutes, she dropped. I had won the challenge and beaten the best time from the day before. I had found a renewed strength.

I could hear the time keeper saying I had won and could stop, but I wasn’t done. This was now a test of my mind telling my body what it would do. I was beginning to tire and could feel my legs trembling. I concentrated on my breathing to make sure my muscles had some oxygen. As the time keeper hit twelve minutes, I dropped. I was finished. This is where the best part is though, read on.

As I was given a tee shirt for my effort, this boy in the audience was telling his mom that one of the plankers was on her knees and should’ve been out. His mom told him to do it better. So this kid challenges his mom. We start cheering them on and they begin.

The time keeper started counting them through and at about a minute and a half, mom drops. At that point I got down on the floor to cheer the boy on. The same boy that had cheered me on. I told him he could do it. I said “You are capable of doing anything you put your mind to.” I told him I knew what his body felt like at that moment, that he wanted to quit but that he wanted to beat the earlier record of almost seven minutes. As he hit six minutes, the count was every ten seconds, at six and a half minutes he looked at me and asked how much more. I told him only twenty seconds, to push through and fight it. He passed the six minute, fifty second mark and stopped at seven minutes.

IMG_20150502_190112     The pride in that boys eyes meant more to me than any accomplishment I did. He performed a feat of mental strength that he didn’t even have the muscular endurance for. When he finished, his mom wanted a picture of us together. I gladly obliged and asked for one myself.

Don’t ever let yourself succumb to the self talk of being denied an opportunity to at least attempt to overcome whatever your obstacle is. The mind is very powerful, harness it and use it.

In fitness, Bob

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