Many of us have a love-hate relationship with planks. We know the move effectively strengthens our core and we can see and feel the benefits of doing planks consistently. But we often hate actually holding planks for longer than a few seconds because, well, they’re hard!

Personally, I do a lot of exercise—running, indoor cycling, rowing, some strength training—but I’m not particularly disciplined in getting in core work with any sort of consistency.

It’s probably unsurprising then that I’ve never been one of those people who could hold a plank for two or three minutes. Maybe I give up prematurely when my abs start quaking. But when I see people share social media posts that they’ve conquered a three-plus–minute plank, I am truly in awe (and sometimes even dubious about whether that’s even possible!). I am also, admittedly, a little jealous. 

So when I heard about the 30-day plank challenge that progresses from a 10-second basic forearm plank on day one to a 5-minute plank (yes, you read that right!) on day 30 by adding just 10 seconds per day, I decided to give it a shot.

Here is the schedule:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

10 seconds
20 seconds
30 seconds
40 seconds
50 seconds
60 seconds
70 seconds 

Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

80 seconds
90 seconds
100 seconds
1 minute, 50 seconds
2 minutes
2 min, 10 seconds
2 min, 20 seconds

Day 15
Day 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19
Day 20
Day 21

2 min, 30 seconds
2 min, 40 seconds
2 min, 50 seconds
3 minutes
3 min, 10 seconds
3 min, 20 seconds
3 min, 30 seconds

Day 22
Day 23
Day 24
Day 25
Day 26
Day 27
Day 28

3 min, 40 seconds
3 min, 50 seconds
4 minutes
4 min, 10 seconds
4 min, 20 seconds
4 min, 30 seconds
4 min, 40 seconds

Day 29
Day 30

4 min, 50 seconds 
5 minutes!

So, what was it like?

The challenge was way harder, yet way more gratifying than I thought it would be. It started easily enough. I cruised through the first few days, underwhelmed. Ten, 20, even 30 seconds? Sure, I got this. 

But things quickly ramped up. By days four and five, the challenge started to test my limits. Although adding 10 seconds each day may not sound like much of a jump, I definitely began to notice how hard even just a few more seconds could feel.

And they weren’t just physically difficult. Once I was trying to hold planks for much longer than 60 seconds, I started to get kind of bored and antsy. I didn’t want my mind to be the limiting factor that kept me from completing the challenge. So I got an ingenious new product called the Plankpad PRO ($99), which is essentially a well-made wobble board that you place your forearms on while holding a plank.

Yes, it makes the plank more challenging, requiring your core muscles to work even harder to keep the Plankpad from toppling to one side or the other. But where this nifty gadget shines is the app that goes with it that lets you play interactive games while you do the plank (think Fruit Ninja).

Playing the games made the time go so much faster. I was a lot shakier, and I was definitely sore the next day at first. But suddenly, I didn’t mind hovering on my forearms for three minutes. I started actually looking forward to doing my planks.

Though I know that the mental difficulty is part of the plank challenge, too. So I alternated days using the Plankpad and just doing the regular plank to try to better replicate the original 30-day challenge. 

Believe it or not, I made it to the end: I held a five minute and three second plank on day 30. Even better: I haven’t stopped. It’s been three days since the official end of the challenge and I’m still adding more seconds every day. I’m slicing virtual fruit like a crazy-adept ninja during my Plankpad PRO games—and I’ve even noticed that my posture seems a little better. 

Hey, maybe I’ll get to 10 minutes by the end of January!