As we wander through this empty nest, we start to notice the aches and pains of life a little more frequently. I am not sure if that is because we are less active, a symptom of old age, or a combination of both. Either way, many muscles seem tighter, while others quite a bit looser. The back no longer supports the weight up front and the knees creak with each step. We combat the symptoms with vitamins, exercise equipment, Advil, and ice packs. Then my wife stumbled onto this site demonstrating something called the plank. I was none the wiser, so I thought we could give it a try. Seemed easy enough. Another one of those husband and wife activities we keep searching for to fulfill the married years after kids. Now we can attend choir practice, chase 8-12 year olds in AWANA, and plank all in the same week. Wow, our weekly calendar is really starting to fill up. Supposedly, planking is good for your core and only requires a few minutes a night. I could do this. Looked simple enough and did not require much time doing something ridiculously boring (e.g. treadmill).
The first night I lasted about 45 seconds and I seemed to be breathing quite a bit harder than I would have thought possible considering I was pretty much stationary the whole time. I wasn’t quite sure if I used the right technique or not, but it certainly was something that seemed to strain most anything that should be strained when you get to be my age. Without much thought or direction, we soon become quite disciplined in our planking and stretching each night. The time eventually elevated to 60 seconds for myself and 90 for my overachieving wife. Probably because of our total lack of knowing what we were doing, we noticed the one thing that was somewhat of a problem was breathing. Since I have always thought breathing was a relatively important activity, this did become somewhat of a worry point each night. Also, when planking, do not expect to build the husband and wife relationship. Since breathing is tough, any thought of an ongoing conversation is pretty much out of the question.
Then it happened, while at work dealing with another one of those spreadsheets accountants love, I felt these sore spots on both elbows. I didn’t remember hitting anything and the strange part was that both elbows hurt in exactly the same spot. Sure enough, I had blisters on both of my elbows. I couldn’t quite figure out why this had occurred. Winter does tend to bring dry skin, but the symptoms seemed a bit beyond a little Vaseline Intensive Care. Fortunately, my nurse wife was able to diagnose the sores as pressure ulcers. Symptoms common in older folks who stay in one position too long. I had the older folk part down, but 70 seconds hardly seemed like it could qualify as too long. Wonderful. My intense, 5-minute-a-day exercise regime had done nothing noticeable,so far, but yield 2 pressure ulcers.
Determined not to let the injuries deter my new found passion for staying in shape, I added a pillow to my plank position and carried on with only a slight setback in my times. Eventually, an issue we began to notice with the nightly move to the floor was that the getting there and back again was a fair bit harder than the exercises themselves. To accomplish the return to a normal standing position, we made sure a dresser or hope chest was within convenient reach to aid the movement up. While stretched on the floor, we also noted it was a good time to pray and name the growing dust bunnies under the bedroom furniture,
One constant in our lives for many years now has been our son’s ability to point out the shortcomings in any of our exercise efforts. From our something less than brisk nightly walks, to our efforts to ride our bikes for more than 10 miles without a stop for ice cream, to our most recent venture known as the plank, our son is never hesitant to point out how we are pretty inept in our exercise efforts. Regarding our latest effort, I thought plank was clearly a singular form of the word. Nowhere in the exercise description does one sense we are looking at anything more than a one time effort at any one point in time. But true to form, mister encouragement asked the most inappropriate of questions – how many times do we plank each night. Seems the cross country team would plank for 5 minutes at a crack and presumably multiple times. I suppose if I wasn’t so narrow focused, I might have realized multiple reps might be in order for our new found planking passion. As it was, I never even considered more than one rep. Oh well, my son had burst our exercise bubble once again. Also, somewhere along our planking journey, I found out that a plank is related to yoga of all things. To me, yoga was something that older folks did because they couldn’t handle something strenuous like basketball or tennis. In all my years leading up to this point in my life, I never ever thought I would find myself associated with yoga. What is yoga anyway – an exercise, a bunch of dance moves, a martial art, a waste of time? Not quite sure. But I do know my back feels quit a bit better than it has in months and the only change I can see in my exercise routine is the add of the nightly 5 minutes of stretching and planking.