Wednesday, June 19, 2024

‘Unbelievable’: Grandmother of 12 breaks Guinness World Record by planking for 4.5 hours

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DonnaJean Wilde of Canada set the record 10 years after she began planking and discovered that a lifetime of maintaining good fitness meant that she had a knack for the challenging core exercise

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DonnaJean Wilde planks while she’s reading. She planks while she’s checking her phone and emails, too.

The 59-year-old from Alberta, Canada has mastered planking so much that she broke the women’s Guinness World Record for the longest time in an abdominal plank position, Guinness has announced.

Planking, which strengthens core muscles, involves holding oneself in a push-up position while resting on the forearms. Some people can only hold it for a few seconds, some for a minute or even several minutes.

But Wilde can hold her plank, it turns out, for 4 1⁄2 hours.

Wilde tells USA TODAY how she got into planking

Wilde recently planked the winning time in the theater at Magrath High School, the very school she retired from, surrounded by her children, grandchildren, students at the school and staff. 

Her interest in planking started about 10 years ago when her children started doing planking challenges, Wilde told USA TODAY on Wednesday.

She had broken her wrist in an accident at school but didn’t let that stop her from trying to plank herself. She found that she could do it, and pretty well at that.

“I kept doing that for about six or eight weeks while I had my cast on,” she said. “I found that I could read my school lessons and mark some papers and read emails … I felt like I was working out even with a cast and I loved the feeling it gave me.”

She kept planking as part of her daily workout routine and eventually applied to set a Guinness World Record after her family encouraged her to do so. 

Preparing for the big day

Wilde started training about a year ago. She did longer planking sessions and tried to fit in five or six hours of planking a day. She’d do two-hour sessions, then three-hour sessions, she said.

 She also did cross-training like running, skipping, lifting weights and other activities.

She tried to read motivational books about athletes, too, learning about how they trained their minds for competitions.

When she applied for the record, Guinness sent her guidelines, prompting her to make a few changes to her workout routine.

“I used to plank for years, always in shoes, and I couldn’t do that,” she said. “I had to be in bare feet. I also couldn’t touch my hands together, my hands had to be apart and I had to have perfect form.”

Before her record-breaking attempt, she prepared uplifting talks on her phone to listen to the day of the event.

“I could just listen but also concentrate on my form,” she said.

Retired school teacher reached her goal surrounded by loved ones

Wilde said almost all of her children were there the day she broke the record, as well as her grandchildren.

She chose the theater at her former job because she needed a public space to complete the challenge. Throughout the day, people came to sit and watch and they even had carpets down on the floor so if students wanted to plank with her, they could, she said.

During the challenge, she looked up at the crowd quite a bit. 

At times, the theater was full of people, including students she once taught, she said.

“It was encouraging and very fun,” she said. “It was so wonderful to see students cheering me on and my family cheering me on.”

The most difficult part of the challenge, she said, was the last hour. 

“The last hour was probably the toughest hour,” she said. “It was getting close and I was getting super excited, and maybe a little bit emotional.”

Record-setter has ‘always loved sports and running’

Wilde, a mother of five and grandmother of 12, said she comes from a very active family and coached high school volleyball.

“I’ve always loved sports and running,” she said. “I love to run and work out … Fitness and health and nutrition was something that was really important in my family growing up.”

“My husband is very active and fit too, so it’s kind of just been a lifestyle for us,” she said.

She said breaking the record was “unbelievable” and it still feels like a dream. It also taught her something she can pass on to the students she substitute teaches.

“I always try to encourage them, especially since I broke this record, that if you do something you like continuously, you’re going to get better at it,” she said. “It’s going to become easier for you and then you never know where it’s going to lead.”

She doesn’t want her students to look back at their experiences and say “I wish I had tried harder” or had taken that opportunity.

“You never know what opportunities are going to be at the door,” she said.

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757. Follow her on Twitter at @SaleenMartin or email her at sdmartin@usatoday.com.

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