If you had asked me if I could do it, I don't know what I'd have said. "Probably not," I'd underestimate myself. But, at the end of an hour of personal training this morning, which focused on upper body to give my terribly achy messed-up knees a rest, Mat said, "okay. Plank, and then you're done."
"Just hold it?" I asked.
He nodded. "Yup. As long as you can."
Okay. No problem. All I cared about was that I didn't have to have any knee or leg impact.
The first minute and a half were surprisingly easy and went by fast. I was a little stunned that I could hold for 2 minutes, but not shocked. I had simply never tested myself to see how long I could plank for, so I had no frame of reference. Group Core classes for half a year have been paying off, and my core is stronger even if you can't SEE it these days. Still. Two minutes with relative ease? I was skeptical.
"Am I doing it right?" I wondered aloud. Often, I hike my butt too far up in the air. Mat assured me that I was in the right position, more or less, with the exception of a slight bend in the knee that hurt to lock into place. Stomach in, core tight, butt down, heels up, body in a straight line. My arms were shaking a bit - it was the end of an arm-intensive hour, after all - but they were holding. Wrists were good.
"2:30. You're just 30 seconds away from three minutes!" Mat encouraged me.
It's no longer easy. What a difference 30 seconds make. I'm gritting my teeth, sweating profusely. "I know! I want it! Tell me when I'm at 3:00!"
I try to count, but I have no sense of time. It must be 30 seconds. My hands grip the flat floor, digging my nails into the mat. Surely it's almost at 3:00? Now I'm breathing like a woman in labour. How long can I hold? Man, I want to get to 3 minutes but it's hard. I don't make it. My knees drop, my arms give out. "Damn."
Mat gives me his Cheshire Cat grin. "3 minutes and 15 seconds. I didn't want to tell you when you got there. I wanted to see how long you could hold. Now," he points to the sweat pools on the mat, "clean that mess up."
Truthfully, I wasn't that surprised that he'd pulled the stunt. I was half thinking that's what he'd do, and held on for dear life just hoping hoping hoping it would be at least 30 seconds. My mind got me to hold on for as long as my body could stand. If he had told me when I'd reached three minutes, I would have let go. If he had challenged me to hold for three minutes, I'd have done it, out of stubbornness. When the challenge is to do something for "as long as you can" you truly test yourself. I'm also glad that he told me how long I'd already held for when I got close to the 2-minute mark, though. There's a fine balance between hearing "hey, you've gone farther than you thought, so challenge yourself and keep going!" (which was the subtext I read into "you're almost at 2 minutes"), and "you made it to your goal so you can stop now." I needed both. I needed the encouragement initially, and I needed to not know when I was getting close to the next milestone. The ability to strike that balance is what makes Mat a master of mind games, and also kind of a stinker.
Mind games. Also known as motivation, I guess.
And now I have a time to beat the next time I try holding a plank.