Johnny, Dee, Bee and I decided we could do it together, the girls planning to opt out if and when Barbies or Legos needed more attention than their abdomen muscles.
So we began. We followed the plan, starting with a 20-second position hold, and increasing incrementally over the course of the first couple of weeks. After we got to about 60 seconds, I became uncomfortable. Like, really uncomfortable.
I have scar tissue in my lungs from past pleural effusion, and every once in awhile, I can feel it when I'm blow drying my hair (because my arms up over my head), or when I'm cold. Well - turns out - I can also feel it when I'm planking.
I tried shifting my weight, so that the pain would subside. It worked for a few seconds, but then my back would start to ache. I'd shift my weight forward, to alleviate that pain, and I could get about 20 more seconds, but then the pain would return. I really worked at it - shifting, alternating arm positions, even trying with shoes and without - but anything over about 90-100 seconds was agony. I just didn't feel good doing it. And so I stopped.
Yes, I liked the feel of my abs tightening for the first 30-45 seconds before the pain started in. But once I was in pain (like the unpleasant, straining kind of pain, not the feel-good-working-your-muscles kind of pain), I just wasn't enjoying myself. And I have no interest in engaging in an exercise that isn't enjoyable.
So after about 11-14 days, I aborted mission. While Johnny continued the 30 day challenge, I resumed my tried-and-true push up regimen, doing two-three sets of 10 push ups every few days. It was SO much more enjoyable, and I still felt the burn on my abs, which is welcomed. I'm able to move the position of my arms to tax different muscles in my arms, all without pain and suffering.
I'm sure some experts would say that I just needed to give the planking more time. Or that the pain was because my core wasn't strong enough, and I needed to keep strengthening. But I say that exercise shouldn't hurt. Burn, yes. Hurt, no. I want to look forward to my exercise workouts. I want to feel challenged, but I also want to feel good doing it.
When I run on the treadmill, I push myself. But it doesn't hurt. It just taxes.
When I'm doing push ups, I challenge myself to do 12 reps instead of 10. But I feel powerful doing it, not powerless.
The few times I've tried yoga, the feeling of defeat is just as bad as the pain I experienced. My joints ache. My hands hurt. I'm not having fun, and I'm frustrated because I can't do a move without hurting. It makes me feel like I'm failing - and that's silly. My joints are delicate, and I should treat them so. I don't need to be reminded of that fact when I'm trying to do something good for my body! So even though there are some die-hard fans out there who can sound pretty convincing, yoga just isn't for me right now. And I'm okay with that.
Now, I do agree that form, incorrect positioning, and muscle weakness can play a part in pain.
I specifically remember my first year in college, when I started jogging. I'd never really run before, so my knees ached in the beginning. I remember telling my much more athletic minded roommates about it, and they said that it was probably because my leg muscles weren't strong enough to support my knees yet. They told me to rest a day, and then to resume. I did, and they were right. My knees did stop hurting...once my quads in particular strengthened. (Please keep in mind - this is not medical advice, just a conversation among college students trying to burn off some midnight pizza!) It's always wise to consult a professional to determine what you may or may not be doing incorrectly, if you want to continue an exercise.
Thus, I encourage you to use solid judgment when embarking upon any exercise regimen. Of course, always consult your doctor before doing so, but just as importantly, listen to your body. If your body hurts, it's telling you it's not having fun. And it's always better to have fun!