Advanced Training for Your Body & Mind
Q: How long can you hold plank pose?
A: 3 hours, at least. On each hand.
We sometimes get “expert trainer” questions like this. I usually make it a little light, by saying something like “3 hours on each hand” with a straight face. Followed by “Why, how long did you hold it in your training?”
Then we get talking. I follow up with how we move, and how we practice to do hard things easily, by keeping relaxed movability in your body, and a lot of ease in your mind. You can hold a plank as long as you want, because you’re not clenching all your muscles to “stay in it.” You stay easy, so it’s just not that hard.
When your training aims for getting to know your body and learning to work with what you’ve got – rather than for how long you can hold a plank, how much weight you can lift, or how fast you can run up hills – you’ll become much better at planks, moving of weight, and hill runs. Not by pushing and struggling up against these barriers – but by making friends with your body.
I used to work with a guy who ran a hedge fund. I taught him one-on-one at his office. He was a pain because he would always clench all his muscles when it got to plank pose time. This was supposed to be hard, so he made it as hard as he could! He would sweat like crazy. He thought that was a good workout.
Finally, I figured out how to change his experience. I made it into a “Plank Pose-Off!” I got down and said “How about we stay at least 2 minutes, then see who gives up first. I set my iPhone as the timer, so he could watch the seconds go by as he clenched and wasted energy. I just stayed there like it was no big deal. At about 2 1/2 minutes he collapsed, and I wasn’t sweating yet. He got it. He realized his way wasn’t as effective. He needed to learn a new way.
It’s cool when you talk to type A, big life-accomplishment people. They’re extremely interested in this concept of achieving more with less effort. They need that, and they know exactly how they’d use it. Usually when people are high achievers, they push through a lot emotionally, mentally, and physically. Some of them manage to crash through some barriers. Even a lot of barriers! But as they get older, they’re also very aware of what all that pushing and crashing does to their bodies and minds.
At a conference I spoke at last year, a woman from NASA asked me how to get the overachiever guys in her office into yoga. She was especially into this concept of moving with ease. I was excited to answer, because one of my favorite space videos is of the first lunar mission, at the moment when the astronauts first looked back and saw Earth. This is one of the most famous photos taken, looking at where they came from, instead of where they were headed, and all the space in between.
You can describe the idea of ease and moving with ease as gaining this perspective for the first time. The great achievement wasn’t just going to the moon, although that’s where they were headed. It was getting themselves into space where they have this perspective, this ability to see the Earth and how beautiful it is.
This space is needed to see and reflect on what you’re doing. This space is needed to create. Without the space to reflect, there is no room to improvise, no room to make better decisions. The NASA crowd understands this pretty well. People understand this just as well from their own work life. It’s a way of living effectively and efficiently. It’s a way of enjoying everything you’re living. It’s also happens to be the best way to train, for anything at all.
xo – Tara
PS – Want to get into your own Advanced Training? Mike and I created a course on MindBodyGreen to help