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Health and Fitness

30-Day Plank Challenge

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Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

If you’ve never done a plank, it might look easy. In fact, you might think it’s too easy to enjoy improved muscle tone and stronger abdominal muscles. But looks are deceiving. Holding a plank position requires strength, stability and endurance in your core muscles.

If you perform this simple yet effective exercise daily, you may experience changes to your abs, back and glutes you didn’t expect. When you incorporate a few variations to the position, you’ll discover muscles in your back and abdominals you’d forgotten were there.

Activating and strengthening your core muscles gives you an added advantage as you age. The exercise has gained increasing popularity with fitness trainers for good reason. It just works.

6 Benefits to the Plank Position

The plank is more efficient that doing crunches. During crunches you are working just the abdominal muscles responsible for flexion and not the oblique muscles or those controlling your back. There are six specific benefits to using the plank position and the variations described below.

  1. Tight Abs

Planks lay the groundwork for tight abdominal muscles so you look better in your clothes and your bathing suit. To get those ripped six-pack abs you also need to shed the layer of fat over the muscle. However, you don’t need to shed the fat to enjoy the rest of these benefits.

  1. Strong Core

Strong muscles more easily defend your abdominal organs and help you to breathe easier. Your diaphragm is located just under your rib cage. You pull the diaphragm down with your abdominal muscles, which creates negative pressure in your lungs and draws air in.

Breath control is one method of reducing your stress level and decreasing the stress hormones your body may secrete.  The benefits of stress reduction range from better heart health to improved work performance and better-quality sleep.

  1. Back Support

Strengthening your back muscles reduces the likelihood of a back strain or back injury.  Between 60 percent to 80 percent of people living in the U.S. will suffer from low back pain  at some point in their life.

It is the second most common reason people go to the doctor.  Developing a strong core may protect your back from injury and pain.

  1. Balance and Posture

Good balance and posture are important to your overall health and wellness. Balance helps you control and maintain your body position when you’re sitting, standing and moving. Good posture reduces upper back pain and overstretched muscles from rounded shoulders and slumping forward.

  1. Improved Performance

A strong core will improve your athletic performance and your ability to do your daily tasks. When you do planks regularly, you’ll likely find it’s easier to move through your day without stress or pain.

  1. Improved Mental Strength and Mood

Maintaining a plank position for two to three minutes requires both physical and mental strength. However, you don’t start by holding the plank for three minutes! As you work your way through the 30-day plank challenge, you’ll overcome mental and physical challenges to maintain the position, but at a rate you can handle.

With each small hurdle you overcome, you may develop greater mental strength and can use the knowledge of your victories to overcome other challenges in your day. Exercise and strength training also elevate your mood and help you to experience more joy each day.                       

 Your Basic Plank Position:

All About the Rules of Posture

The plank exercise is done in a push-up, or modified push-up, position. The essential piece of the puzzle is how you maintain the position of your back and lower body in straight alignment. The rules of posture during a plank are:

Shoulder, buttocks and legs in a straight line Buttocks not higher or lower than your back Head in neutral position looking approximately 8 to 12 inches in front of you
Abdominal and gluteal muscles tight Shoulder blades pulled down Lower back in neutral position without excess or reduced lower back curvature

Planks are done on the floor, on your forearms, with your elbows shoulder-width apart. You are on your toes, with your back straight, your abdominal and buttock muscles tight. You will look like you’re doing a push-up, but on your forearms instead of your hands.

Variation Beginner Intermediate Advanced
Basic plank Stand approximately 3 feet from a wall. Press your hands into the wall, elbows straight, weight on your toes and hold for 30 seconds. You may also do this on the floor with your hands flat to the floor and knees bent. Done on the floor with either your hands flat to the floor or bearing weight on your forearms in the standard plank position. Hold this position for two minutes. Done on the floor, bearing weight on your hands or over your forearms. Place your feet on a chair or a bench so your body is in a decline position.
Up/Down Plank Start on the floor on your knees in straight-arm position.

 

Next move to your forearms, hold for two to three seconds and move back to a straight arm position. Up and down is one repetition.

Done on the floor in the basic plank position.

Move from straight arms to your forearms bearing your weight.

 

Hold for two to three seconds and then go back up to a straight arm position. Up and down once is one repetition.

With your hands on the floor in a straight arm position, put your feet on a bench or chair so your body is in a decline position.

 

Move to your forearms, hold for two to three seconds and then back to a straight arm position. This is one repetition.

Planks With Leg Raises Start on the floor with your knees bent and in the straight-arm position.

 

Pull one leg up toward the ceiling as if a string is pulling your leg from behind the knee.

 

Hold for one or two seconds and bring it back down. Repeat with the other leg. This is one repetition

 

The same movement as the beginner exercise, except you are starting from the standard plank position on your forearms. The same movement as the intermediate exercise, except your hold your leg up for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat with your other leg.
Plank Knee Crunch Place your hands flat on a chair or bench, placing your body in the plank position, bearing your weight on your toes.

 

Bring your right knee to your right elbow and return to the start position. Repeat with your left leg. This is one repetition.

Start on the floor in the straight-arm position, on your toes.

 

Bring your right knee to your right elbow and return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg. This is one repetition.

Start on the floor straight-arm position.

 

Bring your right knee to your right elbow and return, quickly repeat with your left leg.

Try watching this video.

Take Your 30-Day Plank Challenge

Planks are deceptively difficult but produce consistent and valuable results for your health. If you don’t exercise regularly and try to start with intermediate planks, you may find them too difficult and stop the process. Instead, try this 30-day plank challenge to reach your goal of holding a plank for three minutes.

This calendar was created by celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser, founder of AKT InMotion studio in New York City. Quoted in Yahoo Beauty, Kaiser says, “The hardest part about planking is

committing — holding still until the end.”This program starts with incline planks against the wall. If the first day is too easy move to the floor and use the beginner plank position on your knees. Standard plank position is bearing weight on your toes with your knees straight.

Sun Mon Tues Wed Thu Friday Sat
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Work it Baby! Workin’ it out without the gym

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You’re a woman on the go and finding the time to work out and stay healthy is a challenge. The good news is that waking up at the crack of dawn and stumbling off to a gym is not your only option. At-home alternatives for getting in the daily dose of activity may suit your lifestyle best. Forget the restrictions of a workout class or intimidating exercise machines. Instead, set your own schedule and your own terms for staying healthy and feeling great.

Walk it off

Walking is one of the most effective movements for burning fat. It is low impact, perfect for all skill levels, and the best part is that it can be done anywhere; all you need is a pair of shoes! Walking offers something for everyone, so turn your workout into time to spend with someone special.

  • Go on a walk in the morning with your spouse before you have to dive into your daily schedules and just enjoy each other’s company.
  • Do as the Europeans do and take a walk with the entire family after dinner. Spend some quality time catching up.
  • Take your dog for a walk and use it as an opportunity to explore a new park or neighborhood you’ve been dying to see.
  • Find a walking buddy or just a group of girlfriends you haven’t seen in a while and get in your girl time in the morning or as an after-work activity to unwind and vent to your friend after a long day.

Take it up a notch

So you’ve mastered walking, how about taking it to the next level with jogging! You’ll love the intensity boost, and it can also be done just about anywhere.

  • Take a jog around your neighborhood; meet some other families and socialize while you get a great workout.
  • Race yourself and try to beat your previous time or distance each time–you’ll be amazed at your progress.
  • Set a big goal like being able to run a 5K or 10K. You can find training plans online that take out all the guess work by telling you exactly how far to run and when! You can find a plan for you at websites like www.Halhigdon.com

Tone it up

It’s time to say goodbye to those flabby arms! Keeping a set of small weights at home is the key to your success. They are inexpensive, require minimal space, and are easy to use. Since most women want to tone rather than build bulk, small 5-10 pound weights are perfect.

  • You can get a great strength workout right in your living room—do squats, lunges, curls or abs while you watch the news or just spend time with the kids.
  • We all hate watching commercials, but instead of clicking the DVR fast forward, use the commercial break as a chance to get in a few extra reps.
  • Focusing on high repetition and low weights will allow you to tone muscle without adding bulk to your body so you look healthy, lean and feminine.

Have fun with it

Working out should never be boring. Have a little fun with it by playing sports with the family, trying something new, or challenging a friend. Time and workouts fly by when you are having a blast!

  • Playing basketball or touch football with the family is a great way to get the whole family together and to stay active.
  • Take the pedometer challenge! Pedometers measure the number of steps you take each day; they are very inexpensive and easy to use. Have some fun and challenge your family or friends to see who gets in the most steps. A little healthy competition adds fun and accountability. Get in some extra steps by parking farther from your office, taking the stairs, or walking to the coffee shop.
  • Shake that booty! Whether it is on the dance floor at the club, in a class, or just in your living room, dancing is a creative way to get a fun cardio workout and to strengthen your core.
  • Jumping rope is an excellent cardio workout for any age and a nice throwback to those recess days when you were in grade school! Take the opportunity to double-dutch with your kids and then amp up your own solo routine for some more intense cardio.
  • Opt for pushing the lawn mower rather than hiring a service or riding a mower. You can do it yourself—you will save money, check another thing off your to-do list, burn fat, get some sun, and enjoy the day while you do it!

Heart of a Woman

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The best way to prevent heart disease is through self-care. The American Heart Association reports that up to 80% of heart disease is preventable through lifestyle changes

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular exercise – the AHA recommends 40 minutes of physical activity, three times a week.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Keep track of your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and weight.

In movies, men get heart attacks, women get their hearts broken. But reality is harsher – according to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 women in the United States die of heart disease each year, making it the leading cause of death. (By comparison, 1 in 31 American women die annually of breast cancer.)

And yet, heart disease can’t shake the image of an “old man’s disease.” More than half of women who die suddenly from coronary artery disease weren’t receiving treatment or didn’t report symptoms, and women are less likely than men to survive their first heart attack.

Most women develop heart disease due to atherosclerosis, a condition caused when plaque builds up inside the arteries, narrowing them and restricting blood flow. If a blood clot forms in the arteries, it can result in a heart attack or stroke.

Heart disease in women also commonly appears as congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems.

Like men, women’s main risk factors for heart disease include congenital heart conditions, family history of heart disease, aging, obesity, diabetes, overeating, physical inactivity and smoking.

Hormonal changes are another risk factor for women. Women who take birth control pills may have higher blood pressure and face increased risk of heart disease if they also smoke. Changes during menopause have also been linked to increased heart attack risk.

Women tend to experience different symptoms of coronary heart disease and heart attacks than men. Most people think of chest pains and cold sweats as heart attack symptoms, but women usually experience back pain, jaw pain, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, or fatigue, sometimes weeks before a heart attack occurs. It’s easy to mistake these symptoms for other conditions, such as a toothache or upset stomach.

Research is still being done to learn why women experience different symptoms, but learning to recognize them and seeking medical attention immediately can make a critical difference.

Apart from misperceptions of heart disease, another reason women may ignore symptoms is a tendency to put their family’s health care needs ahead of their own. Also, some health care providers may fail to recognize symptoms of heart disease more commonly experienced by women.

Even if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or take prescriptions to manage cholesterol or high blood pressure, healthier lifestyle changes can still make a difference.

It’s important to advocate for your own health, just as you would for your family. Schedule annual examinations with your physician. Discuss your health history, risk factors, and when you should be screened for indicators of heart disease.

Finally, trust your intuition. If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms and strongly feel like something is wrong, seek emergency medical help immediately.