Tenacity and Strength : How Don Mastered his Abdominal Plank

02 Jan Tenacity and Strength : How Don Mastered his Abdominal Plank

Don’s Amazing 55 Minutes and 59 seconds Plank: a feat of tenacity and strength

Wed Dec 23 was the HIIT.IT.Fitness gym Plank Challenge. Don planked for 55 minutes and 59 seconds.

A number of people asked him how he did it. He’s not really sure but here’s his story:

Set aside the myth that I am some sort of super athlete. Those of you who know me or have

congratulations | card | abdominal plank | endurance | fitness | strength | core

Don’s Amazing 55min:59sec plank!

seen the pictures can see that I am not the strongest, fittest, or the youngest person in the gym. I am 59-years old. Regrettably I had to take early retirement from my profession because of a chronic persistent lower back problem. My back failed to respond to physio or medication. Retirement was the only viable solution. Not having to be in a rigid position for 8 hours a day helped but did not solve the back issues.

plank_for_core_strengthWhen I joined the gym about a year and a half ago Jason put a lot of importance on having a strong core. He offers a 30-minute Core Class on Thursday mornings and mixes in core strength work as part of his customized HIIT program.

The day before the plank challenge I did the 5:30 a.m. HIIT class including a 4-minute plank at the end. Held it for an extra 30seconds to test myself. Didn’t feel too badly. I was quietly hopeful for the challenge next day and felt I could do better than my 8 minutes of last year.

Interesting dog_tiredhow things can work against you. My brain would not shut down the night before. Tossed and turned all night. So I woke up very tired and it showed. The 5:30 HIIT class—calf workout—was harder than it appeared and definitely tired my legs. The incline tread I usually manage OK, but this time I had to rest halfway through. Not good.
At the start of the challenge I was rushed to get a mat and a drink. (The lack of H20 really hurt later.) 5 minutes in I started wondering how things might go. I definitely wanted to hold 10 minutes, and 15 would make me happy. 20? Not possible in my mind. Remembering last year I knew the woman planking beside me was capable of reaching 26. (She is an amazing athlete and my inspiration when it comes to the plank.)

I was really focusing on my breathing early on. My wife (Linda) who is a runner always talks about the importance of breathing and not as you might think. You need to focus on breathing out the CO2. The breath in you can forget about. It will happen.


10 minutes in I was starting to hurt but only at the top end of the amber zone. (I had never held a plank that long so I didn’t know what to expect.) Felt defeated thinking about the woman beside me with a 26-minute record and going strong today. Guess that mental process was not going help. New strategy: put a 5-minute time frame on things and see if that would help?

Got to 15 even though I was hurting. Back: hurting. Legs: starting to vibrate Mouth: dry and wishing I had started with more H20 (The heavy breathing out was dehydrating me.)

Moved my bum ever so slightly up and that used slightly different muscles. It worked for a bit but yikes, I was under a huge risk of pancaking down to the floor. Gal beside me had put one foot over the other. Try it? Rejected that as too risky. Never done it before and now was not the time to experiment. Put my feet a little closer together. That worked for the vibrating but strained my back in a different way. A temporary fix at best.

question_mark_brownGot to 20. Started doing the self check: shoulders? stomach? back? legs? Start at the top again.

Now definitely in the low end of the red zone. Not sure how much more of I can take. 25 and maxing out! Then I started to compare 20 to 25. Aha! Realized they were fairly equal as far as pain. ‘If that’s the case then why not continue?” Now at 30 with 35 looking iffy. Part way through I hear the woman beside me (who btw is the only one still planking) tell her husband “ I’m done at 35”. Interestingly that helped me get to 35.

And then the brain starts to speak ‘You’ve got a pretty good time. Quite respectable to quit at any time.’ Lucky for me I ignored that thought and decided to go for 40. Just seemed like a cool number. 40 comes and goes. 45?

All this time I am aware of people encouraging me. I hear them but don’t acknowledge them. I would lose the zone I was in. 45 done! Now 50 loomed as a better number to achieve but I am big-time in the red zone. Reality check: how much more can I stand. Hmm, 50 come and gone. Now what?

I hear Jason say he’s going for 60. ‘Is he kidding’???? (My mental increments are 5 minutes, not 10. My pain, my rules.) Vibrating and know it won’t be much longer. Really want 55. That’s where I’ll finish. All the time I have been planking, Jason has been running his 6:30 HIIT class. Pretty tough for him to keep updating me every 5 minutes. I hold on for as long as I physically can take the pain. Then its over and I pancake at what turns out to be 55 minutes and 59 seconds.

tenacity_don_post_plankDone. I’m lying on my stomach—resting, attempting to get my breath back. Not easy. (Up until 2 hours after I was wheezy and coughing. Perhaps the abdominal muscles were still in spasm and not getting enough oxygen. A few minutes of lying prone and its time to get up the way I always do – up to my hands and knees, stand up. Yikes, not happening. Too weak. So my plan: I will roll over on my back and do it that way. That didn’t work either. 4 tries later I got to my side. Rest. Push. Roll over on my back. Eventually I was able to stand.

In retrospect I think the Plank is 30% strength and 70% mental. Picture this: body very still but mind very active. Needed to try strategies on the fly. Had to decide instantly the risk/benefit ratio of each. Definitely a new experience for me never having done anything like this before.

accomplishmentThe next morning I went back to the gym for a HIIT class. Still sore but moving thanks to 2 Epsom salts baths. I am pleased with my time but no biggy because the current world record is 05:15:15. You can imagine my surprise when Jason addresses the class and mentions that he has never seen a 55-minute Plank in person. This just astonishes me. It starts to sink in that maybe I have done something a little bit special. Thanks to Jason for also mentioning that this is something I may never ever accomplish again. Guess that is how some athletic endeavours go.

Hopefully these thoughts will help you sometime you are tackling a personal challenge—plank or otherwise. Special thanks to:

  • my ‘plank buddy’ who pushed me way past anything I could have expected to do and helped me get into the zone
  • everyone at the gym–they make fitness challenging and fun—a great group of friends
  • Jason Tunks for offering world class training at a very accessible gym

Cheers, Don Munro December 2015

Jason Tunks: Canadian Olympian 3X | Hall of Fame Track and Field Athlete | Pan Am Games Champion | 17x Canadian National Champion | Canadian Discus Record Holder.

More about Jason’s gym:  http://Hiit.it.Fitness.com





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