World Cup for an abdominal workout
There’s a World Cup each for soccer, cricket and even rhythmic gymnastics. But have you heard of one for planking?
In June, some 2,000 people flocked to the Galaxy Soho in Beijing to participate in the first-ever World Cup for planking, an abdominal exercise that looks like a push-up stuck in the “up” position. The challenge is to stay in that pose for as long as possible.
Contestants, who planked on blue and pink yoga mats, included a 12-year-old girl, a 75-year-old retired teacher and Pan Shiyi, co-founder and chairman of Soho China, who supported his weight with only one arm. The event was recognized by the Guinness World Records for the largest number of people planking simultaneously.
At the finals, held at the China National Convention Center the following day, another world record was made. George Hood, a former United States marine and now personal trainer, stayed on his elbows and toes for four hours and one minute to break his existing Guinness record of 3:07:15 for the “longest time in an abdominal plank position”.
I was incredulous when I heard about thatWorld Cup and learned that the GuinnessWorld Records actually has a category on planking. The exercise was always something I dreaded inmy gym, especially when the instructors made people repeatedly move their arms and legs to the side while holding the plank.
Another torturous variation I’ve experienced is bringing one knee toward an elbow three times before repeating the movement on the other knee.
Yes, the plank is a strengthening workout and helps promote good posture. But I never imagined someone would stay in that muscle-burning position for almost the entire time it would take me to fly home toManila.
Planking must attract only a niche group of fitness enthusiasts (including former US ambassador to China Gary Locke, who was also at the PlankWorld Cup), I toldmyself. I didn’t think many Chinese people, who love playing badminton and ping-pong, dancingandswimming, would be attracted to such a stationary workout.
Boy, was I wrong. It turns out that planking hasbecomeso popular in parts ofChina this year that many colleagues have incorporated it into their fitness regimens.
DuXiaoying, a fellow reporter who took up planking as a new way to stay fit, even participated in the World Cup, excited at the prospects of helping the tournament achieve a newworld record. After starting to do the exercise about two months before the competition, she doubled her personal best to 3:02 at the event.
What is so appealing about planking? I detest running, but I’ll take 20 minutes of it over even three minutes of the punishing ab exercise.
“It’s supposed to make you lose weight fast,” says Lei Xiaoxun, a page editor at the newspaper, who discovered the exercise when he saw another colleague doing it. “I sweat a lot whenever I do it.”
According to Hood, Chinese people are drawn to it because the root of planking is “deeply invested in yoga and Buddhist culture”. Media reports have quoted him as saying: “They respect the true meaning of the plank and the energy that can be generated.”
Underneath the burning pain and dripping sweat also lies a modicum of fun. Lei’s 3-year-old son started planking while watching his father work out. After four months of doing the exercise twice a week, Lei has taken a break, but his son hasn’t.
The boy set a personal record of 2:46 the first time he tried the exercise, which is probably a better time than that of some participants at the Plank World Cup. I know it putsmy own record to shame.