My First Plank and Sit-up Experience

by: Danielle Ternyila

I am really happy with where I am today in terms of my health, but now I look back and realize I’m the kind of girl I used to look at and think, “I’ll never look like her, she’s just lucky, has good genes, probably eats whatever she wants…” This just goes to show, everyone starts somewhere!

At my start, I had NO idea where to begin, and the closest thing I ever had to a structured workout was middle school gym class, so I started with those basics. I got down on my little yoga matt that was sitting in the bottom of my closet for the last 8 or 9 Christmas’s, and I tried my first sit-up in my adult life.

I put my feet under the edge of my bed because I remembered always having a buddy in class to hold my feet down, and I theirs. I put my arms across my chest. A deep breath in was slowly followed by a long, calm exhale. I dipped my body backwards to the floor, closed my eyes and tried my best to, well… sit up.

I definitely felt like a flailing fish on the ground trying my hardest to get my back even an inch off the ground. It was a complete and utter fail.

Don’t be afraid to be a beginner.

My first plank wasn’t any more encouraging of an event, but I could at least feel some success because I could hold the position for a few seconds, unlike the sit-up fail where I flopped around like a chubby catfish out of water. I had heard that a minute plank per day had all sorts of benefits, but it was so much harder than the pictures on Google led on! I wasn’t going to give up though, not on the planks, not on the sit-ups, and certainly not on the rocking body my killer sense of humor deserved!

This was certainly not the first time I had tried to lose weight in my life, but I was more eager than ever to see what would happen when I didn’t give up. The very next day, I held my plank as long as I could, and kept at it every day. I figured out how to do crunches, which were much easier to work around with my big belly, and I started working toward that regularly too, building my strength up to a real sit-up Fast forward a year from then, I was planking religiously for at least 1 minute every night. It had become a part of my nightly routine, and still is!

Planks are great for strengthening your core, and the great part is you can see results from planking for 60 seconds or less! Obviously, not just once in your lifetime, but when you incorporate this into your daily routine, even a bedtime pattern, you’ll activate all your core muscles at once, tone your arm muscles and buttocks, and even build muscle in your thighs! It’s a full body workout.

Why bother with crunches if planks are so great? Well, I wasn’t just going to accept that I would never do a sit-up! I needed to get stronger. Crunches isolate the abs and are pretty beginner-friendly, while still providing a great workout. 

I was determined to get to that point where a 1-minute plank didn’t sound scary at all, and now it’s become such a normal part of my routine that I’m stunned when others tell me how hard it is. Everyone has to start somewhere though, and nobody is different.

I do sit-ups with ease now, and every time I do, I smile a little myself because I will never forget the day I tried my first sit-up, and my complete fail. If you have a goal for yourself, if you are ready to make the change and start living a healthier life, you have to remain disciplined and work toward it every day.

This was the inspiration for my May challenge, which is going to introduce you to some structured workouts with planks and sit-ups. There will be modifications along the way, but if you need more help adjusting the workouts to suit your body and capabilities, I’m always happy to help! I laid on the ground in my room huffing and puffing for far too long for just 1 sit-up, and I’m not going to lie and say it gets easier; the truth is, you just get stronger.

A few tips on planking properly:

  • Lie facedown with your forearms on the floor (or a towel/yoga-mat for more comfort), legs extended, feet together.
  • Push into your forearms as you raise your body so it forms a straight line from your head to your feet. Watch that your hips don’t rise too high!
  • Keep your gaze down and hold as you take steady, even breaths.
  • Maintain the position for up to 60 seconds, then lower your body and rest.

Crunch safely:

  • Use your core to raise your upper body, not your head or neck.
  • Move in a slow, controlled manner. Rapid movements won’t engage your muscles!
  • Keep your arms across your chest; behind the head can strain your neck. Keep your feet planted on the floor, knees shoulder-width apart with your knees bent.

*****If you have back pains or other medical issues, make sure you’re communicating with your doctor to make sure you are practicing the right exercises and techniques for your body.

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