DH = Dear Husband
My “plank-a-day” resolution for 2016
“And I will. Every day, I will do a plank. Every day. I’m putting that stake in the ground. I’ll start at 2 minutes, but each month, my goal will be to increase by 15 seconds so that by the end of 2016, I’ll be holding a 5-minute daily plank.” Wow! That was my New Year’s resolution for 2016 – to represent an increasing core strength in my personal finances by developing my physical core strength. Clever, right? I sure was adamant about it – repeating “every day” and “I will” – as if that would make it happen.
My resolution was first put on hold mid-January when a muscle spasm in my neck prevented any exercise for two weeks. Then it gradually fell prey to diminished focus. Occasionally, I forgot to do my daily plank. Other days, I was too tired. But I did increase by 15 seconds each month: 2:15 in February; 2:30 in March; 2:45 in April; 3:00 in May . . . And it became SO HARD! I came to dread my daily plank, and it became less and less “daily”.
I remember doing one plank of 3:45 in August, and then I just stopped. “3 minutes and 45 seconds is good enough.” I thought. I still worked out – including 1-minute planks at kickboxing classes – I just lost the drive to fulfill my New Year’s resolution.
Until . . .
Community planking begins
Early December, I was at my staff Christmas party when Ryan approached me. “I saw that planking thing you posted on Facebook. You wanted to do a 5 minute plank?” I confessed to Ryan that I had given up. “I thought I could easily do a 5-minute plank,” he continued, “but I only managed 2½. I’ve been working out though, so I think I could do a longer one now.” I had a crazy idea. “Do you want to do a plank off?” I asked Ryan. “Let’s do it!” he said.
We were in a colleague’s house, and by the time we’d found our plank-off spot, two other teachers had joined us. Andrea had never held a plank for longer than a minute. Curtis’ record was 2:30. We set our phones to stop watch mode, and our first community plank-off began! Now remember: I had not held a long plank since August – 4 months earlier. Could I beat my 3:45 record? I did! I reached 4 minutes! My life-time record!
The same was true for Andrea, who held for 2:30, and Curtis, who held for 3:30. Ryan made it all the way to 5 minutes. We were on to something! “You’ve got 4 weeks before the end of 2016,” Ryan said to me. If you add 15 seconds each week, you’ll reach your 5-minute goal.” We committed then and there to a weekly plank-off. It would take place every Friday in the library seminar room right after the lunch bell.
There were 3 Fridays remaining before the Christmas break, and more staff became involved. In total, seven of us have taken part in at least one plank-off, and the result is that we have all exceeded personal records by a great big margin. Chris started off with a plan to hit 2:30, but he made it to 3:30 instead. Nira was hoping to get to a minute, but she reached 2:30.
Of course, you need a pretty fine group of people to create that kind of win-win-win scenario. As we planked we were always encouraged – fueled by comments like, “You can do it,” and “Way to go!” There was no ego boosting or deflating when one person surpassed another – as Chris surpassed me. Once, when Laura had to bow out after a minute because of back pain, we all supported her.
I managed to reach 4:15 that first Friday after the party. And I got to 4:30 the next week. On Friday the 23rd of December, our last plank-off began, and when we reached the 4 minute mark, I said, “I want to hold if for another whole minute.” It was tough to speak by that point, but Ryan was quick to say, “You’ve got this, Ruth.” And he was right! I did it! Shaking like a leaf, with every muscle screaming, I held a 5-minute plank in 2016!
Did I succeed in keeping my resolution? Not by a long shot! Remember – “by the end of 2016, I’ll be holding a 5-minute daily plank.” I held one. But it was the best of my life so far!
Personal finance community
In 2011, DH and I felt a real worry about our financial health. After years of unsteady employment, lower income, and growing debt, we decided to change direction. In 2012, we read Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, gained a focused intention to become debt-free, and I started to blog about it. Although we had made an effort with our finances in the year prior to my joining the online personal finance community, we paid off 312% more debt the next year. Same income. Same expenses. So what was the difference?
- Accountability – When you share your progress, you try harder.
- Consistency – I didn’t have the chance to lose focus with daily reading and weekly writing.
- Optimism – Stories of others’ success made me believe we would succeed.
- Good example – When I read of the challenges overcome by other bloggers, I felt inspired to overcome mine.
- ENCOURAGEMENT – Every step forward we made was celebrated, and we were cheered through every obstacle.
The same win-win-win scenario that is there for our weekly plank-offs at work is here in the personal finance community too. It’s a case of another “pretty fine group of people” creating a synergy that allows each to exceed by a long shot what can be achieved in isolation.
If your resolution for 2017 is to pay off debt and increase your financial health, here’s a tip:
You will make bigger strides if you share the journey. Read at least one personal finance blog post per day. Write your thoughts in the comments section. Ask questions. Offer ideas from your own experience. If you put yourself out there, you’ll reap the rewards of every point mentioned above. Your resolution is a great one, and if you stick to it, it will have positive ripple effects into many areas of your life.
With both planking and financial health, it is possible to take steps forward on your own. But why step when you can tap into the power of community, and leap.
Have you made a resolution to reduce debt and increase your financial health? Have you ever experienced the power of community in helping you to reach personal victory? Here’s a challenge: Try a plank-off and see if you set a new personal record. (I’d love to hear about it!) Your comments are welcome.