At 26 years old, I’m finding more and more that how I’m exercising takes precedence over the before-and-after photos I might take to document my progress. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no shame in wanting your body to look its best, but take it from someone who’s tried countless programs to yield results: Aesthetics aren’t everything, especially when it comes to your physical health. For instance, I tried working out with the Stealth core trainer, a plank exercise that doubles as a video game, to get me out of a months-long fitness rut I've been in, and I can honestly say I've never lost myself in a workout the way I do when my elbows are balancing on this board.
Now, if I were to rewind a few years and inform my 16-year-old self that, in 2018, she'd be judging how successful a workout is by how much she perspires, or that sprint intervals are currently one of her favorite things to do, I have no doubt she'd laugh right in my face. Seriously, the self-made athlete I am today is an entirely different person from the preteen who used to hide in gym class so she didn't have to participate in anything remotely physical. In fact, I’m pretty sure the first time I even heard of planking was during my junior year of high school, when boys would find cool places to plank across (like the Hollywood Sign) and document their (usually failed) efforts on MySpace.
The Stealth core trainer makes working out — and, more specifically, planking — a legitimate game, with a whole new set of bragging rights.
Unlike the guys posting plank selfies circa 2007, the Stealth core trainer isn’t just a cool photo opportunity; it’s a legitimate workout that challenges your core, back muscles, chest, legs, and arms. And, on top of starting a fire in your belly that quickly spreads to your thighs and forearms, the gameplay technology stimulates your mind, as well.
When I first got my hands on the Stealth core trainer, I unwrapped the planking board and thought, “No sweat.” On average, I can hold a traditional plank for at least a minute and a half before the shaking in my limbs and core is too much to handle. I (foolishly) assumed having something to hold me up might actually make it easier to hold a plank even longer, so when Ben Woodbury of Purple Orange PR wished me luck, and to let him know if I “last longer than three minutes,” I almost laughed. How hard could three minutes on this thing possibly be? Hard, guys. Really hard.
As I'm sure you know, planking is pretty difficult as it is, so just imagine having to stay in that position while also trying to defeat a video game at the same time.
Now, you could totally use the Stealth core trainer as-is to assist with things like balance and side planks, but for all intents and purposes, the first step is to purchase your trainer and download the Stealth core trainer app (which, BTW, is free for both iOS and Android). Once you have the app, click the thumbnail on your home screen and press “Start.” The interactive media will bring you to a menu that includes the challenge itself, a personal log to track your progress, and a global leaderboard to see how you rank among other Stealth players. Choose the Core Challenge, and secure your phone into the slot at the top of your board.
Let me warn you: Once you start the challenge, there’s really no going back. From there on out it’s just you, your body weight, the board, and gameplay technology which, according to co-founders Howie Panes and Don Brown, simply means that the game is what’s leading you through the workout. A series of large blue balls and smaller, lime green dots will appear on the screen in various patterns, and your goal is to target them. The game requires you to move your body front, back, and side to side, in order to land on the targets, and then you hold your position until those targets have been destroyed.
According to the product's description, the trainer will target over 29 core muscles in just three minutes of play time, but trust me when I say this: You'll feel it within a matter of seconds.
Honestly, when I first received the Stealth core trainer in the mail, I gave it the once-over like I would an infomercial gadget. I’ll admit, I was skeptical, because I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve tried this gimmick and that piece of equipment, trusting my favorite celebs or fitness gurus when they say they swear by these products, only to find out for myself they were flops. After incorporating the Stealth core trainer into my routines for the past week or so, however, I was pleasantly surprised by just how intense of a workout I got from it in under two minutes.
On my first try, I found my balance on the wobbly board and pressed “start” on the app, practically losing my stance in the process. Now, I don’t plank often, but I’m usually pretty solid once I find my footing, so when I only lasted a mere 30 seconds on the Stealth core trainer, I was a little dumbfounded. It wasn’t that I was out of shape, but this kind of workout really puts every muscle you have to the test, in a really short amount of time.
It definitely takes a few tries to get the hang of the product, but after a week of tilting to one side then the other, leaning forward on my tip-toes and easing backward, all while maintaining balance on top of this unstable foundation, I’m proud to say my personal record is a solid 90 seconds strong. What's more, as someone who's never been much of a “gamer” her whole life, I really enjoyed the gaming aspect of the experience. Sure, I’m planking, and obviously at the tail-end of that 90 seconds, I’m dripping with sweat, and my core is fully engaged, but mentally, the competition is what comes to center focus. Fair warning: It's a little hard to stop playing, even when your body’s calling it quits, which is especially great if you're looking for a workout that low-key makes you forget you're even exercising.
It just goes to show that working out doesn't always translate to lifting something heavy, or breaking a sweat getting nowhere fast on a treadmill. Moreover, playing video games doesn't automatically make you a couch potato, either. The Stealth core trainer is a game-changer (literally), but if this kind of exercise isn't your thing, no worries; there are plenty of alternatives out there, from drumming-inspired plyometric sequences, to simple dance classes. The goal is simply to get your body moving, and for you to have a genuinely great time in the process.