Planks are a real pain

“15 seconds … 5 more seconds … you’re done.”

I can hear my trainer’s voice, pushing me to keep my form through a 20-second plank. As easy as planking sounds, I quickly learned there’s more to it than meets the eye.

When I moved to Kauai in January, I decided that was the kick in the butt I needed to get in shape. Not that I think I’m the most obese person on the planet, but, living in paradise, I wanted to start getting “beach body” ready.

So, after a month of living on the Garden Isle, I joined Kauai Athletic Club. Living in Banyan Harbor at the time, the Lihue location was right across the street. I seemingly had no excuse not to work out. However, I found every excuse in the book not to go — “I’m too tired,” “It’s too late,” and “I’m invited to dinner” were some of my favorites. But, seeing as I was paying for a membership, I decided I should get my money’s worth. I ended up going more and more.

I soon realized that I didn’t know what I was doing. Sure, I knew how to turn on a machine and let it do it’s thing. But I didn’t think I would get the most out of my gym experience that way.

I decided to sign up for a personal trainer and I was paired with Cynthia Fowler. For three times a week, we met in the mornings before work and she would take me through an hour-long routine. Most of the exercises she had me do were me using my own body weight. We were rarely in the main part of the gym and kept to the backroom. From arm exercises and foam rolling to planking and lunges, I felt myself getting stronger with every session.

I still remember the first time I tried to do a plank — I had little core or arm strength and was very wobbly. So Cynthia had me try it on a bench, so I was elevated. While it was hard, it became bearable. But as soon as I got comfortable planking on a bench, Cynthia decided to make it a little harder on me. She had me start planking on an exercise ball.

After a few sessions, I graduated to planking on the floor. Even though it was a small accomplishment, I couldn’t help but feel proud of my little victory. In the grand scheme of the universe, 20 seconds is not long at all. But when you’re balancing on your arms, with your core sucked in, it might as well be 24 hours. I exaggerate, but there were times where I felt like I couldn’t continue.

As time went on, I was able to plank longer. I’m now at 30 seconds. Compared to fitter people who have been planking for much longer, it’s not impressive. But I’m proud of myself and I’m proud of my accomplishments.

I don’t consider myself to be a gym rat and I don’t think I’ll ever be. When I have time to go to the gym, I’ll go. I feel better in the last few months than I have in a while, and I contribute that both to a change of scenery and being more active. Living on Kauai, you have no option but to get in shape — with hiking trails, snorkel spots and water sports, it’s just part of the lifestyle.

My fitness goal is to hike the Kalalau or Kukui trails. Both of those require a skill set that is just as much mental and knowledge of the terrain as fitness.

For now, I take each day as it comes — one plank at a time.


Jenna Carpenter is a reporter with The Garden Island. She can be reached at


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