#RunPhD: Plank This

When I first started going to the gym, there was a bonus opportunity for two free sessions with a trainer. Since then I’ve seen trainers a few more times, including a two month stretch one winter when I was going to really figure this running thing out. Each and every single trainer told me the same thing: more strength training.

These men and women kept wanting me to wander from the cardio machine side of the gym into the land of bars, weights, and weird grunting sounds.

And with a nod of my head and knowing smile, I completely ignored them.

I was a grown-up who reacted like a toddler. I didn’t want to, so I didn’t. And they couldn’t make me.

Cut to years later and reading an article online. And since it was online, it must have been true. “If runners do only one exercise, it should be planking.” Thinking back to all those trainers, and knowing that planking only takes a few minutes, I decided to finally obey all of those voices that had been so long ignored. Sorry Coach [fill in your name here] for not listening sooner.

I started this past October with 2 minutes and 30 seconds, or what I could manage to do without falling on my face. Now I need a quick pause here and say that this is not my first time at the Plank Rodeo. A former work team did a plank challenge together for a month a few years back. Most of the group didn’t stick all the way through but I was proud to make it to 4 minutes, and then not again for a very long time.

Unpause and we are back in 2018. I wanted to try the challenge again, but with a much better lifestyle approach rather than going from 10 seconds to 4 minutes in a month. So instead I decided on adding 10 seconds every Monday. So, as I am writing this, weeks later, I’m up to 3 minutes and 40 second planks. Once a day. Almost every day.

And I am somewhere on the spectrum between apathy, dislike, and hate every day.

One of the things I’ve learned in this process is, like so much of life, not to do it alone. Instead it’s me and folks from the YouTube to keep me company. It started with the cheerful teens on Glee, and then sarcastic comedians with clips from Comedy Central. Now that I’m getting close to my longest-ever lengths, it’s been angry women music like Pink, Kesha, Kelly Clarkson, or some of the recent reincarnation of Taylor Swift. As I get a stronger desire to say bad words, it’s nice to have these women saying them for me.

It’s amazing how much shaking, sweating, and questioning of life choices can occur in 3 minutes and 40 seconds. And then it’s done. I curl back into a child pose for a minute or two, and then I’m off onto the rest of my day (or to bed if I “forgot” to get the plank done earlier in the day).

3 minutes and 40 seconds (until Monday) helps me feel majorly badass for the rest of the day (or the few minutes before sleep). Now I just have to hope that it will at some point give me a bad…

[insert angel emoji here]

I’ve survived 12 marathons and one Ph.D. program. So…now what? I’ve learned through the journeys that it’s not about intelligence, speed, magic beans, or waiting for it to get easy. It’s about strength and perseverance. This year’s blog series will be about #WhatsNext after crossing some major finish lines, and preparing for new starting lines as a runner and a (not that kind of) doctor. I am #RunPhD.

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