I was in a slump. For months I had been stop-and-start with a regular routine of strength exercises. “Just 20 minutes a day!” Isn’t that how most exercise plans are promoted? It sounds simple enough. I knew I should do it. I knew what benefits would come but getting myself to do it consistently was another matter.
I asked Anna's advice. What she suggested was surprising - and doable. “Try doing one plank tomorrow. Just that.”
I gave it a whirl. The next morning, I managed a plank for about 20 seconds. I jotted down that number on a yellow sticky note and vowed to increase my time the next day. And sure enough, I did. I managed another few seconds. Little by little I was able to increase my time to a couple of minutes.
By then I wanted to add more to the mix. Anna gave me a few core exercises to try. Having succeeded with the planks, it seemed achievable, and sure enough those additional exercises stuck. I repeated this cycle several more times, adding new exercises and extending the time of my workout. What happened was that I developed a habit, and that habit has stuck. Now, most mornings I follow my exercise routine without thinking about it. Along the way, I discovered the magic of starting small.
Neuroscience tells us that if our goals are too large, our brains can get in the way of good intentions. A large change can trigger a fear response and we sabotage ourselves. But a change that requires little effort – one we are sure we can achieve – leaves us wanting more. If it’s a big change we’re after, we need to break it down into small actions and start with what might seem like a ridiculously small step. Making that one small change creates the momentum for more to follow.
Had Anna given me a bigger assignment, I likely wouldn’t have succeeded. But the challenge to try just one plank was the first step toward success. I still have that yellow sticky note. It reminds me of a formula that works.
So, why not give your own version of plank a try and see where it takes you next on your fitness path!
Click the pic for 6 accessible variations of plank to meet and challenge your body's abilities.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”