Inner Strength

April 2020 View more

Although the number 13 is generally considered unlucky, Downers Grove resident George Hood likely didn’t give it a moment’s thought before achieving his 13th world record. Because for Hood, “luck” had nothing to do with his accomplishments—instead it had everything to do with mental and physical stamina.

Hood, 62, a former marine and special agent turned fitness trainer, is the new Guinness World Record holder for holding an abdominal plank position for a whopping 8 hours, 15 minutes, and 15 seconds. In training for the attempt, Hood reportedly did 674,000 sit-ups and 270,000 pushups—but Hood says the mental work of pushing through the fatigue is just as important. “Because I go so long,” says Hood, “there is a cognitive process that I go through to get the appropriate mindset.”

All of Hood’s world record attempts have been done to raise money for specific nonprofits, such as the YMCA and the American Heart Association. When his previous planking record set in 2018 was beat, Hood began to look for a location to defend his title and he found the perfect partner—enter 515 Fitness. The Plainfield facility offers private mental health services while doing exercise activities.

“As a trainer,” says Hood, “I often run into clients who need therapy as well. I was pretty inspired by that concept, and it works.” Hood partnered with the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition to host his event at 515 Fitness in Plainfield on February 15.

Hood is passionate about both mental health awareness and exercise, especially when it comes to lowering suicide rates. “I’m tired of seeing too many first responders, too many leave behind family and kids, when it really wasn’t necessary,” he says. Hood himself uses planking to work things out in his mind. “I have many conversations with myself. I work through relationship issues. I have arguments with myself doing the plank. When you’re preoccupied, it helps with the training.”

When asked what the plank position represents for him, Hood talks about dependability—a concept introduced to him by his cognitive transformation coach, who once wrote him a letter that was signed, “Your friend, the plank.” The pose then took on new meaning for him. “The plank never leaves me—it’s always there to support me,” he says. “It’s like a dog: It gives you unconditional love.”

Hood’s coach would debrief him after every long plank that he did. “I could vent to her,” says Hood. “She helped me process that stuff, instead of keeping it bottled up inside of me. I used to go to events pissed off. That wastes energy, so we tried to avoid that.”

Now that he’s retired, Hood would like to focus on sharing these insights to help others explore their inner resources, which Hood says are very deep and endless. He will soon appear on The Dr. Oz Show and meet with the women’s lacrosse team at Northwestern University. “I want to tap those resources in me and inspire others to tap theirs.”

Photos by Josef Holic