In this day and age, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to filling our free time. We can ‘Netflix and chill’, cruise on our iPads or go hunting for Pikachu on Pokemon Go! But it seems increasingly rare that we’ll sit down to notch up some serious hours with a good book. Despite the digital distractions all around us, it is possible to break out of the slump and fall in love with books, all over again.
Read on for eight top tricks to help you rediscover the magic of reading.
One Book at A Time
Biting off more books than you can chew is guaranteed to be a stumbling block. Some people read several books at a time to avoid getting ‘bored.’ No matter how tempting, don’t be a greedy reader. It’s intimidating and makes the whole process seem tough. Instead, try focusing on one story at a time, removing the option of switching to another book if you hit a rough patch. In saying that, if you genuinely don’t enjoy a book you’re reading, it’s okay to let it go (there’s no book police around). Simply find another book you’re interested in.
Log Off & Schedule Reading Time
If you’re going through a long-running reading slump, then chances are you’re spending a little too much time online. The internet, despite its amazing cat memes and funny videos, is the single biggest procrastinating tool in the world today. You can sit down for a quick Facebook session and suddenly five hours have passed. Set aside some internet free time and use those hours to reconnect with reading. Schedule it in your calendar so that you’re held accountable and more likely to go ahead with it. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you find pleasure in the page when you step away from the screen.
Revisit the Classics
Do you remember why you started reading in the first place? Maybe a particular author spoke to you in a way that no one else had. Or perhaps a certain story stuck with you long after the book was over? If you’ve found yourself in a reading rut, revisit an old favourite to rediscover the magic. Even if it’s a book from your childhood, it’s possible that by taking yourself back to that moment, you can find the spark that started it all.
Hang Out in a Bookstore
This may sound a little simple but sometimes proximity to your problems can prove the best remedy. Set aside an hour or so, head to your nearest bookstore, grab a coffee and just hang out. Wander around, spend time looking at the shelves, chat to the bookstore employees about what they’re reading. Before long you may find that being surrounded by books is the shortcut to busting out of your slump.
Reading is typically a pretty solo kind of activity, but sometimes a little company can be the cure you’re looking for. Team up with a friend and tackle a book together. Make a mini-book club, read a chapter a day and then meet up to discuss. Alternatively, find a fellow book lover who is also a good listener. Take it in turns to read to each other – a creative approach to beating the reading blues.
See It & Then Read It
As leading Australian bookseller Dymocks suggests in their blog post – there’s no better way to cure a reading slump than to watch a movie and then read the book to compare storylines and details. Luckily, 2016 is an exciting year for book lovers and movie buffs alike thanks to the myriad of book to movie adaptations coming out on the big screen. Think Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train and Dan Brown’s Inferno. If you’re extra committed, read the book BEFORE seeing the movie.
If you’re really struggling to enjoy reading but are missing the world of books, then audio readers are a great alternative. These days most of your favourite authors will have recorded audio versions of their work. Download the file and let fiction filter into your brain via your ears! This can be the exact kind of halfway point to help you survive the slump.
Getting stale is a common reason that many book lovers find themselves stuck in a reading slump. No matter how much you love Harry Potter, the Chamber of Secrets doesn’t seem so exciting the tenth time round. If it’s all feeling a little too familiar, why not try a new genre? A rom-com reader may suddenly be blown away by the world of sci-fi and vice versa! They say variety is the spice of life, so don’t be afraid to put that into practice! Ask for recommendations from friends and family, and prepare for an exciting experiment ahead.
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.