World Cup for an ab­dom­i­nal work­out

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE15 - By TIF­FANY TAN tif­fany@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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