Exercise of The Month: The Plank

For a long time this has been one of my favorite exercises. It’s one of those that you see someone doing in the gym and you think to yourself, “Yeah that looks pretty easy!” Of course in reality its a lot harder than it looks, but what does it do? Put simply it’s a core exercise designed to improve strength and tone in the stomach and lower back. It’s particularly favored by both serious athletes and newbies alike. Even post-natal moms are often advised to do the plank as static stomach exercises place less aggressive stress on your stomach muscles following child-birth.

Performing the Plank
First bend your elbows at 90 degress, forearms on the floor, elbows beneath your shoulders. Your body should be straight like a plank of wood from your head to your feet. This is important. Many newbies will lift their bum up in the air so they look more like a hump-back bridge! This is not a plank. For those who are struggling with the plank then a modified plank with your knees on the floor will make it a lot easier.

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Whats a Good Time For The Plank?
I’ve always been able to hold the plank for a reasonable while. I remember in my early 30’s being able to hold for 3 minutes. Nowadays I can do about 2 minutes. The plank is an exercise that with practise you can greatly improve your own time. In fact the best way to develop your strength is to do the plank in steps, 30 seconds and then a pause for 10 (or however long you need) and so on.

Plank Variations
The great think about the plank is that there are plenty of variations and tweaks you can make to vary things up a little, from one foot off the floor to even one arm off the floor (what I call hitch-hiker planks).
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The World Record for the Abdominal Plank is 1 hour and 5 minutes…ouch! I wince just thinking about that!

If you’ve tried it, how long can you hold the plank for?

CrossFit: When Exercise Gets Serious

Crossfit is all about training your body for the unknown (not just the known). Its one of the fastest growth areas in the world of strength, conditioning and fitness and has gathered an almost cult status amongst serious competitive exercisers.

It certainly isn’t recommended for beginners and is even considered tough for fairly seasoned exercisers. Combining strength training with plyometrics, speed training, various Olympic lifts, body weight exercises, kettlebell and sandbag routines. By training the body in this way CrossFit aims to work the whole body in a comprehensive fashion promoting improvements in cardiovascular-fitness, strength, endurance, stamina power, speed, agility and coordination. Exercises are normally explosive and carried out in circuits (timed). Most exercises will work the whole body with lifting, pulling, squating and pushing exercises forming the basis for most circuits.

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With the popularity of this form of exercise, CrossFit gyms have begun to spring up all over the globe. There are now about 2,500 locations worldwide. Forget the conventional set-up you may be used to. This could not be further from your local Fitness First. These places are more akin to a garage or industrial warehouse with Olympic plates, barbells, climbing ropes, pull-up bars, plyometric boxes and the like. Not for the uninitiated.

Despite its hardcore nature, the advantages of CrossFit are that the workouts are actually quite quick so you don’t need a hugh amount of time to complete your circuit. It will appeal particularly to athletes and ex-athletes and has a big following with ex-military. There is almost a competitive pride at participants’ ability to compete not just against other crossfitters but against themselves and their own times. The workouts are certainly not without risks and injury is common for newbies.  But being the kind of person that loves to try all things fitness I decided to give it a try.

I returned to New York over Christmas to see Family and friends and I was able to seek out a session at CrossFitNY. I arranged an induction with my coach and the first session I really just observed. It was totally different to anything I had done before but I was excited (if not a little daunted) about trying it out myself.

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There were a number of newbies like myself but a lot of very serious athletes there too that had clearly been doing this for some time. However, the atmosphere was friendly and I got stuck in to my circuit. There were Olympic Lifts which were my biggest challenge but also kettlebell work which was fine for me. The climbing ropes were really tough and I realised how poor my grip strength was. My circuit was short and I completed it in 20.22. But I was absolutely shattered and I have to confess, I did pick up a small injury (just a strain!).  I can certainly see how this could become quite addictive and would make anyone extremely fit. However, for now I think I need to rapidly improve my fitness before returning to a CrossFit gym!

Motivation Fitness Quotes With Pictures

With the start of  a New Year upon us it is a time for many of us to work up the motivation to get ourselves in shape and hopefully healthy again. I know that my fitness routine goes a little off-track over Christmas and New Year. Sometimes a few great words of encouragement and motivation can help us to get motivated. Here are my top five fitness motivation quotes and fitness motivation pictures to accompany them.

1. To Achieve Your Fitness Goals – Work Hard
We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Equally we have to always remind ourselves to be patient with our bodies. We cannot expect to turn up for a few exercise classes or cut out bread for a week and all look like Jessica Biel. We have to be consistent with our training and not give up even when we would perhaps rather not be training.
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2. Take Small Steps To Reach Your Dream Body
Semetimes we have to keep focused on the goals we set ourselves, understanding that the hard work we do today will pay off tomorrow. We must take time to celebrate our achievements and focus on the bigger goals ahead.
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3. You always feel better after Exercise
It may be a cliche but it is true that we always feel much better after having our workout. I know that some days I find it hard to get motivated but once I begin my workout I start to feel better straight away. Sometimes when I’m feeling demotivated, I try to remind myself how good I will feel once I actually start exercising – it really helps me.
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4. Understand Why You’re Getting Fit
All too often we focus on how we look and feel on the outside when in fact what’s going on inside our body is actually more important. So maybe you haven’t dropped any weight this week, but you’ve lost internal fat and lowered your heart rate. Fitness is a journey not a destination.
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5. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Fitness Goals
It is easy to let life set you back. Stay true to yourself and your fitness goals and don’t give up. Stick with your healthy plans whilst others are losing sight of theirs and you’ll reach your goals.
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