Professor breaks push-up, chin-up record while grade-school students cheer

March 29, 1995|By McClatchy News Service

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- In 1 hour, 17 minutes and 9 seconds yesterday afternoon, John Zelezny did 1,006 chin-ups and 1,006 push-ups in the breezy multipurpose room at Mountain View Elementary School.

Under the watchful eyes of four counters and hundreds of cheering students, Dr. Zelezny, a journalism professor at California State University, Fresno, broke fitness guru Jack LaLanne's 35-year-old world record of 1,000 of both exercises in 1 hour, 22 minutes.

As Dr. Zelezny reached 990 of each, all of the adults and many of the more than 300 students in the school's multipurpose room jumped to their feet to count out the final repetitions.

Enthusiastic cheering followed as students crowded up to the exercise area. Television cameras moved in.

Dr. Zelezny, 39, raised his hands, nodded and smiled to the jubilant students. Then he jumped up to grab the chin-up bar, did six, then dropped to the floor and pumped six more push-ups. World record.

Dr. Zelezny's son, Reed, 8, rushed over to his father for a hug and kept jumping up to towel off his face. Daughter Serena, 11, a sixth-grader, reached in for a hug while his wife, Lynnette, leaned over for a kiss.

"He's a very excellent hero," said Reed, a second-grader.

Inspiration was what Dr. Zelezny's attempt at a world record was all about.

"I was in high school when I clipped an article that mentioned the [chin-up and push-up] record by Jack LaLanne," he said. "I kept it because I thought it might be something that I might be able to do."

"He's been an inspiration to many," he said, "and continues even today. . . . He turned 80 last year." Mr. LaLanne was 45 when he set the record in October 1959.

Just before Christmas, Dr. Zelezny called Mr. LaLanne to talk about an attempt at the record.

"He told me that this was a tough feat for him," Dr. Zelezny recalled. "His hands were all chewed up, and he had blisters on top of his blisters."

Dr. Zelezny said he wanted to take a crack at the record before he got much older. Since his children attend Mountain View, he approached Principal Dave Derby about staging the attempt at the school.

"I thought it might be a nice opportunity to add some motivation for the kids, and the principal agreed, so we decided to give it a try at the school."

Mr. Derby said the event was timed for fitness week, when students go through physical performance testing.

"What we want them to learn from this is perseverance," Mr. Derby said.

Goals that may seem impossible, he said, can be achieved with hard work and determination.

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