Plank ranks high among the deceptively excruciating yoga poses, both because it engages basically all the muscles — back, abs, chest, hips, butt, legs, arms, freaking toes — and because it is very boring. You just hover there, nowhere to look but down or (if you enjoy neck strain) a little bit in front of you or slightly to the sides; nothing to do except listen to your tendons scream as the somehow-minute-long seconds tick by. What is the longest you would voluntarily assume the dread position? A minute? Five?
Child’s play: Ex-Marine George Hood from Naperville, Illinois, just planked for eight hours, 15 minutes, and 15 seconds, reclaiming the Guinness World Record for longest plank and raising a whole raft of questions. Chief among them, why? And relatedly, to what end? How did he pee, and drink, and entertain himself, and also how did this feat even occur to him? Some of those we can answer — he peed through a catheter and had fluids piped directly into his mouth, according to the New York Times, and he had the dulcet tones of Deep Purple and Van Halen for diversion — but some we cannot.
Hood told the Washington Post that he got hooked on plank after trying the exercise in 2011, the same year he went on to set one of his many planking world records. The pose has become meditative for him: “When I plank, I don’t have to sit in traffic. I don’t have to buy gas. I don’t have to sit and listen to anyone … complain about how tired they are,” Hood said. “I just plank and that gives me all the satisfaction I need. … My plank is my best friend.” He also said he wanted to set a positive fitness example for his age group — Hood is 62 — and take back the title from his nemesis, Mao Weidong of China, while raising money for a local mental and physical therapy outfit in the process. So I guess that covers the “why.”
But consider, for a moment, the mounting tension as you round the corner on a full hour of plank, your body having become a giant pulsing neck vein. The moment you think your eyeballs will burst is maybe the moment when your howling muscles start to harden into cement, your jaw clinching your teeth together with molar-cracking intention. Everything burns until you can’t feel anything at all; until eventually you must spend 12 minutes defrosting your joints so that you may begin the descent from plankéd purgatory. Again, I must ask: why.
It’s nap pose for me, or nothing.