Training Journal: I’ve Completed The 21-Minute Plank Challenge!

Ever tried holding your body in the plank position for 30 seconds?

How about 1 minute?

My general maximum hold limit before my knees give in is around 1 minute 30 seconds.

Having said that…

What if you were to pick from one of the following:

  • Do 1000 push ups
  • Do 21 minutes of planking
  • Do the 1000 push ups and the 21 minute plank challenge
  • Give up

When I saw the first glimpsed the list from Mark Divine‘s Hell Week email series I signed up for from Ramit Sethi‘s newsletters, I thought, “21 minutes? I can barely make past 1 minute!”

But that wasn’t going to stop me, 21 minutes is still a doable task. So I settled down, set myself the countdown timer and popped *Maksim Mrvica’s Mezzo E Mezzo CD into the player, and told myself to just get it done by doing 1 minute long planks and breaking in between.

So the 21 minute count down begins…

As the stereo started playing Ballet Moderne, I was starting off strongly was using my iPad to read a few articles to pass the time as I did the challenge.

Similar to all challenges in the beginning, it was an easy ride. I had absolutely no problem with the minute long planks and breaking in the middle for around 15 seconds (and pausing the timer) before continuing.

But as I demanded and pushed my body to do more planks past the 4 minute mark, it was starting to protest. I was starting to sweat. Not only that, my core was beginning to shake and the act of holding my abs up rather than to let it sag was distracting me from my reading.

With around 15 more minutes to go, I had a brainwave. Photo shooting time!

At that point, I really wanted post that photo, but the condition I had was to only post it after I was done with the challenge.

The motivator of posting not just a tweet but also a photo was like a prize for completion.

Once I was done (and when the CD was playing Midnight Menuete), I continued.

It was frustrating. Infuriating even. It’s only 15 more minutes worth of planking!

With 10 more minutes worth of planking to go…

By this stage, my body was protesting hard. I had just conquered the 1/2 way mark, but making it to that stage was hard. Way harder than my usual intensive dancing.

I had to do ditch the iPad by that point. Reading was distracting me from fulfilling the 21 minute condition because all I wanted to do was to use it to pass the time. I also had to face the timer away so that my sense of “when will this be done?” wouldn’t get in the way of focusing my efforts. I would only check the remaining time when my knees gave in, again, usually at the 1 minute 15 second marks.

I knew it was not meant to be easy, but I did not expect this sort of challenge to have me reeling.

It was easy to give up, the backs of my shoulders were starting to ache, my thighs were starting to burn, my forearms were tired from holding myself up, and my core was shakier than a bobble head driving on rocky roads.

As I sipped a few mouthfuls of water, I was not happy at my thoughts of giving up. Defeat was way too easy to admit. I needed some extra incentives to help me get through this.

I decided to change the environment slightly. With my iPad switched off, I can concentrate my thoughts better. I even decided to settle on playing After Mussorgsky on repeat as it was the least distracting and I can use the somberly intensive mood to adjust my slow breathing.

Only 4 minutes left…

Victory was close by! I was managing decently by then, but the hold ups were tiring me out. My itch to check the timer was starting to bug me, and my breaks were taking longer than I had initially allowed myself.

Why were those last few minutes so difficult?

It must have been because of the amount of effort it takes, the concentration to hold up the energy and complete the task was not easy.

But with only a few minutes in sight, I only needed to hold up. Just for a few more minutes.

One minute left…

I was starting to sound like a Spartan crying war by this point.

This last minute isn’t going to stop me!

End of countdown!

As the timer alarm rang and the stereo was continuously blaring out the climax to After Mussorgsky, it was victory on my part!

I did not stop moment the alarm went off. No, I was pushing it for at least 10 more seconds before slowly lowering my weight back onto the floor.

It was an amazing feeling as posted that photo online on Social Media as well as tweet the below message last night:

Next morning…

Of course, the effects were not immediately shown. But I can safely say that I’m starting to feel impact of the soreness my body is experiencing. The soreness is a given, but at the most unexpected places.

Aside from the entire core region (right down to the sides), other areas that are enduring the effects include the entire area behind the shoulders on the upper back and the sides of my thighs. Perhaps this 21-minute plank challenge has an extra lesson for me…

Post-challenge thoughts and conclusion

Mark Divine was correct, this 21-minute plank that the Navy SEAL recruits had to go through is indeed a challenge. But despite the seemingly unreachable impossible goal of being able to this plank, simply changing the mental energy and focus points into what was important for reaching the goal.

Yes, my body was shaking and unwilling to push further (not to mention I need to put up with a rather tender core for the rest of the next day). But once you’re able to squash that nagging voice of defeat and be able to structure ways to make the challenge more bearable (in my case, around 21 singular minute planks with breaks in between), the seemingly huge task becomes many small goals put together.

It took me about an hour to complete my mission, but I did it.

Have you tried the 21-minute plank challenge before? Share this article with a friend whom you think can use this challenge!

*Note: Below is the playlist I mentioned throughout the article – by far the one I find most bearable for this challenge is After Mussorgsky.

Image source: Charlie Chavez

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