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4 Ways a Marathon Mirrors Life

4 Ways a Marathon Mirrors Life

I recently completed my first marathon – one of many things that people suddenly do when at the mid-point of their lives. Reflecting back on the experience, I was struck by the parallels between a marathon and life in general. The distinct emotional phases that I went through during the 42.2km journey eerily mirrored those of my life to-date. It is as if a digital recorder played back my trials and tribulations of the past 39 years but truncated it in 3 hours and 55 minutes – still a very long time but let’s not dwell too much on that!

1. The Exuberant Phase, Brimming with Cockiness

With arrogant confidence gained from a solid training regime beforehand, I began the race well. So well that, for the first 15km, I was tearing up the course comfortably under my goal time of 3 hours and 20 minutes. I remember overtaking the pacing group for that same time, almost sneering at their tortoise-like caution, while ignoring my hare-like recklessness. At one stage, I even sprinted past a boisterous street crowd at a drink station, too pumped up to even take a drink because I was too busy showboating my amazing speed and stamina.

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2. The Comfortable Phase, Devoid of Zeal

As the running crowd stretched out and thinned around the 15-20km mark, the self-admiration and show-boating gave away to an eerie sense of detachment. Fatigue began to set in, slowing down my pace as well as my breathing. At that slower pace, however, I felt I was in an auto-pilot mode and could just run forever. Such was the comfort that I ignored taking the energy gels which I had meticulously planned to consumer at designated intervals to keep my sugar and energy levels up. I simply felt in the zone and was confident that zone would carry me uneventfully to the end. While that meant finishing about 10 minutes later than my target, I gradually became comfortable with that too, much to my own dismay at how easily I gave up on my initial goal.

3. The Rock-Bottom Phase, Full of Despair

At around the 25km mark, my knees began to hurt, forcing me to shorten my strides. This somehow led to strangely uncomfortable feelings in my ankles and muscles in my lower legs that I never knew I had. My mind, on the other hand, was battling its own demons who incessantly posed unhelpful but quite valid remarks such as: “Why are you doing this to yourself?” and “Do you realize how much further you have to go?”. These seeds of doubt blossomed into a forest of despair at the 32km mark, as excruciating cramps started to work their way up from my lower legs up to the back of my thighs. The physical and emotional anguish were so severe by that point that I did something I have never done before in a race — I stopped running and started walking.

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As I trudged along forlornly, wondering how I can possibly cover the remaining 10km at this pathetic rate and in this diabolic pain, all those runners who I gleefully overtook earlier in the race passed me by, one by one (the 3 hour 20 minute pace group, the 3 hour 30 minute pace group, the 3 hour 40 minute pace group, the elderly couple probably 20 years my senior). Rather than looking like the cautious tortoises of earlier, they appeared downright superhuman this time around!

4. The Resurrection Phase, Fuelled by Tenacity

Tired of feeling sorry for myself doing the loser’s walk, I willed my body into what may roughly be called jogging motion. This was at the 34km mark, still seemingly an eternity from the end. But I didn’t want to let myself down. I wanted to cross the finish line, not as a dejected walker, but as a proud runner, albeit one who had given up all hope not so long ago. The subsequent 8 km shuffle (running would be too grand a description) was perhaps one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life — one painful step after another, with no grand ambition other than to not give up. Eventually, I finished, in running motion, and even with a smile on my face. Pathetic as it may seem, the sense of achievement I felt was indescribable, most certainly made more so because of the lows I experienced during the race.

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Rejuvenated and Ready to Do It Again

The emotional roller-coaster of a marathon that I just described happened a month ago. Despite the experience, but most likely because of it, I am eagerly anticipating my next 42.2km challenge. Masochistic as it may sound, I am especially looking forward to that 32km mark where I can redeem myself for my first time failure. That’s the good thing about marathons. Unlike life, the journey’s not only truncated, but opportunities for redemption are never far away. On second thoughts, perhaps life IS just like a marathon, a perpetual roller-coaster ride with triumphs, failures and endless opportunities for redemption.

Featured photo credit:  young businessman running in a city street via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

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.

Video Summary

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.

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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 abdominusthe 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:

    • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
    • 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

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      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.

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          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 – shouldersshoulder 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

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                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

                1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                7. 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

                  1. 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.
                  2. 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.
                  3. 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:

                  • Prolapse
                  • After prolapse surgery
                  • Pelvic pain conditions
                  • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                  • Previous childbirth
                  • Overweight

                  Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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