Edina's Jim Ogg Aims for Planking World Record
Jim Ogg made a run for a Guinness world record in a category he calls “as exciting as watching paint dry.”
The 68-year-old retired architect in Edina maintained the plank position—an exercise in holding your body weight off the ground with only forearms and toes—for 50 minutes and 8 seconds in October. The London-based arbiter of the biggest, smallest and quirkiest feats is currently adjudicating Ogg’s feat. His attempt would best Australian Paul Drinan’s previous record of 33:40 set in May.
“It’s strange,” says Ogg, a 40-year runner and 20-year cross-country skier of his newfound hobby. “It’s exactly like watching paint dry because there is nothing going on.
“You are totally stationary,” he continues. “It’s an isometric exercise. You are certainly spending a lot of energy, but you have to control your breathing just like running a race.”
The former Marine jet pilot went to the Southdale YMCA for a session with personal trainer P.J. Eichten last spring. During the evaluation, Eichten had Ogg do a plank.
“I did it a couple of minutes and he said, ‘Wow, you’re in pretty good shape,’” Ogg recalls. “While I was in the plank position, I asked, ‘How long can you do it?’ He said, ‘Oh, I suppose seven minutes.’ So, arbitrarily, I went ahead and did it for six or seven minutes.”
Sixty seconds in the plank position is considered an introductory benchmark of healthiness, but Ogg did it for 420 seconds in his first attempt. He then did it again at home for 14 minutes, or 840 seconds, before returning to the YMCA.
Rumor of Ogg’s seven-minute plank had spread at the Y, and he received a legend’s welcome upon his second visit.
“That surprised me because it wasn’t a big deal,” Ogg says. “I never specifically trained for it and didn’t know that I had the capability to do it.”
But now he was into it. He did another plank for 25 minutes. Eichten asked him what the record was. Ogg responded with 19:58. He had just beaten it, but needed to make it an official challenge to the record.
“I thought that was a low time, and when I looked it up, I was surprised,” Ogg says. “If it had been higher, I might not have even tried.”
In June, Ogg held the position for 33 minutes and 28 seconds before Guinness’ required documentation of two video cameras, two timers, two witnesses and photographs. He submitted it to Guinness and waited as they underwent an eight-week review process. Meanwhile, Australia’s Drinan, also 68, had submitted his time of 33:40 from May, making Ogg’s attempt moot by 12 seconds.
“I’m really sorry about that,” Drinan wrote Ogg in an email.
Ogg responded, “Congratulations—you beat me before I had even made an effort.” He added, “With any luck, I will give you reason to do it again.”
Paula Ogg, Jim’s wife of 46 years, says the plank endeavor is just his latest goal. He’s trekked the Himilayas; he paints; he built the three-season porch on their home.
“He answers to challenges,” Paula says.
So, Ogg, who has finished 29 marathons, wasn’t going to quit when the Aussie ousted his time. He just planned a second attempt.
“I just controlled my breathing better,” he says. “Just kind of listened to my body and equated it to how it feels once you’re finishing a marathon. You get in the last painful miles. I feel much worse at the end of a marathon and I keep going. It was a mental process and just keep extending it.”
The record went from about 20 minutes to 24 to 34 and now possibly to Ogg’s 50 minutes in about a year, so Ogg doesn’t believe his time is invincible.
“Most of the world doesn’t know that it’s a competition,” Ogg says. “So it depends on who discovers it.”
Jacob Greenberg, a bulky power lifter and personal trainer, served as a witness during Ogg’s 50-minute milestone. He’s 23, but says there’s no way he could rival Ogg, estimating that he could hold a plank for maybe 15 minutes.
“I thought it was amazing,” Greenberg says. “Awesome.”
At press time for our January issue, Guinness was still reviewing Ogg’s latest attempt. On December 30, 2011, Ogg learned that while he was waiting for his results, an Australian man had recorded a time of 50 minutes, 11 seconds. Thus, Ogg's record attempt of 50 minutes, eight seconds, was null and void by a mere three seconds. Ogg is currently debating whether to make another run for the world record.
What’s the plank position?
-It’s an isometric exercise where you hold your body weight off the ground.
Here’s how it’s done:
-Lie down facing the floor. Push off until your forearms and toes are the only points of contact with the floor. Clasp your hands individually. Keep your back flat. Try to remain straight without sagging in or sticking your rear end out. Hold that position for up to a minute or more.
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