So, one day I ran across two things online: one was a 10,000 crunch in 30 days challenge. The other thing was a “total abs” workout. I saved ’em both, and tried the total abs thing for a bit. It was… OK. Crunches, like 30 crunches, really don’t do a whole lot.
Then I looked at the 10,000 crunch challenge, and an idea formed. A wild, stupid idea to combine both of them…
The total ab thing – which I can’t find now – involved doing 30 crunches, 30 cross-crunches, 30 oblique crunches, 30 heel-touches (a sort of cousin to a crunch – get in a crunch position with your arms beside you, lift your shoulders off the bench, then touch your left heel, then right heel, etc.), plank, superman, and leg lifts. Really, not that intense (particularly if you had spend a whole lot of time working on your core, like I did when I was trying to train up for the highland games.)
So, instead of doing 140 crunches on day 1, I did 140 crunches, 140 cross crunches, 140 oblique crunches, 140 heel touches, 1 minute plank, 25 supermans, and eventually added glute bridges for the back. Now, the challenge says to do reps throughout the day. Screw that – there’s no challenge there. Do 140 of the series I mentioned all in a row – no sets, etc. Just straight through.
If you do a crunch properly, it takes about 2 second per crunch. By the time I reached 400 of each, I’m spending nearly an hour just on this challenge (and I have a max of 2 1/2 hours of workout, it seems, before I run out of energy.) But, I was doing it.
Then, one day, I missed a day. Now, you might think “Uh oh, he fell off the challenge, and ended up not going back.” Far from it. I did 500+ of each in the morning to make up for missing the night before, and then did the 500+ in the evening. I THINK the day was 500 in the morning, and 520 in the evening, which means that day I did a total of 3,060 crunches in total (OK, someone might point out here that each of the three is a different crunch. They are indeed – but, they all end up involving the same muscle set, then add a second muscle set. Oblique crunches are a little easier than a regular crunch, and cross crunches are more taxing than a regular crunch. So, between all the factors, I’m calling it all one thing. But, if you insist, you could say I “only” did 1,020 crunches for the day. And then go screw off. 😉 )
That’s… well, that’s when things kind of went off the rails a bit. If I could do 3,000 in a day, could I do 3,000 in one setting?
Well, the answer is yes. But, geez… not including switching things up between each set, the warmup stretch, grabbing a drink, using the restroom (cross crunches, done in large amounts, seem to end up pressing the bladder) that was a hour and 40 minutes if my pace never slipped.
SO, the next day was a “low day”, where I only had to do 100. The day after, I decided I was going to really go for it – 1,500 of each. (I use Fitocracy, so I mostly have a record of this all – sometimes, since I work out at night, it looses a workout when I check it in when the workout started on one day, and ended on the next. So there’s a little filling in the blanks here.) But, I picked up the pace considerable – one per second.
Now, anyone who’s done crunches properly is probably about to say, “Um, dude… that’s not right.”
The next day, I pushed it further. 2,000 crunches, 2,000 oblique crunches, 2,000 heel touches, and 1,000 cross crunches (before I completely ran out of steam) (and, every day I also had the plank, supermans, etc.) The day before the end of the challenge, I did 6,100 crunches, 2,000 oblique crunches, and 1,000 cross crunches – 9,100 crunches in total. But I stopped as I was headed for the last set of 1,000 crunches to reach 10,000. I suddenly realized something: what I was doing didn’t count as a crunch.
Crunches are a slow, deliberate process. There’s a reason it takes 2 seconds (right now, I’m doing them at 3 seconds per, decreasing the up and down speed, and a little longer hold at the top) – that’s how you get the real exercise on the abs. Don’t get me wrong – after 9,000, I was covered in sweat. My Basis watch (fitness tracker) was tracking me as alternating between walking and running, because of the pace of the motion. Between each 1,000 there actually was a moment of rest – I had two fans pointed at me, and I still had to stand up off the bench for a moment to remove some sweat, or risk sliding off the bench.
My plan had been do to 10,000 crunches on the last day – just crunches, no oblique or cross crunches – to prove to myself I could do it. But I realized, in reality, there’s no way I could do 10,000 properly slow crunches in a single workout. Done properly, that’s 5 1/2 HOURS of crunches. Even at the pace I was going, my final 9,000 that I did was hitting my 2.5 hour maximum workout time. And, while it might have been sweaty work, it wasn’t being done right, and I no longer felt I could count them.
So, for my final day, I did the proper 600 of each, and called it good. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I won, at the time.
But, after I thought about it a while, it was still a win. There was some lessons to be learned here:
- If I take on a challenge, do the challenge. Don’t go nuts and try and blow it out of the water – stick to it, and do it.
- 30 day challenges are a cool idea. It gives me these nice bite-sized goals to work towards, rather than just the large goals.
- I’m insane.
And, even if I didn’t do them right, there was a buttload of ab work involved, and at that sort of level, doing them in half the time I’m supposed to, I consider it to have become equivalent to the proper number of crunches for each thing. Honestly, it was still one hell of a workout (I’ve thought about adopting that half-ass, high speed crunch style as a piece of my workout, particularly the cross-crunches, and they end up being a form of cardio.)
One complain that people have about crunches is that it will screw up your back. Do them properly, stretch the back, and do a counter exercise for them is my observation (part of the reason that I liked doing crunch – oblique – cross – heel touch is that along with the abs, it nails all the surrounding muscles, and the superman, plank, leg lift, and glute bridge handle part of the lower back muscles, keeping the workouts more balanced. I have less back pain now than I did before I started the challenge – of course, I had also added some Yoga moves for my back, and a foam roller, so there’s also that 😉
And there’s some people that say crunches do nothing, and some people that say doing 400 a day will give you ripped abs. Well, if you loose fat, you get more ripped abs – that’s just a part of the gig. Did it do anything for me?
Well, I look a little better, I suppose. One of my things after the challenge was that I bought myself a brand new – not Goodwill – pair of size 36 waist jeans. I feel pretty good about that. You can also see that there’s more definition there, partcularly on the sides.
At over 40, there’s a downside: there’s more “droop” as the skin as lost it’s elasticity. That is highly unfortunate. But, I’ll live with it. That does mean if I end up with a flat stomach some day, well, there’s gonna be plenty of extra skin :-/
Yeah, just because I lost some doesn’t mean I’m even that close to “flat stomach” territory. There’s still a lot to go there. But, improvement is improvement. (And, to be honest, I’m sticking my gut out a bit – a bad habit I’ve developed. I end up doing it because I forget to wear a belt, and need to make my pants stay up. Do something long enough, and you body adopts that as it’s normal state.) And, a quick comparison from February:
So, I’m going to consider it all worth it 🙂 Heck, maybe in a couple of months, I’ll do the challenge again – if my gut disappears little by little, why not? 🙂