The Plank: Strengthening the Core

The Plank is one of my favorite exercises in the Gym. Here’s my write-up cross-posted from Aches & Joints.

The core is commonly thought of as only your abs, but consists of multiple muscle groups in your abdomen, back and pelvis. Core muscles are engaged during all activities requiring a coordinated movement of the upper and lower body. They generate the force and power required for many activities, while simultaneously playing a foundational role in stabilizing the torso.

Our modern sedentary lifestyle does nothing to working these important core muscles and over time result in their weakening, and the consequent injuries from seemingly simple tasks.]

There are various ways to strengthen these core muscles. The PLANK, for instance, is easy to perform, effective and appropriate for any age and fitness level. With no special equipment, the plank can be performed on a carpeted floor or mat in your living room, in the gym between sets of other exercises, or at the end of a workout. Also, the plank literally only takes a minute!

In performing the plank, you hold a steady position by isometrically contracting the deep stabilizing abdominal muscles (transverse abdominus), while keeping the lower back (erector spinae and multifidi) stable, fighting fatigue and simultaneously building endurance. This exercise is not appropriate if you have any shoulder weakness or injury.

Step by Step: How to perform and hold the Plank
Plank Strengthening the Core Aches & Joints

  • Have a wrist watch or clock nearby to track time
  • Start with palms on the floor, shoulder distance apart (see above), then lower to forearms only with and elbows directly below the shoulders as demonstrated below
  • It may be easier for many to start with knees and elbows on a mat
  • Extend legs back, one at a time, straightening the knees and balancing on your toes
  • Keep your body straight as a plank (see below)
  • Relax your neck and look down at the floor
  • As you fatigue, there will be a tendency for your hips to sag. Squeeze your deep abdominal muscles and glutes, and hold your hips in line with the rest of the body
  • For starters, hold the position for 30 seconds and work up to 60 seconds or longer
  • Rest on your knees; when ready, repeat plank for two additional sets

Plank Strengthening the Core Aches & Joints

For a more challenging workout: In the plank position, alternately lift and move each leg outwards (see demonstration below)
Plank Strengthening the Core Aches & Joints

Julie Schlenkerman, Personal Trainer, Clubs at Charles River ParkThe Plank was demonstrated by Julie Schlenkerman, certified personal trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park, Boston, MA.

Julie is an avid runner and ran the 2009 Boston Marathon in 3:16:14!

Here is wishing Julie the very best for the Boston Marathon tomorrow.

Run Julie Run!

From My Archives: Simple exercises & Related articles

11 Essential Things to do Before a Long Run

(pic by Martineric from here)

Despite a tear in my medial meniscus, I hope to run the New York City Marathon on November 7, 2010. The long runs are the most grueling part of marathon training. There are NO crowds to cheer you, there is no one handing out water and no friends to pat you on the back. Its just you and the demons, on a long road. And it is you alone, my friend, who will have to slay the demons.

Having a checklist helps you get psyched for the long run and reduces the stress that you may have forgotten something important. It also works like a trial run for the Marathon. So prepare a list and tweak till you get it right; then it becomes your Marathon prep checklist. Continue reading “11 Essential Things to do Before a Long Run”

Tutorial: How to do Interval Training on a Treadmill

pics of Julie Schlenkerman doing intervals on a treadmill by Arun Shanbhag

In Interval Training, you combine a short, 1 minute burst of high intensity exercise followed by a 4 minute recovery period of low to moderate intensity. You string together these 5 minute cycles, or intervals, and end up with a very intense exercise regimen with amazing consequences. Also called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a 30 min interval training is the quickest way to lose weight, get physically fit and enhance your running speed.

Benefits of Interval Training: Continue reading “Tutorial: How to do Interval Training on a Treadmill”

Marine Corps Marathon 2008: The Long Slog!

Marine Corps Marathon 2008
time: 4:33:10
My Slowest Marathon!

Its been two weeks and now I can write about my slowest marathon.

The Course and the Run:
I loved the first ten miles of this course. Leaving the Pentagon, the course works its way through the narrow streets of Arlington, VA. The mass of runners then worms their way over the George Washington Parkway and through the forests of Georgetown. It was a nice incline and the heavy breathing of runners filled the cool air. As we worked uphill, sunlight filtered through fall trees and only a few feet ahead, runners disappeared in fog mingling with mist from their breath. It was a beautiful slog. Then we raced down to the center of Georgetown to a large and raucous crowd. At that point, it was only mile Ten, and I was ahead of my expected 4:00 h pace!
Continue reading “Marine Corps Marathon 2008: The Long Slog!”

BAA Boston Half Marathon 2008

BAA boston half marathon medal Brooks Adrenaline Shoes

Boston Half Marathon 2008
time: 1:53:09
pace: 8:38/mile

Enjoyed a nice run on a spectacular Fall Sunday here in Boston! The air was crisp and sunlight poked through leaves in all hues of red and yellow! On this blessedly beautiful morning, everyone ended a winner!

I ran like on a careless stroll and did not check my watch till the race was over! Then, I wished I had run a bit faster! This half marathon was part of the taper before the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon (Washington DC) next Sunday (26th). This was not the time for heroics and my legs needed to rest after the 20-miler I did the previous week.

Big Foot Stories:
Continue reading “BAA Boston Half Marathon 2008”

Kaapi: Way Coffee Should be Enjoyed

How to make south indian coffee kaapi by Arun Shanbhag
Running Update: To keep up with my training for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC I had to run 13 miles through partial rain and dodging puddles the entire way. Running with squishy shoes for a couple of hours is not fun! I made it around in horrible time and sore hamstrings.

This year its the hamstrings and lung capacity which have been slowing me. Appears my lungs have NOT fully recovered from the bronchitis I got earlier in the Spring and kept me from the Boston Marathon. For the first four miles, I find myself gasping and unable to pick my pace. My doctor is not surprised and mentions that after bronchitis, lungs need 6-8 months to recover vital capacity. While I don’t notice a deficit in most activities, running long distances needs my entire lung capacity, which is still compromised. But I plod on! Have no hopes for breaking 4 hours, but it would be good to FINISH a marathon this year!
Continue reading “Kaapi: Way Coffee Should be Enjoyed”

Not Running the Boston Marathon


As the runners are all laced up and waiting for the gun to go off, I am at home recovering! Aarrrrghhh!

After my 18 mile run about 5 weeks ago, I came down with a bad case of the flu. Instead of resting, I pressed on with the training (tough guy!). It got worse, and I ended up with bronchitis/asthma! Missed the 21 miler and all the running since then. With medications and two types of inhalers, I could do TWO MILES! Been resting and trying to get my lungs back to capacity.

It was extremely frustrating to fall ill at this late stage of the training. Very depressing and I couldn’t write about till now. C’est la vie!

My friends remind me: There will be other marathons! If I can start running this week, and it looks likely that I can, then I plan on running Boston’s Run to Remember at the end of May. I think deep down, my marathon training is ‘saved in draft form.’

And for the Fall, I have signed up for the New York City Marathon (Nov 2) lottery. Did not get in the last two years, so perhaps this third try is a charm! As a backup I am signing up for the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, DC (Oct 26).

Still too depressing to actually go to the course! I will imagine its in a different city and just track my friends on the computer!

Monster March Training Schedule

For runners training for the Boston Marathon (April 21, 2008), March is the feared Monster March. While we start training in January and slowly ramp the mileage in frigid February, it is March when every weekend entails a 14+ mile run; on cold snowy Saturdays! Brrrrrrr!

The long runs planned for each weekend in March start at about 16 miles and end with the longest training run of 21 miles on March 29th – three weeks before the Marathon. After this, we reduce mileage during the three-week ‘taper’ and run 26.2 on Marathon day. So in April, you only have one 26.2 mile run. But in March, every weekend is a 14 – 21 mile run. And that does not include the mid-week lower mileage runs!

Thus surviving March is key for a successful marathon! If you get through March, without getting injured, sick or the equally dreadful – over-training injury, the actual Marathon can be very enjoyable, though exhausting!

Despite my ankle injury in January, I have nearly caught up with the mileage in my training program. But I find myself running at a woefully slow pace: about 1 minute slower! 😦 And March finds me tired all the time. The long runs (with associated stretching, prep, driving to the course, etc) take up entire Saturdays. Sundays is for rest and catching up on sleep. I need an extra hour of sleep each day – to just recover from the trauma of running! You could catch me dozing off on the T and even at work. And socializing has shrunk to zero. I need my rest!

And the amounts of food I have been putting away is quite disgusting! In prep for the Saturday long run, I order a take-out pasta dish meant for two, and gorge on it myself. I actually get tired of eating, and will take a little break from dinner, do some cleaning and then come back to finish dinner. Yeah, gross!

Here’s my weekly training schedule. Notice emphasis on Stretching:

  • Monday: Stretch (~15 minutes); 45 min intense spinning;
  • Tuesday: Stretch; 4-miles fast on Treadmill; stretch;
  • Wednesday: Stretch; strength training (upper and lower body); stretch;
  • Thursday: Stretch; 4-miles fast on Treadmill; stretch;
  • Friday: Stretch; light strength training; gluttony!
  • Saturday: Stretch; long run; stretch; nap; ice knees and ankles; early to bed!
  • Sunday: Stretch; 90 min Iyengar Yoga; Eat well and rest at home!

Surprisingly, recovering from the long runs has been very quick; must be the banana I force myself to eat immediately after the run, along with a bottle of water.

If you need more tips, don’t hesitate to holler! 🙂

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