You guys, I am finally able to do a five minute plank!!! I’ve been working at it since December, and it feels absolutely amazing to have reached my goal! I don’t think there’s ever been something I’ve worked so hard physically to achieve. Except labor. Delivering babies is slightly harder than a five minute plank.
Ben and I have been talking about habits a lot lately. He’s also wanting to get more consistent with exercising, and I want to be more disciplined about staying on top of our budget. How can we make these things stick?! Ben has been listening to some great podcasts about habits, and sharing interesting tips with me, so I thought I’d make a list of things that worked for me:
When we need to do something difficult and unpleasant, it makes sense to combine a tough challenge with something fun. According to one of the podcasts Ben listened to, it’s even better if the reward happens while you are completing the task – like listening to an audio book or watching a show that you only allow yourself to enjoy when you are exercising. But it works to treat yourself afterwards, too, if it’s not possible to combine the activities. In the months since I started planking, Instagram has become my little treat. Once I collapse on the floor, I give myself permission to not move for 10 minutes, and enjoy some guilt-free time on Instagram.:) If the kids need something or anything else comes up, Ben does it for me, because I’m not getting up until I’ve recovered. It’s funny how such a little thing is something I look forward to!
We hear this one all the time, because it is SO TRUE. I need someone checking up on me. Ben has been encouraging me all along with exercising, but lately, Anika has also become my little cheerleader and planking partner. There was a day when I wasn’t feeling 100%, and convinced myself it was okay to take the day off. But then Anika came upstairs and asked me if I had done my planking yet, and was really disappointed when I said I wasn’t going to, because she wanted to do it with me. I didn’t want to let her down, so I decided to just do a short, quick plank with her. Once I got going, it wasn’t hard to keep going longer, so I did!
But as much as I appreciate Ben and Anika’s accountability, what really kept me pushing myself was having to report back to my muscle therapist every two weeks. He was always encouraging, but he wasn’t overly impressed with me when I was slacking off, and he knew I could do better. He kept telling me about the 70-year-old client he has who only took four months to reach a 10 minute plank, or the client who was stuck at seven minutes but stopped watching the clock and suddenly jumped to an 11 minute plank!!! What in the world. It would make me mad, so I’d go home and push harder. I needed that push. Find somebody who will give you a regular kick in the pants – pay them to do it, if you have to!! It is totally worth it.
Understand the Wisdom of the Process
This one comes from the pants-kicking muscle therapist. He is the most disciplined person I’ve ever met, so I asked him recently if he was always so disciplined, or if it was something he had to work at. He was surprised by my question, and said, “I’m not a disciplined person. I just understand the wisdom of the process.” He explained that once you understand the why of what you’re doing, and focus on how your future will be impacted by the choices you make today, you will have all the motivation you need to keep going.
This resonated with me, because I understand the wisdom now, but I haven’t always. When I first started seeing my muscle therapist, he would give me many different stretches and exercises to do, and I would, but not every day. He’d tell me to do yoga daily, but it hurt so much, I just *couldn’t*. It wasn’t until that month when I gave up every appointment, and felt like God was telling me to “act like a healthy person” when I finally got my butt in gear. I had nothing else to lean on, so I did every stretch, exercise, and yoga routine I’d ever been told to do, and by the end of the month, I was a new person.
Was it a miracle from God? Yes.
Did I work my butt off that month? Yes.
Could I have done it on my own without praying for a miracle? I would say no, because up until that point, I was never able to. I didn’t know what else to do, so I did everything I could, and prayed like crazy that God would do something new. And He did. I was finally strong enough to have a baby, and that is when Everett joined our family. It’s when I learned to push through the pain to bring about change. My body took a big jump forward during that time, but in the year and a half since Everett was born, I’ve still had a lot of pain.
That’s where planking came in. My therapist said it was the cure-all exercise because it brings every muscle into balance. It’s fantastic for people with back problems and neck issues, so he told me to start working towards a one minute plank. Then suddenly he was saying two minutes. Before long he was talking five minutes, then 10 minutes. I thought he was crazy – until that point, I had never even considered the fact that a ten minute plank was possible.
But I kept trying. IT HURT SO BAD!!! I would sit on the floor before starting and cry because I DID NOT WANT TO PLANK. I hated it. I felt more terrible than I’ve ever felt, because all my muscles were being challenged. I’d go to him and complain, and he’d pretty much say, “You have to push through it. There’s not a lot I can do to help you – your body has to adjust to using muscles in the right way. It will feel like you’re going to die.” So I’d go home, and I would feel like I was going to die, and I’d keep pushing, because I was so desperate. I wanted to be well and strong. I want to ride my bike and run after Everett. I want to play piano again. I want to stop being the person who is in pain all the time. I don’t want my life to be defined by pain and limitations. I was sick of all of it. I had to trust that my muscle therapist was right – I was taking his word for it that this present torture would result in a strong and pain-free life. It’s taken nine months to get to five minutes, and he seems to be right – I have stretches of feeling really, really good. It doesn’t last, but it’s coming. Apparently, I won’t even feel my back by the time I get to 10 minutes. I asked him if it would take me another nine months to get to a 10 minute plank, and I liked his answer!! He said it’s like a big, heavy truck – it takes a long time to get going, but once it’s rolling, it’s hard to stop! That’s me. I’m rolling now, and I’m going to keep rolling right to a 10 minute plank…and beyond! I want to be the 70-year-old just killing the plank.
This was super hard for me to do for a long time. For many years, I had a really bad attitude about health problems and a weak body. I was angry with how my life had turned out, and I was bitter about how much harder things were for me than a lot of the people around me. I was jealous of other young moms who were living the life I wanted, and these negative feelings sent me into a very dark time of my life. I felt completely helpless.
I kept sitting around, complaining and wishing things were different. I wanted somebody to help me, I wanted God to save me, and to make it easier for me. I’ll never forget the day it all snapped. It was like God pulled back blinders in my life, and I realized how unhappy I was, and that I needed to be the one to do something about it. He was pouring out blessings onto my life, and I couldn’t even see them because I was so consumed with how terrible I felt. Something inside of me started to rise up. Looking back, I don’t really know how things started to change – it must have been that God just planted a seed, and it started to grow. Determination rose up in me, and I started searching for a better way to do things. I started trying everything, I googled and researched to figure out what to do, and Ben and I prayed a lot for God to show us what path to take.
I needed to accept the health challenges in my life, and instead of complaining about them, start putting that energy into doing everything I could to make it better. I still have times where I break down and have a good cry, and I wish I didn’t have pain in my body, but I try not to dwell on it, because it doesn’t help anything. I can’t control all of the circumstances in my life, but I get to choose how I’m going to respond to them.
There’s a verse in Proverbs that says if you don’t work, you don’t eat. I don’t get the good stuff if I don’t put any effort into it. It’s up to me. It was a hard lesson to learn.
So I’ve accomplished my five minute plank, but there are many, many other habits which need to be developed in my life! I’m curious to see how the lessons I’ve learned from planking will be applicable to other new habits. I’m finding that achieving a difficult goal gives me confidence and motivation to do other hard things. I can push myself farther than I knew before. Time to move on to budgeting!!
Do you have any tips for sticking to a new habit and accomplishing something hard?