Community Planking ∥ Personal Finance Community

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.

Friday plank-off

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.


18 comments on “Community Planking ∥ Personal Finance Community

  1. I love it! I think I need to find some healthy living buddies. And maybe some hustle buddies to go along with my personal finance and blogging buddies.

    When you try to do things on your own, it’s so much harder than when you have a community around you. When I was feeling a little down last week about the blog and wrote about it, I got so much encouragement to keep going.

    1. I’m glad you wrote about it, Emily. There’s a bit of pressure out there to keep it perky, but sometimes, it just isn’t. How great that you received the encouragement you needed! I hope you do find some “healthy living buddies” : )

  2. Congrats on reaching your 5-minute plank, my friend!!! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve joined two spending challenges this month – one with Amanda and one with the Frugalwoods, and I am SO much more motivated than usual. It really works!

    1. You know what? Those challenges intimidated me. That’s silly though! When colleagues say, “Oh, I can’t even hold a one minute plank. I can’t join your plank-off,” I always tell them it doesn’t matter at all. So what’s with my reluctance here. Hmmm… Maybe I’m not too late to join?

  3. Congrats on reaching the 5 minute plank goal! What a wonderful way to reach it, surrounded by a group of great people encouraging each other on. Will the group continue in 2017?

    We found such motivation in hearing other people’s success with getting out of debt when we started our journey. If they can do it so can we, I thought. Now being debt free I want to share and help anyone who will listen, because I want them to have the same success we have had. I know it’s possible for them too.

    1. It looks like it will continue in 2017, Brian. And one of the phys-ed teachers wants to make it bigger – so that students can take part too. I hope it happens!
      Your story is a very encouraging one, Brian. $109,000 in credit card debt gone! Success is the best when it’s contagious, and I believe yours is!

  4. Being around others is one reason I enjoy working out at the gym versus trying to do it at home. Having others around you doing what you want to do helps motivate you a lot more than trying to do it all yourself. Congrats on your accomplishment.

    1. We go to a gym too, Money Beagle, and it’s for the same reason. I admire people who find the self-motivation to keep fit on their own, but I know I’m not one of them. Mind you, our group planks at school are proof that you don’t need a gym membership to work out with other people.

  5. As Money Beagle mentioned, this is the reason I go to the gym too. I decided to give the gym a shot last year, and now I work harder than ever. I still have trouble motivating myself to get there, but once I’m there I push myself harder than I ever did at home.

    I do love the plank challenge – definitely going to get a community plank going!

    The pf community is a huge motivator and source of encouragement for me! I’ve read pf blogs for a very long time – and they helped tremendously in our years of debt payoff. I took a year off once and it really showed in our finances – we didn’t meet our goals and spending went up pretty drastically. Now that I’m a blogger myself, the accountability and motivation has is even better. Like Laurie mentioned, reading others’ goals and participating in the challenges has had a huge impact on me in the last couple of weeks. I’m so EXCITED about possibly surpassing my goals, and hopefully helping others do the same!

    1. DH and I had to talk each other into going to the gym this evening, but we did it – and of course we’re glad we did : ) So interesting that your year of not reading pf blogs resulted in increased spending. More proof of the power of community! Am I too late to join your challenge? As I explained to Laurie, I was intimidated by it. (Silly me!)

  6. 5 minutes!! That is a feat! Way to go — I love that not only were you able to reach your milestone but you helped others reach theirs.

    I find so much motivation in online community – maybe because I know the wisdom I receive from others is more objective than from those closest to me in daily life , but also because it’s usually easy to find someone *just* ahead of where I am as well as those who have reached the goal.

    There’s also something different about sharing – I have to frame what I’m thinking in a different way than I do with friends/family, which helps me clarify things for myself.

    ….so, out of curiosity, I just held a plank for the first time in 2 years…. for 37 seconds! ha!

    1. Thank you, Katscratch : ) I think you’re lucky if you’re actually able to talk about finances with people in your daily life. For many, it’s a taboo topic, and so the online community is doubly important. I too find a certain draw towards those who are just ahead of where I am, but just as often, I find compelling stories involving completely different circumstances and goals from mine. And be proud of that 37 second plank!

  7. Great closing tips and hats off for the plank. Three minutes has been my limit and they (easily) are one of my least favorite exercises I have ever done. Even though you think it would be easy since it mostly requires balance.

    As you mentioned, it takes time and diligence and motivation from others to accomplish any goal. Fitness or financial in this instance.

  8. “it mostly requires balance” – True – a balance of more muscles than I would have thought possible. Strangely enough, when I did my longest planks, my legs hurt – even more than my abs and my arms. I would not have guessed that. Maybe you’d enjoy planking more in a group, Josh : )

  9. I absolutely believe in the power of community to help us challenge and improve ourselves. Specific to the plank example–in a group fitness class I used to take, we’d always end the 75 minute class with a plank hold. I would always hold it until the teacher ended her plank. Once I asked her how long she did it for (because she never announced the time) and she said, “As long as I can.” I know I help it way longer because I was trying to keep up with her! Which was good because I was challenged to reach to my capacity.

    Having friends with similar money values IRL and online has also helped us stretch–and I like to think we have a similar effect on others.

    1. Doing a plank at the end of a 75 minute class would be extra tough! I think it’s great that you have friends IRL with whom you actually discuss money values. I don’t think that’s a very common phenomenon. And as for liking to think you have a similar effect on others, I can promise that you do : )

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