I’ve always hated planks. I find them difficult and uncomfortable, so whenever they’d pop up in a workout, my natural reaction has always been to avoid them. It was easy, really—all I needed to say was “Oh, I don’t do planks,” and I was off the hook.
But the dip-and-run technique I perfected with planks started to reveal itself in other areas of my life too: Tough conversations, work projects… so much stuff wasn’t happening at all because I thought it was too hard. I started to wonder, What was I missing out on?
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That’s when I stopped feeling OK about being someone who tends to give a blanket “I don’t” statement. I wanted to see what would happen if I started actually trying what I said I “don’t” do—so I began a crusade against the stuff I deemed too difficult, starting with something I’d been avoiding: planks.
I could have easily signed up for a “plank challenge” online that forced me to do a longer, more difficult plank every day in order to conquer the exercise. But I already didn’t want to do planks, so forcing myself to do a crazy-tough challenge seemed more like torture than a method to master the thing.
So I began what I like to call “The Plank Experiment.”
It wasn’t complicated—I just told myself that for the next 30 days, I was going to do some kind of plank every day for at least one minute. One minute presented a challenge for me, but it was still doable—and that was key. There were no set rewards or consequences if I did or didn’t do it, just the feeling that I was keeping a promise to myself.
I didn’t actually believe doing a plank for 30 days would do anything for me—how could just a single minute of anything every day make a difference? But I also had a voice in my head that suggested maybe that was the point: Do it out of sheer curiosity—even for fun—and any unexpected results you get are a sweet surprise.
Thirty days came and went, and as I write this, I’m on day 99 of The Plank Experiment. And guess what? I don’t hate planks anymore!
In fact, doing a plank every day has become a habit, and what’s more: It’s something I look forward to. It makes me feel strong. Surprisingly, I often do more than just a minute—I’ll do a 90-second plank one day, a two-minute plank the next day, or even several consecutive one-minute planks if I feel like it. But I never force myself to do more than the bare minimum.
Comparing where I started to where I am now, it feels like I cheated somehow. Here are the two reasons why I think this approach has been working for me:
1. We hear the advice “start small” all the time, but we usually don’t try it because we just don’t believe in its power. But it works!
We’ve been conditioned to believe that to create drastic change in our lives, we need to expend massive, sustained effort all at once. This is exhausting and rarely works in the long-term.
If you hate every minute of your diet or workout plan, you’re more likely start plotting your post-diet pizza binge early in the game. If you can’t possibly imagine maintaining a drastic lifestyle change, the “results” you get in the short term will disappear just as quickly as they came.
2. Do it the easy way—try approaching the hard thing you don’t like doing with the simple curiosity of an experiment.
My goal with The Plank Experiment was to make doing planks every day a no-brainer: There was no reason I couldn’t fit in a one-minute plank into my everyday life, right? I set myself up for success automatically by making it super easy—and who wants to be the kind of person who bombs at something that takes one freaking minute? Not me.
Let’s say you hate reading but know it’ll open your mind. You don’t have to sit down to read a whole damn novel in a day. Instead, try reading for an easy five-to-ten minutes every day—it doesn’t matter when or where you do it. After that five-to-ten minutes, quit and go on with your day. Then do it again the next day, and the next… and before you know it, you’ll have read an entire book. Something that previously felt daunting now feels effortless.
Whatever you choose for your next experiment, make it so easy it’d be silly to give up. It is quite silly to give up on ourselves, after all. The reward isn’t even the toned arms, abs, or knowledge gained. It’s the person you become along the way—a person who’s not afraid of doing hard things and who’s not afraid to build their ideal life, one experiment at a time.
Caitlin Pyle helps millennials worldwide create extra income they can use to pay off debt, buy more stuff, or become globe-trotting badasses. Find out how to get started with a free copy of her butt-kicking work-at-home mini guide.