NEW YORK • George Hood, a 62-year-old retiree from Illinois, strapped a heart monitor band across his chest, attached a catheter to his body, climbed onto a table and dialled up a curated rock and 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 body into a gravity-defying platform.
Hood, a former Marine and Drug Enforcement Administration agent, held the plank on 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 515 Fitness provided moral support.
The seventh hour was the most difficult, he said. But he persisted and, when it was over, 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 push-ups.
Q Were you sore the day after?
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 cannot really walk. The pain runs deep into the body.
The problem is getting into the shower because I cannot lift my legs all the way.
Nobody else on the planet... 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.
GEORGE HOOD , a retiree and ex-Marine and Drug Enforcement Administration agent, on why he broke the previous 2016 Guinness planking record of 8hr 1 min set by China's Mao Weidong.
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, aged 30, 28 and 26). I actually fantasise 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).
Q Your preparations included 2,100 hours of plank time, about 270,000 push-ups and nearly 674,000 sit-ups. 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 do not take supplements on an empty stomach. You do not 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 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 fund-raising. That gives my story a heart. It is for the greater good.
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?
A I'm going to enjoy the break. I will launch my fitness exercise video. My next Guinness World Record will be in the push-up genre. Stay tuned.
Q Do you have advice for people who want to add planking to their exercise regimen?
A I suggest they do it and get some supervision, and they have to do it correctly. I see so many people clasp their hands. The hands must not touch. It messes up the energy flow from head to toe.