Santa Rosa man pulls up a world record
Jared Stearns, Special to The Chronicle
Friday, December 9, 2005
Pull-ups always came easy to Guy Schott. But he never thought the exercise would make him a record-breaker.
Last month, Schott, a 42-year-old engineer who lives in Santa Rosa, set out to break the world record for most pull-ups in one hour. A week after he filmed himself doing 644 in 60 minutes, he got word from the folks at Guinness World Records that he was the new record holder -- beating the previous record by 71 pull-ups.
"I needed some challenge," Schott said. Sitting in his cubicle in downtown Santa Rosa one Saturday afternoon in November, Schott is wearing a polo shirt tucked into his Levi's, and sneakers. Schott works at the Department of Health Services, where he is the associate sanitary engineer. "I needed motivation to keep me working out."
Growing up on a farm in Pixley (Tulare County), Schott said he always kept physically fit. However, his first foray into regulated exercise was not promising: When he was 7, a cousin offered Schott a nickel for every pull-up. He made 20 cents. It wasn't until his early 20s, when he saw a TV documentary about a world-class rock climber, that he felt the nudge of inspiration. Schott says he admired the climber's determination and strength and felt he could meet a similar challenge. He decided to try to match the world record for pull-ups -- at the time there was a record of 135 consecutive pull-ups. He got up to about 90, he said, but then lost interest.
In May, Schott saw a show about fitness guru Jack LaLanne, someone Schott used to watch on TV and admire growing up, and he was reminded of the pull-up record. By this time, the 20-year-old record had been shattered by a man in the United Kingdom who did more than 500 in one hour.
After a mere month of training, Schott said, he was ready. However, his doctor gave him a warning.
"My doctor said I have the neck of an 80-year-old," Schott said, citing injuries from playing as a catcher in the adult Redwood Empire Baseball League in Sonoma County. Although his neck never gave him problems while he did the pull-ups, his doctor warned that he could do more harm to his neck, and it sometimes did bother him after training.
"It was so painful I couldn't sleep at night," Schott said. Still, he persisted. "When you get knocked down, you want to get back up."
"It was just devastating to him," said his wife, Ann, 35, referring to the pain. "I think his neck was one of the things that motivated him. I was nervous that he was going to injure himself more. But he knows his body so well."
Every day, Schott gets up at 5 a.m. for a run. Then he does a series of pull-ups, push-ups and stretches. He doesn't use free weights. He tries to do around 800 pull-ups and 900 push-ups a week, he said.
"To be honest, I don't like to exercise," he said. "The hardest part is getting out of bed and going running in the cold. It takes a lot of mental discipline. I almost feel I'm really lazy."
His wife, however, said his exercise routine is "an obsession," although he's not worried about gaining weight. He stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 150 pounds. "He's a chocoholic," she said. "He eats a banana split every night."
In late October, Schott and his wife searched for places where he could film himself trying to break the record. They settled on the Airport Health Club in Santa Rosa. The only reason he didn't film himself in the garage was because he couldn't get the right camera angle, he said.
In order to count as a pull-up, his chin had to clear the pull-up bar. Schott started from a dead hang. Guinness requires that the arms be relatively straight on the down position. Schott said in preparation for the event, he videotaped himself in his garage and modified his technique to comply with the Guinness rules.
Two cameras were set up. One filmed Schott from the back, the other from the side. Three people were asked to act as judges and record the number of pull-ups. Guinness requires that one of the judges be a certified trainer, so a friend of Ann's who is a trainer volunteered and met Schott the day of the event; Schott's boss, Bruce Burton, was the second judge; and a pull-up enthusiast who had heard about Schott's attempt and had come down to watch was asked by Schott to be the third witness.
Schott also kept track, writing the number of pull-ups he completed in 28- and 29-second intervals. Schott tried to complete five to six pull-ups in each interval.
He said his biggest concern was the steel bar, suspended from the ceiling and 7 feet off the ground. He had never practiced on it before. At home, he did his pull-ups on a 2-by-4 beam in his garage, although he had installed a metal bar in August to get used to a round bar. Even after putting rubber from bicycle handles on the metal bar for a better grip, Schott said, he started to get blisters during the event.
"I didn't think I would break the record," he said. "I wasn't feeling the best that week. My kids were sick with the flu, and I worried about getting sick myself. It goes through your mind, but you keep on going. One fear is that you just can't do it anymore."
Schott's supporters didn't have any doubts. His wife said she knew he would break the record. So did Burton.
"He's one of the hardest working people I've ever known," said Burton, who's known Schott for 12 years. "He approaches everything in an organized manner."
Even though Schott said he didn't do as many as he'd like, he completed 644 pull-ups in 60 minutes -- enough to set the world record.
Schott's record was accepted just this week by "The Book of Alternative Records" to which he also submitted the tapes. In the next six months, he wants to break his own record and complete 700 in an hour.
Even though he's a world-record holder, Schott remains modest and invokes his children, two boys ages 5 and 2.
"I'm just someone who's trying to keep in shape so I can do stuff with my kids when they're older," he said.