Monday, June 18, 2018

Planking, Old School and New

Back in my Virginia newspaper reporting days, the only thing I knew about "planking" is that every springtime when the shad spawned, they transformed into prime sport fish, and significant numbers of them wound up being placed on wooden planks and slowly cooked deep in the woods of Southside Virginia at a must-attend politicos' event called the Shad Planking down by the James River.  Now shad, while nutritious, is one of the boniest fish in the world, so actually eating it was problematic; however, there was always plenty of cold brew with which to wash it down, best I recall.

That was back in my youth. Ah, youth!

Planking the Old-Fashioned Way
Now that I am an old guy and living in South Carolina, I finally learned about the other kind of planking -- a form of core exercise. In contemplating this move in senior fitness, I reckon we have successfully planked when our backs and behinds and legs stretch out straight enough for shad to be placed on our backs without falling off. When I first was instructed to plank at my initial class in February 2017, my kind instructor took pity on me and let me do mine standing up and leaning against a bar (no, not one dispensing whiskey, unfortunately, but rather an exercise bar). That wasn't really planking, but we pretended it was. Many months later, we transitioned me to doing sorta-planks with my forearms plunked on a metal chair. I actually bought cheap teeshirts to tout my status as a planker ("Planks a Lot!," "Planking Is the Answer, Who Care What the Question Is?," and my signature tee, "Planking for Donuts"), etc. Actually, I was more of a wannabe planker.

A Forearm Plank

Ah, but there is such a thing as Sarah's Challenge in our class. Are you going to accept the challenge and try to do the exercise the right way, or are you just not quite ready yet? (It's okay if you're not.) Today, Sarah was clever (as usual), instructing us all to get down on floor mats. When it came time to plank, we could just go ahead and do a series of them right off the floor -- the correct way -- or if we really wanted to, we could do them off chairs or whatever. So with my macho image at risk, I took the challenge and did the first one off the floor, off the forearms. However, I instantly realized that my big belly might drag the floor from that low-down position, so I shifted to the full pushup position, which is equally a proper planking position, and did the remaining seven of our series. (I think it was seven; hard to keep count, when you are having so much fun).

Anyway, I am now doing actual, authentic planks! No going back now -- certainly not to the bar!

A Pushup Plank
There actually is quite a debate as to which is the toughest planking position -- pushup or elbows -- though each is fully acceptable. FitnessFAQs has an informative YouTube video on the subject, which I will try to link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En8xcgrqyq8 (You can just paste it in your browser. Or see below!) If unavailable here, you could do a search for FitnessFAQs on YouTube.  I believe the expert in this particular video actually tilts toward the pushup being the best position, for several reasons. I did so many actual pushups in basic infantry training at Fort Gordon, Georgia that I probably have a smidgen of pushup muscle memory left 55-some years later. I can still hear the drill instructor screaming at this hapless recruit: "Drop and give me 75!"

I greatly prefer the Sarah Challenge!

                                            © Robert Gray Holland  (2018)

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