How to Improve Your Mindset with World Record Man George Hood
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How to Improve Your Mindset with World Record Man George Hood

Romain

George Hood was born and raised in Indiana, PA. He is known for his many world records. His last one? Holding a plank position for 8 hours, 15 minutes, and 15 seconds. Impressive, but not even his best performance. George is sharing with us his background in Law Enforcement, from his debuts as a Marine Corps officer to his mission in Afghanistan and his transition into the fitness industry in 2009. He is an amazing human being with a genuine personality. In our conversation, George introduces us to the record-setting world. From the application to the preparation and the D-day. We discuss mindset, mental health, and the importance of showing up, leading by example, and inspiring people.

Can you tell us more about yourself and your background?

George Hood: I am 63 years old and I’m in the best shape of my life! I’ve been blessed with great health that has made this healthy lifestyle of mine possible. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania. This explains why I’m a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Penguins.  I am the oldest of 4 kids and was the first in my family to actually move to the West Coast with the Marine Corps where I was a Marine officer for just about 4 years, after which, I got out of the Marine Corps and started my career in federal law enforcement initially as a special agent with the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service for about 9 years.

I subsequently left NCIS and was hired as a Special Agent by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). I spent approximately 16 years with DEA and was ultimately promoted to a Supervisory Special Agent and retired in DEC 2007. After I retired from DEA, I served in Afghanistan as a law enforcement advisor on counter-terrorism matters and operations to protect U.S. troops.  In 2009, after approximately 6 months on the ground in Afghanistan,  I returned to the U.S. opting to leave that position and make a full transition into the fitness industry.

How did the transition go?

I started as a trainer at a local club here in Naperville, IL where I was fortunate to have had good bosses who taught me the business of being a trainer. And I was fortunate to have good mentors along the way who facilitated my taking on additional leadership and director positions here locally and in Southern CA.  I grew with every position I held and ultimately upon my return from CA to Chicago, my one mentor hired me as a Fitness Director at the YMCA which was the last position I held.  My success in the fitness world, as with anything, is contingent on seeking out good leaders who facilitate your growth and ultimate success.  I was quite fortunate to have had such leadership.

My work at the YMCA is where I did that double world record event in June 2018, where I set the international world record for the longest plank at 10 hours, 10 minutes, and 10 seconds.  That was the first set of what would eventually be 13 total sets of plank time in my quest to be the first human being to set the international world record for the most plank time accumulated in 24 hours. The minimum had to be 16 hours, I ended up accumulating 18 hours, 10 minutes, and 10 seconds. Both of those records still stand today. 

Can you explain behind the scenes of a world record? How does that work?

In Layman’s terms, let me explain the record-setting business. Back in the day, all we had and all we knew about was Guinness World Records. The GWR book was the sole source for the recording of any world record.  It was the resource I used when I attempted my first GWR for the Rope Skipping Marathon in 1986. There were simply no other databases ways to record a world record.  That has since changed with the onset of the internet and other agencies who will certify one’s “world record” attempt. I equate it to the fitness industry where you can obtain your personal trainer certification from just about any accredited source and there are many and one can still have their effort documented.  I’ll always believe that GWR is the lead record repository and to obtain the 7 GWR’s that I have is especially satisfying.  

Jack Lalanne set what I’m calling the world’s first world record for most push-ups in 1956, doing 1,033 in 23 minutes in a TV show and it was known as a world record. If anyone wants to set a Guinness World Record, I’d suggest one go to their website and apply.  It is a detailed process that has stood the test of time.  It’s a detailed process that one must respect. GWR will process your application and inform you that you’ve been approved for the specific record your attempting and provide you with the specific rules and procedures for the submission of evidence, etc.  That’s the Guinness World Record Process. I’ve been with Guinness World Record since1986. I know them quite well as they do me and I hold their standards in very high regard. 

How did you start this desire to break a world record?

Back then in 1986, I met the soccer coach at the field house at Indiana University of PA located in my hometown of Indiana, PA.  He was skipping rope and that was kind of a new trend in fitness.  I’m inquisitive by nature so I wondered how long one might skip rope?  I started to train with rope and set my sights on setting a world record for it, which I did in Honolulu, HI in Oct 1986 at the Nuuanu YMCA in Honolulu. This is where I realized that the road to a world record is one paved by self! 

It’s a conscious decision one makes to train vice “work out” because training implies purpose and intent.  “Working out” is an incomplete sentence and quite vague for me. The desire to continuously challenge myself facilitated my relationship with Guinness World Records.  You set the record and you want to challenge yourself with something else. And therein lies what motivates me. Honest to God, every single day,  I have to show up for my “work” and do what I have told myself I would do.

Extract of our Zoom interview with George Hood

Is the Guinness book the only official option to break a record?

There are other options for getting a record certified. They all have costs associated with them.  I’ve had some of my records certified independent of GWR and are recognized as “world records”.  They all require the submission of evidence.  An attempt cannot be done in a vacuum.  It must be corroborated with witnesses and media coverage as well as photographs and video footage.  I’ve been fortunate to have had a GWR judge on-site at my 7 GWR attempts where certification is immediate. 

I’m always willing to assist those who desire to seek a world record and have it recorded as such.  I organized and facilitated the GWR set by the Canadian female for the “longest female plank” in May 2019.  I know the process and the standards necessary to maintain the certification process of any record attempted.  It’s like when you watch the Olympic Games. You always see 2 times, right? You see WR, the current world record and you see the Olympic record and the two are not necessarily the same. That’s the way it is in the record-setting business.

And during an event, what makes you stop?

Me! I literally call it when I know I’m getting close to the goal I trained for. Thus, I stop knowing there is nothing left in the tank. I “buy” time with the crew with small talk and genuine coaching when we know we’re getting close to the end.  There are two stages in the setting of a world record.

First is the breaking of the existing world record, which is a fleeting moment actually and it comes and goes. Secondly and generally what everybody wants to stick around for,  is what’s going to be the new world records mark. Most folks don’t care what takes place before all that except your crew and those who simply are inspired by the effort. This is mostly true in the long endurance events I do. When you do a long event like that, the crowd comes and goes. I’m one who feeds off of the energy generated by a crowd.  I like feeling like someone cares about what I’m doing. 

It’s similar to a rock concert of sorts. Without a crowd, I must dig deep to avoid potential problems due to the lack of anyone around.  I train smart to avoid such pitfalls and I have a great crew who know how to keep me in the game. That really gets me going. I like those moments and at all my events, we’re always raising money for charitable causes that I’m supporting.

What was the biggest challenge during the world record, physically or even mentally?

My coach, Renae Cobley is a renowned mental cognitive conditioning coach from Australia. She discovered me very early on in my training prior to the event. Renae had been studying me and the mental process I employed to facilitate my success. She knew, as I did,  that this plank record attempt would be the first time where it wasn’t necessary to exceed my previous international record of 10 hours, 10 minutes, 10 seconds set in June 2018.

I also enjoy having both the GWR of 8:15:15 and the International World Record of 10:10:10. The goal was to simply break the existing GWR of 8:01:00.  Even though I’ve exceeded the 8:01:00 record many, many times in training, she knew the potential pitfalls I could get into if, in fact, things started to go sideways and no one would show up or the event would relegate itself to simply another training event.

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Media and public presence are critical to my success on any event day. It validates all the training I’ve done to prepare for a world record attempt and it facilitates the energy exchange I get from both media awareness and public presence. An event is not just another training day…it’s game day!  The presence of the GWR judge on site is a unique situation because his or her role is to certify the attempt on-site and that can sometimes create a bit of pressure. The judge for my most recent GWR had certified my two previous GWR plank attempts in 2011 and 2013. 

My biggest problem is what I call the “Dry Hole Syndrome” where I look out from my perch and nobody is there. And there were times when nobody was there except the crew. Those are all pitfalls that you train yourself to overcome with cognitive conditioning and a strong mindset that you will be successful. The battles one fights in their mind to overcome the demons who will seize upon your weakest moments is something you train to handle. I have to think about it all the time.

What do I do to cope with that?  I turn the music up so loud that the demons will flee and folks will become energized by the music or I ask my crew to get people to do group photos with me so I can be distracted and eventually get back on track. At this last event, we took more group photos because I needed that. I’m not sure those that posed for such pics ever had a clue how much they were helping me. 

Are you checking the time during the event?

No, I have to disassociate myself from the reality of the clock and I simply don’t know the time. My team and those watching me do. People can see the clock behind me. I have no clue where we are on the clock.  Nobody wears a watch.  I block off my phone with tape so I can’t see the time. You don’t want to know the time.  If I want to know the time, I’ll ask for it and only then I must be further ahead than what I thought I was.  

Do you use meditation or visualization techniques to help you go through the pain and all that?

Yes, I do a lot of meditation in training. Preparation is a big part of it too. Last year, I was training here at the house and I was knocking down 30 to 35 hours of plank time a week, usually about five hours a day in three sets or less to train for that attempt. I turn off the TV, no music. It’s just me and my platform. That’s tough but it really strengthens your mind to focus on exactly what you’re doing without the benefit of other physical and/or environmental distractions.

During the attempt, I use what I call “the gallery”. Here, in this head of mine, are images, things, experiences that I have had over the course of my life and which are now stored for my recall at any time. It’s all generally very positive, and personal. It’s very detailed, very graphic, and that is what I grab onto on an event day and I take from that gallery and I sort of start fantasizing about what I am seeing here and there. It’s a very exaggerated way of daydreaming under duress. I don’t watch movies, they are predictable and will put me to sleep. My gallery is always alive!

Do you have a specific diet prior to the event?

Well, I’m not Vegan!  I get asked that a lot and it has absolutely no impact on one’s performance.  One’s diet is their own but we all need a certain balance of carbs, fat, and protein. Training up to 7 hours a day, I know I don’t get enough calories, so I’m at liberty to eat just about anything. During the last event in February 2020, I burned 4,252 calories. The average heart rate was 113 beats per minute.

I have certain traditions before an event as to what I’ll eat and the time parameters necessary to facilitate digestion etc before I start my attempt. The evening meal and the morning meal are sacred to me and I make sure that I’m as light as can be when I start my attempt. Most times, I enjoy my last evening meal with my crew and I have a very light breakfast the morning of the event that I prepare at my place and again scheduling my wake up time at least 3 hours before the event to allow for all that to process and pass through my system. I begin hydrating with water and electrolytes sometimes a day or two ahead of the event and certainly the morning of the event.

No training for two days before the event. It is just about relaxing and really kind of enjoyable for me. I rehearse the event in my head and think of the crew, who does well at handling all the logistics associated with such an event. I’m very picky about everything being in its place. 

Have you ever failed a world record attempt?

Yes! Three of them. I’ve had 16 official attempts. I was unsuccessful on three of them. Each one of those had a lesson to be learned, which are certainly subjects for another day.

George Hood world records list

What are the main benefits of planking?

It’s an efficient total body conditioning exercise.  You can wake up in the morning and do it just about anywhere.  In yoga, the plank pose is an active position of rest. It’s not a dynamic pose at all. It’s very static and you can get into that pose and truly focus on your breathing, your core and if your down long enough, maybe what you’ll do that day.  All of those are subtle distractions that help you pass time. 

Your mind helps you to be balanced psychologically. And your core is what makes everything else be balanced.  A strong core, this exercise will help you to stand up straight, walk straight and with confidence. In addition to this, there are countless supplemental exercises that go with a core training regimen.  I train and consult with many on this new way of training.  After my world record of 4:01:00 in China in 2014, I was credited with bringing the plank mainstream into the fitness industry.  It’s no longer just a yoga pose.

How long do you think an average person can plank?

Most people do a minute, two minutes and think that they’re dying. And, I train folks to improve their plank time in addition to other things. Basically, If I can get you to five minutes, I can have you to an hour within six to eight months.  Anyone can train with me but I only do in-person training.  The pose and the corresponding training requires that.

I will facilitate one’s relationship with the plank and a better “you” will follow! You get better at it. It’s about practice, practice, practice. I worked and trained with the current female plank record holder and ultimately supervised and managed her GWR attempt in May 2019 here in Naperville, IL at an international plank training conference that I hosted.  

Any tips to share with people preparing for an important event?

Don’t psych yourself up. You’re only as good as what you’ve trained for. As I alluded to earlier,  I encourage people before a huge event of any kind to simply rehearse it in your mind over and over so that you know precisely what to expect along the journey. By rehearsing your event from start to finish, there are no surprises. The only surprise I get is that perhaps I’ll perform better than what I expected and that’s a tribute to how well I planned for my effort.

Clear your head

You have to purge all that other crap you might be dealing with it at the time. Whether it be financial issues,  housing, your rent payment, your job, your boss, your girlfriend, all of that must be purged or managed so that you are not distracted.  To think of other things besides your effort will cost you the energy that you need to focus on what you have trained for.  Sometimes, it is not easy to do. But you realize on that day you are that rock star, you’re going to hit a home run for all the right reasons, you’re going to dig deep and you’re going to deliver what you said you would deliver.

More people need to do that in this world. They need to think about showing up and delivering what they said they would deliver. It’s been my experience that many look for shortcuts.  People get too tired, they don’t want to expend the effort to tap into their own internal resources that when harvested properly can result in some amazing transformations. There are no shortcuts.  There is no easy way.  Extreme rewards require extreme effort and hard work.  Show up every day, commit to self and simply get it done!

About setting goals

Everyone should have a goal. Sometimes, this is the “why” for what we do.  For some people, it might just be graduating from high school. For sales guys, it might mean making your quota doing better than you did last month. I just lectured over Hyundai two weeks ago and spoke to their entire sales team. About 50 people packed into a room talking about setting goals, keeping score, and breaking records. That’s nothing new to them. Of course, what they wanted to know was how do we do this day in and day out? Well, it’s your job and this is what you chose to do. So you show up every day, you do your best and deliver what you were hired to do.

The way you decide to build confidence and achieve goals is up to you.  There are plenty of life coaches that can help you.  I’m a trainer and will help one secure realistic and tangible goals.  Otherwise, surround yourself with good people, good mentors. I don’t do this on my own. I got people that have helped me along the way and who had my back when I needed it. You surround yourself with good people, people who are successful. People who you might want to be like.

Always exceed expectations. That’s what you want. Don’t do the minimum. And if you do the minimum on any given day, don’t tell anybody about it.  Also, don’t ever telegraph weakness whether you’re having a bad day or for whatever reason. Because 50% of the people out there don’t care, and the other 50% are happy that you’re miserable in the first place, just like they are.

You decided to partner with a charity for mental health for your last world record. Can you tell us more?

We all have mental health issues at different levels, believe it or not. It is just having the courage to face that when it gets out of control. I have had cops I’ve worked with, agents I’ve known and friends who go are no longer here because situations in their lives got out of control.  There is no stigma to mental health, it’s a component of fitness. Our event in Feb 2020 was an effort to erase the stigma associated with mental health. I’m certain our event and the example we set that day will probably save a life and that makes it all worthwhile! 

Does physical exercise improve mental health?

Absolutely. Fitness keeps you busy. It is constructive and helps improve your own self. Nobody else is going to benefit from what you’re doing other than you. Physically and mentally. We open my event to the public so that folks can witness just what is possible with exercise and training. It gives them a place to answer their own “why” they are present to watch me and participate in the event. 

Many of their answers to that question of “why” were quite compelling and for some very emotional!  It’s when they tell me that that they are inspired is what truly makes me feel great and validates what I do because what I do is very real, there are no tricks or gimmicks.  I’m helping raise money for very worthwhile causes that ultimately help others. 

What is your next record gonna be?

I retired the plank pose in February 2020 after setting the new GWR. After approximately a 10-15 minutes break, I knocked out 75 pushups the pain from which finally broke my addiction to the plank pose and telegraphed what I would like to do next.  I’m currently training to set a new GWR for “Most Pushups in One Hour” and that event is scheduled for March 27, 2021, in Boca Raton, Florida. 

Since January of 2020, I have executed nearly 1.3M pushups to prepare for this next GWR attempt. It’s been a lot of hard work and training has been brutal at times but I truly have no interest in doing another long plank. It’s been a good 9-year relationship with the plank and it has been my best friend on many a day. 

What if someone breaks your record?

I’m always open to a challenge of sorts but that’s a conversation we can have later when and if that opportunity presents itself.  There are some very lucrative venues I wouldn’t mind being at but I’m open to considering my options.  

What does your morning routine look like?

I’m usually up at about 7.30 am. It takes about an hour to get my coffee, get the dog taken care of. And then, I know what lies ahead of me. I get started with my plank, 30-45 minutes. Then I do about 2,000 crunches in all formats. After that, 1,400 various flutter kicks, toes, heels.  Next, I do the leg lifts on both sides, about 700 on each side. And I finish with the push-ups. The day we are making this interview, I did 2,620 pushups in 50 minutes. So I’m on track for where I need to be with regard to that record. No rest day. Every day is a workday.

Do you have some self-care habits?

Yes. It is stuff like this. Engaging and connecting with you and sharing my story. That makes me feel good and it’s therapeutic to some extent because it gives me an outlet to talk and to share my thoughts. I’m the only one who does what I do. I’m often referred to lately as this generation’s next Jack Lallane! 

Do people ask you how to get a six-pack?

They do! [laughs] A gentleman asked me this again the other day, and I said plank, push up, and two thousand crunches a day. That’s the best I can give. If you want something else, we can talk but run with that and see how you do. Most are just not willing to put in the effort to make substantive change. They accept being average and in the U.S. with the obesity rate what it is, that’s not hard to do. 

Really, I like to engage with my people because I have respect for those who reach out. And I’ve touched a lot of lives. I’m known around the world for what I do. The followers I have from India are so grateful for my work and what I have accomplished.   I’ve been called a guru of sorts, one who professes wisdom that comes from what I do, not just the exercise of the plank or push up, but what I can teach people. And I don’t take that title lightly.

They called me Bubba. That’s what they refer to me as in Pakistan and in India. That means a “teacher”, a “leader”.  On any training day at the “prairie” here in Naperville, some would come up there in hopes they might see me on the picnic table where I generally go most days when the weather’s nice and plank. They’ve told me they do that in hopes they might just get a little nugget of knowledge from me. You know, that says a lot and that that means a lot too, I don’t take that lightly.

What is your own definition of success?

Knowing that I did something really amazing that nobody else can do.  I know I set the right example for so many other people who really respect what I do and the work that goes into it.  I often think of my 3 sons, Andrew, Brandon, and Christopher, and what this all means to them.  We don’t talk about it often, but I couldn’t be more proud to be their dad and sharing my experiences with them.  We’re also successful when I know we are raising money and awareness for charity and inspiring others to donate and spread the good word.

Who should we interview next?

That is a really good and very interesting question. Perhaps you might consider my cognitive conditioning coach, Renae Cobley, who does great work and is in Australia. 

George Hood tips about mindset

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If you enjoyed our conversation with George Hood, you may like: Mindset pivot with NBA life coach David Nurse

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Romain
Romain

Romain Wawrzyniak is our Editor-in-Chief. His enthusiasm and kindness make his guests feel comfortable creating intimate conversations and priceless insights.

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