Ellen DeGeneres challenges Michelle Obama to a planking contest while self-isolating

By Heather Cichowski

Plank the curve!

Puzzles, LEGO, phone calls and planking challenges are just some of the creative ways Ellen DeGeneres is passing the time while self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic. Her planking challenge was issued to Michelle Obama and luckily for us, Ellen shared a video on @theellenshow Instagram of the entire phone call!

The funny host has been sharing video of her FaceTime calls and chats with celebrities and their families, including Courteney Cox and Mario Lopez, while people engage in social distancing and quarantine over COVID-19.

On March 23, the former First Lady of the United States chatted with Ellen. The talk show host and Michelle caught up and laughed for over five minutes.

"My friend @MichelleObama makes the world a better place," Ellen captioned the clip of the video on Instagram.

MORE: 'Just keep laughing': Judi Dench on what to do during these trying times

In the clip, the pair discussed the coronavirus pandemic and how the Obamas are coping, including Michelle, husband Barack Obama, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia.

"We're just trying to structure our days," Michelle explained. "Everybody's home, the girls are back because colleges are now...off. They're off in their respective rooms doing their online classes.

"I think Barack is, I don't know where he is...He was on the phone with a conference call. I just got finished with a conference call."

Ellen, who was sitting on the sofa with her cat, remarked how the Obamas seemed to be keeping busy.

“We're just trying to keep a routine going, but we've also got a little Netflix and chillin' happening," Michelle quipped.

She and Ellen tried to keep the conversation light by joking around about the Obamas having a full house again after both daughters were away at college, with 18-year-old Sasha at the University of Michigan and 21-year-old Malia at Harvard.

"I just wanted to apologize, well, not apologize because it's not my fault that the kids are home, but give my condolences that the kids are home because you were expressing how happy you were that they were gone," Ellen deadpanned.

"I shouldn't have boasted about that. The gods are getting me back," the author laughed.

Portia and Ellen share a cute moment at the 2020 Golden Globes in January. Photo: © Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Michelle also asked about how Ellen and her wife Portia de Rossi are doing. Portia, who was filming the video, had a moment with Michelle and all three of them reflected on the current circumstances about being creative and considering what is important.

"This is like no other time in history, particularly for our kids," explained Michelle. "They're so used to being stimulated all the time.

"On the positive side, I know for us, it's forced us to continue to sit down with each other, have real conversations, really ask questions and figure out how to keep ourselves occupied without just TV or computers," she continued.

"It's a good exercise in reminding us that we just don't need a lot of the stuff that we have. When times are bad, having each other, having your health...we can do with a lot less, and I think that's an important lesson I want my kids to understand."

In addition to creating structure with their days, Michelle and Ellen spoke about the importance of fitness and keeping active. So, Ellen proposed a planking challenge against Michelle soon.

"I'm getting ready to challenge you to a plank pretty soon, I'm getting there," Ellen said.

"Well, you know, I'm going to let you sit on that because you always seem pretty overly confident about your ability to best me in these physical matches," Michelle cheekily replied.

Portia added that Ellen has been working out every day. The competition appears to already be intensifying because Michelle revealed she has too!

The Ellen Show host even proposed it can be a charity event over FaceTime or Zoom, saying, "People can bet on who’s gonna win."

"We'll cross that bridge when you feel like you're in shape," joked Michelle as all three of them giggled.

In the Instagram comments, Michelle later wrote, "Hearing from you made my day! Even when we’re apart, we’ve still got each other."

"Always brightens my day to get a call from my friend Ellen, especially on this rainy Monday at home. Practicing social distancing can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to mean feeling isolated and alone," she continued on her own account.

"When I start getting a little restless, I know that picking up the phone and calling a loved one can do wonders to calm my mood and lift my spirits. How are you staying connected to your friends and family? Tell me in the comments below!"

If you haven't heard people using the phrase "plank the curve" yet, here's what it's all about: Social distancing (ie: staying at least 2 metres from other people and only going outside to do essential things like get groceries) is a scientifically proven way to flatten or "plank" the number of infections during an outbreak of disease or a pandemic.

Anytime there's an outbreak, health experts track the number of cases with graphs. There's usually a curve up as more people report infection. The idea is to keep the number lower over a sustained period of time instead of higher over a shorter period of time so as to slow and stop the spread of disease and avoid overwhelming health care systems. You can learn more on that in the video below!

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