Before we discuss George Hood's world record, let's clarify that the kind of planking he does is different than what Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas popularized with pictures on their Twitter accounts.
Hood holds up his body by putting his forearms and toes on the floor. Straight back. Straight legs. No lying down.
Last weekend, Hood set the Guinness world record in endurance planking by maintaining this position for 1 hour, 20 minutes and 5.01 seconds.
How tough is that?
"This plank was the most excruciating thing I have ever put my body through," Hood says.
To give that statement some context, consider that Hood is a retired DEA agent and a former Marine who has spent time in Afghanistan.
"This hurt," Hood says. "But an awesome experience."
Also, consider that Hood, a personal trainer from Aurora, Ill., has held Guinness world records in endurance for jumping rope and spin cycling. His planking record, which shattered the previous mark by nearly 30 minutes, is officially recognized by Guinness as the Static Abdominal Hold, and it came two days before he turned 54.
"Planking has done more for my abs than I ever thought possible," Hood says. "No wonder the gurus and yoga people are into that. That core strength is what people need, especially at my age. You see too many people hunched over with poor posture."
Hood began to use the plank in his workouts about a year and a half ago to help prepare for another stab at the spin cycling record. Then as he geared up for his attempt at the plank record, his daily regimen involved planking for 90 minutes a day, repeated sets of 200 to 400 push-ups, 2,000 abdominal crunches and up to four hours on the cycle.
Hood set his first Guinness world record in October 1986 by jumping rope for 13 hours, 12 minutes, 11 seconds while stationed in Hawaii as a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
He has set the record for the longest time riding on a stationary bike three times. The first was 111 hours, 11 minutes and 11 seconds in July 2007. He broke his own record in 2008 and then last November he clocked 222 hours, 22 minutes and 22 seconds in a benefit in memory of a U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan.
An Italian man broke that record by two hours in May. Next April, the Mediterranean nation of Malta will host Hood's attempt to recapture the record. "I'm shooting for 250 hours," he says.
With all marathon events for Guinness, competitors are allowed five minutes of rest for every completed hour, and they can strategically bank that time. Hood's longest stretch on the bike without using one of these breaks is 30 hours.
"There's no speed requirement," he says. "But you have to travel 12 miles each hour."
The next endurance event Hood would like to tackle is on the elliptical machine. Guinness does not have a category for this yet but is in the process of establishing standards.
Hood says he is fairly alert during his attempts to set records but sometimes needs to meditate. "I'll just put my head down and go to a happy place where's peace and serenity," he says.
But mostly he uses music to keep him going. "I'm actually known for that," he says, "I've got 4,000 songs and 30 playlists."
The range includes Christian music by Matthew West to classic rock from The Outlaws. The plank event, held at a restaurant called Eggsperience in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, got started with Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold."
"There was a lot of pain," Hood says. "But I like to take it to the edge."
That's reflected in Hood's fitness motto: "Set goals. Keep score. And break records. Because anything else is just exercise."
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