My sister-in-law challenged our family to a plank-off recently. Person who could plank the longest wins. “I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t stomach those things for 30 seconds.”
Or so I told myself.
Before continuing my story, a quick note: Like any inherently lazy human, there are a lot of exercises I hate doing. But planks are the worst—invented by Satan himself. They’re right up there with Turkish getups, mountain climbers, and wall sits as most uncomfortable for me. So I wasn’t enthused to participate.
“I’m in!” my wife said. My daughter, too, was excited to compete. “I’ll try,” I relented, offending Jedi Masters everywhere.
That night, my daughter said she’d like to attempt her personal best, having only planked briefly once before. She got her timer ready, assumed the position, and planked as her mother and I looked on. 30 seconds passed and she was doing fine. Then a minute. At the 1:30 mark, she was visibly uncomfortable, but resolute. Two minutes passed. By this time her mother and I were cheer leading, and she fed off the encouragement. Then three minutes passed! Lindsey and I looked at each other in astonishment. My daughter was shaking in pain, but still going for it.
At 3:30, she asked if she could stop. “C’mon, a little longer!” I pushed. “You can do it!” her mother assured her. In response, toughstuff bit her lip, straightened out, and made it a past four minutes! Then she obediently asked again—as if she needed our permission!—”May I stop?”
“Of course!” her mother and I shouted. She had planked for four minutes and 13 seconds. Everybody exchanged high-fives. Even though my daughter has biked several miles and is very fit, I was impressed; more by her mental strength than physical endurance.
But more than that, I was inspired by her example. “If she can do this, so can I,” I told myself. I wasn’t going to let fear, doubt, and mental pessimism dictate my endurance.
Over the next week, I planked for 1:58, two minutes and change, then 3:04. Next week, I’ll hit the four minute market. All because of my eight-year old daughter.
I have my work cut out, however. The second time she attempted a personal record, she planked for 5:10!
Obviously, to the victor, the spoils. But I already won. As a father, I’ve felt elated many times. But this was a new experience for me. For the first time, I was following instead of leading. I gained mental toughness watching one of my own.
I can’t wait to see what my kids inspire, teach, and where they lead me next.
This story first published to blakesnow.com on January 31, 2014