Q&A with George Hood, the 62-year-old retiree from Naperville who planked for over 8 hours to set a Guinness World Record
By Christine Hauser
The New York Times|
Feb 27, 2020 | 4:59 PM
George Hood, a 62-year-old retiree from Naperville, Illinois, strapped a heart monitor band across his chest, attached a catheter to his body, climbed onto a custom-built table covered with a lambskin and dialed up a curated rock ’n’ roll playlist on his phone.
And then he raised himself into a plank — and held the position for 8 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds to set a Guinness World Record.
The plank is a feat of static, but strenuous, exercise. The torso is sustained in a horizontal position, anchored by the toes on one end and the forearms on the other. The abdominal and thigh, back and arm muscles are among those firing away, turning most of the human body into a gravity-defying platform.
Hood, a former Marine and Drug Enforcement Administration agent, held the plank Feb. 15 for more time than an average day’s work. The time he was aiming for, 8:15:15, was a nod to 515 Fitness, the Illinois mental and physical therapy business for which he was raising money with his world-record attempt.
He had coaches and a support team to feed him liquids. A Guinness official was on hand to verify the record. And an audience at the 515 Fitness location in Plainfield, Illinois, provided moral support — posing for photos when he asked for encouragement and dancing to his favorite rock songs as they blasted over the sound system.
The seventh hour was the most difficult, he said. But he persisted, and when it was over, Hood did not sink onto his belly. No, that would be disrespecting the plank, he explained. Instead, he eased back into the yoga position called child’s pose. His legs were so cramped, he said, that it took 12 minutes.
But then he did 75 pushups.
Hood has raised nearly $10,000 for 515 Fitness and the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition of Braidwood, Illinois, Hood’s spokeswoman, Lisabeth Begin, said Thursday.
On Wednesday, I spoke with Hood by telephone for 45 minutes. After his feat of endurance, I suspected the one thing that I did not have to worry about was tiring him out.
The following is an edited excerpt from the conversation.
A: I went into it with the mindset that this is going to hurt. Soreness is going to manifest itself from head to toe. The toes have to support the entire leg complex, and the quads take a beating. The pressure on the toes becomes a bit excruciating. Afterwards, I can’t really walk. The pain runs deep into the body. The problem is getting into the shower because I can’t lift my legs all the way. I then took two no-training days. On Day Two, I actually got on a treadmill and walked.
Q: How did you keep your mind occupied for eight hours of relentless exertion?
A: I rely on coaches to feed me good thoughts, positive vibes. I call for a group photo; it distracts me. I have to just focus and listen to the reassuring words of my coach, Renae Cobley. I have a lot of conversations with myself. I think about my boys. (He has three sons, ages 30, 28 and 26.) I actually fantasize about my life as a rock star. If I am hitting a wall, I will find a song in my playlist. (Songs by Deep Purple and Tommy James and the Shondells were among those that kept him going.) Sometimes that will be enough to get me over the edge. For 8 hours and 15 minutes and 15 seconds on the 15th of February, I was that rock star.
Q: Your preparations included 2,100 hours of plank time, about 270,000 pushups and nearly 674,000 situps. But how did you prepare just before the event?
A: Within 12 hours, I have to be done with my supper: grilled salmon, a ton of spinach and a nice baked potato. The drinking process starts the day before. I start throwing down water and electrolytes. When I wake up on event day I have to have a cup of coffee, a hard-boiled egg and a cup of oatmeal. I don’t take supplements on an empty stomach. You don’t want to get nauseous. They have to make me drink; they put the tube in my mouth. I burned 4,252 calories.
Q: How do you come out of the plank after holding it that long?Do you just flop down?
A: That flies in the face of what the plank pose represents. Collapsing like that implies failure. You drop to your knees and slide back gradually into the child’s pose. That stretches the entire body most efficiently. It shows respect to the pose you have sustained.
Q: Was the plank record the most difficult thing you’ve ever done in your life?
A: No. Going to Afghanistan and watching that first Marine we lost in the early morning of Jan. 1, 2009 — to see a kid not come home and leave behind a brother in New York City, and he left behind a wife — that was difficult for me. Every time I do an event, I do a dedication to him.
Q: So you have now broken the previous 2016 Guinness record of 8:01:00 set by Mao Weidong of China, and this was the seventh time you have set a world plank record.
A: Nobody else on the planet has set that record more times than I have, and nobody has ever lasted more plank hours. It sends a message to people my age and also to kids. That platform is a grounding force to me. It is where I go to purge myself.
Q: The Guinness record is not even your longest time in a sustained plank. A 2018 event certified by Assist World Record said you hold the record for the most plank sets in 24 hours, one of which lasted 10:10:10.
A: I do this for fundraising. That gives my story a heart. It is for the greater good.
Q: What are some of the things you did growing up in Indiana, Pennsylvania?
A: Music ran in my family. I played the French horn in elementary school, high school and college. I play piano by ear. I did not play sports in school. I worked; I had a paper route. I was always focused on individual things.
Q: You have said you are going to retire from setting planking records. What are you going to do next? Chill? Let yourself get out of shape?
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