Of course travelling by train is great. You can enjoy the scenery, you are not polluting the environment, you are more relaxed, and you can enjoy a snooze without killing anybody in the process!
But there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about train travel that you no doubt have heard about. There are some wonderful aspects about train travel but also some challenges. As a dedicated train traveller, you will have no problems in relating to these.
1. You are generating more greenhouse gases than automobiles.
Back in 2008, Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute claimed that trains were contributing more to greenhouse gases than people thought. Amtrak (the US rail network) came back and stated that trains are more energy efficient than cars by about 30%. They are also more efficient than planes by about 14%. You don’t even need to mention the fact about not littering downtown parking lots with parked automobiles with all the pollution and congestion they bring.
2. Your fellow passengers are always polite and quiet.
In an ideal world, this would certainly be the case. But let’s do a reality check. I find that people shouting on their cell phones is almost intolerable. You dream about Japan where passengers actually adhere to the notice to keep their mobiles on silent mode. It is also good to note that Amtrak have introduced quiet cars on their network.
Back in Europe, some passengers dump their bags on seats and you have to ask them to remove them so that you can actually get a place to sit. Now, if you had taken the car, you could have avoided all that hassle.
3. You are not producing any clean energy.
All the critics say that trains are not so eco friendly as people think. Let me tell you about Greenrail which will help trains to generate cleaner energy as they pass over the new type of sleepers (also called “ties”). Up until now, sleepers were either made from wood or pre-stressed concrete and they needed a lot of maintenance.
Italian engineers have developed Greenrail which will use old tires and plastic to make the sleepers. The wonderful thing is that through a piezoelectric system, the trains produce electricity as they pass over the sleepers. Engineers estimate that Greenrail sleepers on a 100 km stretch of railway could produce up to 1.25MWh an hour. This system has already been patented in 148 countries. Where there are no ways of recycling old tires and plastic, this will transform trains into a new source of green power.
4. You know that trains are always reliable and on time.
Unfortunately, even if you are the most ardent train fan, you cannot get away from the fact that delays, breakdowns, weather conditions, and strikes are all going to put a gremlin in the works sooner or later. The Italians say that delay times are always displayed in minutes, so that you can while away the time calculating how many hours that really amounts to. The Japanese, on the other hand will go to extreme lengths to apologize to their 22 million clients when their trains are a few minutes late. Even if a train is five minutes late, passengers are entitled to a “delay certificate” to show their employers when they arrive a little late for work!
5. You are destroying farmland by using high-speed trains.
Let’s take California as an example. The population is set to grow to over 60 million by the year 2050. If modern rail road connections are not made, there will be an urban sprawl, new freeways to cover 3,000 miles and five airport runways. All this would cost in the region of $100 billion. Just think of the impact that would have on the environment. Building high-speed rail corridors is a much better solution for everybody.
6. You are not really saving any money by travelling by train.
This is not true at all. Let us take Italy, where I live, as an example here. Lots of high-speed trains connecting all the major cities, downtown to downtown. The service is fast and unbelievably cheap, if you book in advance. Just think that you can cover Rome to Florence in one and a half hours for $21. Think about not having to get to the airport, the awful check-in and security procedures, and you need never worry about parking your car. You save an incredible amount of time, as well.
You can’t beat the train. It is still the cheapest and most relaxing form of transport available. Amtrak allows you to carry on 200 lbs of luggage free. Now try getting that amount checked in on a flight!
Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.
Why is it important to train up our core strength?
There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.
This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.
Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.
In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.
One Exercise, multiple benefits
There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.
By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.
When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.
Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.
In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.
What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.
What will happen when you start doing planks every day
1. You’ll improve core definition and performance:
Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominus, the external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:
Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.
2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column
Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.
Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.
3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism
Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).
4. You’ll significantly improve your posture
Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .
A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.
A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.
On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.
5. You’ll improve overall balance
Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!- but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.
6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before
Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shoulders, shoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.
7. You’ll witness mental benefits
Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.
How to hold a plank position
Get into pushup position on the floor.
Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
Hold the position for as long as you can.
Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.
Watch the video if you have any doubt!
Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:
How to improve your plank time gradually
Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.
Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.
Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?
You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:
After prolapse surgery
Pelvic pain conditions
Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.