A couple months ago, I discovered that all of my coworkers are secretly obsessed with doing planks. They weren’t actively trying to hide this information from me, of course. They were simply spending several minutes a day getting down on the ground in a sort of push-up position, clasping their hands in front of their heads, working out their abdominal muscles like good citizens, and then never mentioning it again.
I only found out because of Cher. Here is a lightly edited transcript of the Slack conversation that led to my startling discovery:
This was new and interesting information. Based on Hanna’s phrasing, I could infer that she apparently did at least two 1-minute planks in the mornings on a regular basis. But I wasn’t alarmed yet. People have all different kinds of morning routines! I like to read at least one recap of a TV show that I don’t actually watch; it’s like a nice little short story to start my day.
I should also note that my response above referencing Ruth Bader Ginsberg made it sound like I knew more about planking than I actually did at the time. I was playing it cool.
Then the conversation took a dramatic turn:
Note that emoji finger from another coworker, as if to say, “I too have not yet done a plank,” which implied that planking was something so ordinary others might expect one to have done it already by 9:35 am.
At this point, I got suspicious.
Nobody answered, leading me to conclude that they were all members of a super-secret planking society. So I began a private investigation. I turned to everyone who sat near me and methodically asked them whether or not they planked.
“Leah, do you plank?” I asked.
She said that she did.
“Olivia, do you plank?”
Naturally Olivia planked! It was good for the back.
“Georgia, do you plank?”
She was literally planking right now.
I kept asking around. Everybody planked. Even Michelle Obama planked:
Now, I did find a few exceptions. I asked my coworker Adam if he did planks, and he said (I’m paraphrasing here) “Witty and sarcastic non-answer,” which I took to mean he did not understand the question and did not really want to find out what I was talking about. But men definitely do plank too, as I confirmed when I asked my coworker Max if he planked, and he looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, “Sometimes.”
What did I do with this information? Well, I had no choice but to start planking. First I did it the wrong way in a made-up position, for which my coworkers rightly mocked me. Now I do it the normal way, for about 30 seconds at a time, after I go for a run. My colleagues are all smart and reasonable people, so I figured if they’re doing it, they’re probably onto something. I don’t know that I can point to any concrete changes as a result, except that it is now easier for me to do a plank than it was before. I suppose this is a good sign, although it feels a bit like improving at riding a unicycle over time. “Hurray, I’m better at doing the strange thing?”
But the real lesson of planking for me is that, all around us, people are doing funny and weird and pretty neat things that we know nothing about. It’s fashionable in the internet age to complain that no one has any secrets anymore—that thanks to social media, we can hardly stand to brush our teeth without broadcasting that news to 700 peers. But the tale of planking is proof that there is plenty of stuff we’re doing that we’re not talking about at all.
Think of it! Someone you know is probably shoplifting right now. Someone else is eating zoodles. Fighting with their family. Having sex. Listening to a self-help book on tape. Auditioning for a role in community theater, and they don’t want to tell anyone, because what if they don’t get a part? There is still so much that we don’t know about each other—mostly the really interesting stuff. It’s good to know we all have so much left to discuss.