Fitness director looks to break world record

BURR RIDGE – George Hood is the epitome of an Incredible Hulk.

While he performs outstanding feats of strength, deep down, he’s just the mild-mannered Bruce Banner: a normal guy who goes out of his way to help others.

Still, Hood is looking to smash a Guinness World Record – something he’ll set his sights on Saturday – when he sets out to Newport, Ken., in support of the American Heart Association and to break his abdominal plank record.

While he broke the record in March by going more than two hours, it wasn’t Guinness World Record-official.

Hood, the group fitness director at Five Seasons Family Sports in Burr Ridge for the past six months, is an ultra-endurance athlete. Some of the 55-year-old’s accomplishments include jump-roping for more than 13 hours straight, pedaling on a stationary bike for 222-plus hours and doing abdominal planks for longer than two hours.

But the physical goals aren’t what he’s most proud of. Hood, of Aurora, does it all to raise money for nonprofit organizations.

“It’s not just me standing there doing it and hanging on and saying, ‘We’re attempting a record,’ ” said the former Marine and law enforcement agent. “It’s more than that. It’s about raising money and doing what we can to help others.”

Of course, these endurance tests come at a price. When Hood first looked into going after the spin record, it was set at 85 hours. In July 2007, Hood took it to 111 hours.

After that, the record started changing hands and Hood sought to break it by a wide margin – which he did in a ride for the YMCA in 2008 when he increased the record to 177 hours.

In April 2010, after returning from overseas, he wanted to get on the bike again. He rode for the United Way as part of another fundraiser.

“That was the ride that failed,” he said. “We only got to 175 and I literally crashed. It was a huge mental drain.”

While he didn’t set a new Guinness World Record, Hood still raised a large amount of money for the United Way.

But to beat the record, Hood began researching sleep deprivation and conditioned himself physically and mentally. In the fall of 2010, he trained in extreme heat conditions, getting his body used to functioning at all hours of the day and sleeping about four hours a day.

As much training and time Hood put in, eventually his mind started playing tricks on him. At one point, the screen on his bike looked like a video game, but staying mentally focused helped him crush the record by going 222 hours, 22 minutes and 22 seconds.

In 2011, Hood started to challenge a new record testing his mental focus and pain tolerance. The plank is a form of an abdominal push-up and endurance test that works the upper body.

Hood set the record at 1 hour, 20 minutes and five seconds. He has scar tissue-covered elbows to prove it.

“You have to dismiss the agony and pain ... . It’s probably the most excruciating thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “Nobody wears a watch and I can’t know what time it is because that’s the kiss of death.”

To get his body where he needs it to be, Hood planks between three to five hours a day and is up to 12 to 15 hours of plank time a week.

There may be a series of thoughts wandering through Hood’s mind during the plank, but one thing he always thinks about is his three boys.

“This is my legacy,” he said. “Giving up myself, my energies, my talents, my time for the benefit of someone else ... that’s probably going to resonate with my kids long after I’m gone.”