It’s high time I finished off my birthday challenge. Before I can recap I need to report on the last day, which was the final “big challenge” of the eight I scheduled over the 53 days. I hoped to do around half of a full-day event dubbed “The World’s Fitness Champion” to see if it were something I fancied training for in the future. Given the event’s odd history, this post must begin with some lore.
The World’s Fitness Champion
In late 90s, a triathlete added a bunch of exercises to the end of an ironman, dubbed himself “the world’s fittest man,” and issued a challenge. Soon after, fitness fanatic Joe Decker, beat the record and then trademarked the moniker, actually becoming The World’s Fittest Man (TM).
While difficult, his marks were far from unbeatable, which an eccentric Texan named Rob Powell proved when he eclipsed Decker’s marks, only to run into legal hassles when he claimed to be the new “World’s Fittest Man”. Undeterred, Powell turned the event into a competition by setting standards and issuing a title of “World’s Fitness Champion” to the person who then did it the fastest.
The event never caught on. One reason is certainly difficultly but there are others. While events like Ironman and ultra marathons are natural extensions of things people already enjoyed doing, it’s a rare individual who likes to spend hour after hour in a gym, toiling away with weights and fitness machines. Furthermore, the actual numbers of the event aren’t captivating, and perhaps even bizarre. The list below only makes sense if you know the story from the beginning.
Current non-standardized “World Fitness Champion”
2 Mile Swim
110 Mile Cycle
20 Mile Row
12 Mile Hike
20 Mile Elliptical
1,250 Push Ups
1,250 Jumping Jacks
Lift 300,000 Pounds of Weights (Bench Press, Seated Row, Lats Pulls, Curls, Triceps Extension – 30,000 pound minimum of each discipline.)
Current record: 17:45:03* (disputed)
Finally, nobody seems clear on the rules. A handful of people have laid claim to this title over the last decade. Powell disputes them all and, sure enough, everyone who’s done it seems to offer their own set of rules, list of exercises, and what is an acceptable way to do them. The event, if it can even be called that, is a mired confusion.
It’s worth noting that most of my friends can’t make it through more than a page of its Interweb banter before dismissing it as ridiculous. It’s far from polished, even as a thought process, much less an event. More open minded about exotic challenges, I found myself intrigued, particularly by Decker’s version. He did most of the sports outside. Like me, he had a broad fitness background that, unlike most endurance athletes, also included a lot of upper body strength training.
In an effort to make it more accessible, Powell moved the event indoors to exercise machines; probably thinking it would increase the number of competitors because all you needed was a well-stocked gym. Instead, it had the opposite effect. As it stands, the event looks monotonous and is only convenient if your local gym happens to be open for 24 hours. Combine it with the fact that very few strength athletes are interested in endurance and you’ve got a recipe for obscurity, even in a day and age where ultra events are commonplace.
I am excited by both obscurity and monotony when it comes to exercise. I also have a background in power and endurance sports. This unique combination means that, well, even at an advanced age I might have a shot at something coined as “world’s champion”. I decided to take a test drive to see if I wanted more. Here’s how it went.
Beset by an intestinal ailment over the final week of my challenge, it was about all I had to tick off the remaining numbers of my actual objectives. Feeling better on day 53, I decided it would be a fitting final test. It gave me a new appreciation for Powell’s vision.
It was boring. I mean, like, really boring. I heightened this by cycling indoors, which I don’t think Powell did. An activity steeped in anecdotes of its tedium.
“When I can do 5 hours on the trainer looking at a blank wall, I’m ready for Race Across America.”
– Race Across America legend, John Howard (insinuating 5 hrs indoors is worth 8 days outside on a bike)
I did the goal I’d set, somewhere in the 30 to 40% range of total volume, in about seven hours, all at a pace I thought I could keep up indefinitely. This puts me in the ballpark of Powell’s fastest time if I were to see it through.
53 miles bike, 5.3m run, 5.3m hike, 53 laps pool, 5.3 mile row, 5.3m elliptical, 530, 530 push-ups, 530 leg lifts, 530 jumping jacks, 530 crunches, lift 53,000lb (bench, rows, lat pulls, curls, tri extension)
While there is hope, I’m not sure there is desire. The physical crux would likely be lifting 300,000 pounds doing only the five exercises on the list. 53k took about an hour, I was tiring a little, and would need to continue at that pace to get near to Powell’s time, which is far from a sure thing. My butt also hurt from being seated on non-moving objects for so long, but that can be strategized. . To tick the entire event, however, would as much patience of fitness. I’ll toil, outside, for a long time. But the gym setting is vastly different. Whether or not I could beat Powell’s time is irrelevant to me. It would take a ton of training and another level of psyche to complete it, fast or slow.
Regardless, I’m not going to try, at least right now. After my challenge I’m motivated to get away from random volume and to do some proper sports training. I’m thinking about a way to make some standards for both winter and summer outdoor sports along these lines, which I think could be very cool. If I do this–or someone else does–it will increase the chances that I’ll find the motivation to have a go, probably as part of a trilogy. More on this later….
Not with a bang, but a whimper
This was a very non-triumphant way to finish my challenge. Being both boring and not-terribly-challenging is the perfect storm for dull. I could have gone bigger but I had a vacation planned, had just been sick, and it didn’t seem worth it since I wasn’t near my best and could have wound up injured. I managed to climb 8 routes the next day, without falling off, so I wasn’t really pushed anywhere near a limit. Not exactly the way you want to end a challenge. I’ll recap the entire event shortly.
Now the challenge numbers…
Synopsis – Done. So psyched it over. Off to the pub!
The Big Days/Weekends
The Santa Barbara 53 – DONE (click to read)
Magnificent 7 & Terrible 2 – DONE (click to read)
5 Routes, 3 Trails, 6 Summits on Mt Olympus – DONE (click to read)
25hours of Frog Hollow – DONE (click to read)
Lift 530,000 pounds – DONE (click to read)
Climb 53 Routes and eat 5 Fritters – DONE (click to read)
World’s Fitness Champion trial run: 53 miles cycling, 5.3 miles running, 5.3 miles hiking, 530 push-ups, 530 jumping jacks, 530 leg lifts, 530 crunches, 5.3 miles of rowing, 5,3 miles of elliptical, 5 climbing routs, 53,000 pounds lifted (bench, row, pull-downs, curls, triceps ext) DONE
Reading & questions answered: /2809 (53/day) – 28 & 40 (530 questions and 2,530 pages) Will be sad to finish The Charlie Francis Training System. For a training book it’s quite a page turner.
Servings of Shakeology: /53 – 1(53) – w/ water
Days of Ultimate Reset: /5.3 0(5.3)
Days taking supplements: /53 – 1(53)
Days of no alcohol: /53 -0(48)*****
Days of no meat: /53 – 1(54)
Coffee Cycles: /5.3 – DONE
King Pin fritters: /5 0
Beachbody workouts: /53 –0(53)
Push-ups: /5300 – 0(5,320) 530*
Jumping jacks: /5300 – 0(5,300) 530*
Leg lifts: /5300 – 0(5,320) 530*
Crunches: /5300 – 0(5,370) 530*
Ab Ripper X Moves: /5300 – 0(5400) [110,900]
Beast back day: /53,000 lbs. 0(54,000) [129,200] 18,500*
Beast chest day: /53,000 lbs. 0(53,000) [59,700] 17, 900*
Beast shoulder day: /53,000 lbs. 0(53,000) [59,800] 9,400*
Beast leg day: /53,000 lbs. 56,000 (56,000) [125,500]
Beast arm day: /53,000 lbs. 0(53,000) [68,100] 9,100*
P90X2 functional warm-up: /53 –1(54)
Running drills: /53 – 0(53)
Neuro-integrating stretching: /53 – 1(54)
Iron Mind gripper and extensor band reps: /10600 0(10730)
Breath hold sessions: /53 – 0(53)
Stabilizer sessions: /53 – 0(53)
Internal Organ Training: /53 – 0(53)
5.11 Climbs: /5 0(6)  climbs under 5.11 
5.12 Climbs: /3 0(3) 
5.11 Boulder transverses: /5 – 0(5)
5.12 Boulder transverses: /3 – 0(3)
Campus board movements: /530 – 0(531)
Climb-specific pull-ups: /530 – 0(540)
Cycling on road bike: /53 miles 0(55) 
Cycling on mountain bike: /53 miles 0(54) [100, 105]
Cycling on cyclocross bike: /53 miles 0(54)
Cycling on time trial bike: /53 miles 0(53) 53*
Cycling on fixed gear bike: /53 miles 0(53)
Cycling on single speed bike: /53 miles 0 (54) 
Cycling on tandem bike: /53 miles 0(53)
Hiking: /53 miles 0(59)  5.3*
Running: /53 miles 0(53) 5.3*
30 minutes of rowing: /5 times 0(5) 57m*
30 minutes of elliptical: /5 times 0(5) 53m *
30 minutes of swimming: /5 times 0(0)Hours of travel 0(47) FAILED (trip cancelled to LA final week, did drive 6 hrs day after)
Tasks for his wife: /53 –2(54)
Chores around the house: /53 – 1(57)
Tasks for his dogs: /53 – dogs are basically sidekicks so this one’s a freebie
Blog posts: /53 – 1 (54)
Team Beachbody Instructional Videos: /5 0(7)
Team Beachbody Video Chat /5 0(8)
Days keeping these stats: /53 – 1(53)
ADDED CHALLENGE – GIVE AWAY 53 THINGS 2(53)
A Few Challenges of Yore