For women of a certain age, a spreading middle and general aches and pains creep up on us and one day we wonder how the hell that happened. Menopause can bring on many unwanted physical changes from thinning hair to a spreading middle and, for many of us, there are those generalised aches and pains too.
Here is something you can do in as little as 60 seconds a day that will have a remarkable effect on your general health and well being, as well as tighten your tummy and lose weight. What a bargain!
I have started planking every day and the results are astounding.
First of all – what exactly is planking?
Well, as the name suggests, it is putting your body into a plank position – much like a plank of wood.
Here’s how to get into the plank position:
Get down on the floor on your elbows at one end and your toes at the other. In between, your body is off the floor and forms a straight line from the top of your heels to your shoulders. Head is relaxed and looking down at the floor.
If you haven’t ever done this before or you are out of shape, the very first time you try this, the position will be very difficult to maintain for more than a couple of seconds. But believe it or not, if you keep at this every day, gradually increasing the number of seconds you maintain the pose, your strength will gradually improve, your tummy will shrink and you will lose weight.
If your tummy is touching the ground, then your back isn’t straight enough or you may need to suck it in! Even sucking in your tummy each day, has health benefits too!
Here’s why a plank a day will help you to lose weight:
Firstly, this exercise is strengthening your core. Your core is the central part of your body between your shoulders and your hips. It encompasses most of your major muscles – the abdominal muscles, your back muscles and your side (oblique) muscles.
As we age, and as we do less and less, our core strength gradually disappears, without us even noticing it. Where once you could get up from a chair or out of the car without pushing yourself up with your hands, now you may need a little boost up with a hand on the handle of the car or on the arm of the chair. As long as you don’t have any major health issues or broken bones or dislocated joints, then this boost you are giving yourself, is probably totally unnecessary. Your core can take care of that boost, once you strengthen it up.
A strengthened core has multiple benefits. The first and most noticeable benefit is a spring in your step. Now, while this may sound trivial it is far from it. When our core is weak, we tend to drag ourselves around putting pressure on our legs and knees and relying too heavily on our knees in particular, to provide the strength to stand up. You may tend to hold onto walls or railings, you may tend to lean when standing around, rather than stand up straight. That’s because your core isn’t holding you up!
With a strengthened core, you will find a remarkable spring in everything you do. Suddenly you will feel lighter, as the effort required to get up and move forward is taken on by your core and not by your hands, legs and knees.
If you have had difficulty walking down stairs with pain in your knees, one of the remarkable benefits of a strengthened core is that your knees will not be taking all the downward pressure and all your weight as you walk down stairs. Instead your core is holding up the mid-section of your body as well as the top section – no longer are your knees under all that strain.
Your posture will improve as well, which makes you look taller and therefore slimmer. Instead of slouching over a fatty tummy, your back will stand straighter using the muscles in your back to keep you upright.
Weight loss is one of the most surprising side effects of a strengthened core. Stronger, tighter and better defined muscles burn more calories than fatty, limp, lazy muscles. You will get a metabolism boost from the strength and the effort you put in each day and with the increased ability to ‘hold your own’ rather than lean on walls and rely on your hands for getting up off that chair.
Have you been holding onto something while putting on your stockings, socks or shoes? Have you noticed over the years that your balance has gradually deteriorated? That too (unless you have other health issues) can be due to a lack of core strength.
Once you regain your core strength, your balance will improve remarkably.
Needless to say, the aim is to get to as many seconds a day in the plank position, as you can manage. For some women, perhaps sixty seconds is your limit, or even thirty seconds. But don’t underestimate how huge the benefit is, for doing this every day for even ten to twenty seconds will provide amazing benefits.
When I started this journey I collapsed in a heap after 6 seconds. Then over a couple of weeks I gradually moved up by one second a day until I got to twenty, and I seemed to be stuck on twenty seconds for a couple of weeks. But quite suddenly, I moved from twenty up to thirty seconds in one go. Then one day I realised when I was at thirty seconds that I wasn’t about to collapse, so I kept going and made it from thirty to sixty in one leap. Such was the incredible improvement in my strength.
So I went from barely holding a plank for five seconds to sixty seconds in under two months. Now I know that may sound like a long time, but in fact, since I had just committed to it and since it was taking me such a short amount of time each day, I barely noticed it.
Shortly after I hit the thirty second mark though, I started to notice improvements in both my strength and appearance.
Want to lose some back fat while you are at it?
There is one more exercise that you could add to your daily planking which will provide even more instant results:
If you have a roll of fat under your bra strap at the back, then add this exercise to your daily routine and it will gradually melt away. And if you have wobbly lady arms, then this will tighten up those sloppy underarm muscles.
If the sound of push-ups fill you with dread, then I have the perfect answer for you. The lazy woman’s kettle boiling push-up! At least once a day while you are waiting for the kettle to boil, stand on your toes about a metre back from the kitchen sink and lean forward, placing both hands on the edge of the kitchen sink. Make sure your hands are dry and not oily so you have a good solid grip on the sink. Curl your hands over the edge of the sink so that your grip is sure. Don’t try this if there is any chance your hands may slide off!
Next, keeping your body rigid, lean forward on your hands and push yourself up and down twenty times. That’s it! Do this as often as you think of it and gradually move your feet a little further away as you feel able. Not too far and don’t risk losing your balance. But if you are also doing a daily plank, then this should be fairly easy.
In just a matter of a few short weeks, you will stand taller, look slimmer and feel stronger. Keep it up indefinitely and the long term results – especially when combined with a healthy diet – will be remarkable.