Micro-progressions: You can do one more this week

“Are you up for a 30 day plank challenge?”

If I utter those words to anyone in my family I am sure to get eyes to roll (see: kale, quinoa, charcuterie ;). Holding a plank is an interesting feat as it squarely hits up against not just the physical, but also mental strength.

All physical activity requires a mental component, but holding one position, as with a plank, hits up against boredom and the lack of a distraction. For this reason alone it isn’t an activity for everyone.

Why am I talking about bloody planking? I ran across two stories involving a plank back to back in my stream:

#1 Plank World Record


The world record for a forearm plank was recently set by George Hood. The former marine blew past five hours to hit five hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds. Think about that for a second. OVER FIVE HOURS.

I can’t even imagine the fortitude to pull this off and continue to fight your brain saying “ok mate, that’s enough isn’t it?”

#2 The Eventbrite Engineering Daily Plank

Natalie Downe posted a photo of an engineering team with the message:

The Eventbrite Engineering daily plank, we are up to 86 seconds! 2 seconds added each day!

It was interesting to see the comments that came in. There were negative folk complaining that this is goofy, and questioning what if people don’t want to do this on the team… won’t they feel peer pressure?

Settle down chaps. A regular plank is a good thing for you, and it changes the tone to try something new like this. They were at 86 seconds, which is respectable but far from out of everyones range. What is particularly smart is the small addition. If you can hold a plank for $X seconds, surely you can do so for $X+2 the following day!

The group is using the power of micro-progression, as well as the good side of peer pressure. You are much less likely to stop early if you have people around you holding on. Good on them for getting the blood flowing.

Milo and Micro-progression

When looking for long term success: with investment compound interest is king and elsewhere I look to micro-progression to build habits.

Don’t just be like Mike, be like Milo of Croton. He had legendary strength that was allegedly partly due to the ultimate strength progression:

“He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting the bull by starting in childhood, lifting and carrying a newborn calf and repeating the feat daily as it grew to maturity.”

With fitness I track daily push-ups, adding a single push a week (Suneel’s 50 a day is good too!). I also enjoy working out at an Orange Theory gym where I raise my base pace by 0.1mph a week. These are small increments that continue to slowly push you without burning you out.

I have found these amounts to be very mental. With push-ups for example, I got sick while on a trip to Mexico and had to hit pause. It was tough to jump right back in where I was, so I had to reset and rebuild. This can be frustrating but I try to remember that it is important to not sweat the chain breaking.

I also think about how this relates to my kids. I watch my young-uns doing the monkey bars and think: “keep this up and you will always be able to do it.” I get particularly jealous when I see my youngest squat with perfect form, and I lament giving up that flexibility (something very much to work on).

This is the year that we introduce musical instruments to the family. I am going to start small. Sit down at the piano for 5 minutes a day and you are golden. Once the habit is in place, and they feel successful, we will start to boil the frog.

Where else should I be looking to boil? Team velocity? 🙂

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