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Planking for Rapha House #GrandpaCanPlank

By: Richard Aal, US OPEN Racquetball Player

Last year at the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Tournament, we proved that #GrandpaCanPlank and received nearly $6,000 in pledges, and exceeded it by raising $7,100!

Because I have daughters, Rapha House is near and dear to my heart.

In my late twenties I through my back out helping a friend take a camper off his truck.  The back injury would crop up every few years and at the most inopportune times.  When my back went out it was a few days to recover and I was useless during that time, walking like an old man, unable to lift anything and certainly in no shape to play racquetball.  Many years later and at a physical therapist appointment for my back injury, I asked the therapist why this kept happening and how I could prevent it.  I explained that I worked out regularly and included deadlifts, roman sit-ups, as well as other back exercises.  She explained to me that my back was not the issue, the issue was my core.  She gave me some exercises to do and explained to me that a two-minute plank was the sign of a solid core.  At the time I could do maybe 30 seconds.

Over time I would plank often and when I was planking on a regular basis my back was less susceptible to being thrown out, and when I felt the familiar twinge I was able to play through it, I credit her advice to my interest in planking.

Things picked up a few years ago when I was messaging with Cheryl Gudinas ( Woman’s Professional Racquetball Player), and somehow we came up with a challenge to see who could get to 10 minutes of straight planking first- we were supposed to have the “plank off” at the US Open 2016 I think, but it was just private between her and I.  We never ended up planking that year but her best time at that point was 9 minutes and I was at 7:15, I would have lost but I was still competitive enough to want to try.  At some point later I hit ten minutes while in Stockton warming up for a tournament, I was ecstatic!

I started to post my plank times on Facebook as a way to self motivate and perhaps inspire others.  My first grandchild was born 9/9/2017 and someone ( I can’t honestly remember who), commented that my planking was very impressive, especially for a grandpa – hence the hashtag of #GrandpaCanPlank !

In September of 2018, John Scott called me out and challenged me to plank at the US Open, he said he would donate $25 per minute to Rapha House for each continuous minute I could hold a plank on center stage at the US Open.

The caveat was that I had to find 9 other sponsors to match his offer or the deal was off.  I took that challenge and began asking for sponsors, the second or third person I asked wanted to know what my goal was and I said, 15 minutes had a nice ring to it, they quickly pointed out that 16 minutes would be a nice round number of $400 per sponsor- and so the revised goal was set.  I ended up with several the 10 sponsors plus many more with lessor amounts but in the end, I planked 16 minutes and raised $7,100.

This year I want others to compete against me, either alone or in tag teams and I want those teams to get sponsors, I think we can easily double last years numbers and I’d like to see $20k!!!

I’m not going to say what my goal is but keep an eye on my Facebook if you want to see how I am doing. Thank you for reading my story and I hope to see many of you pledging to Rapha House and plenty of you cheering or planking along at the US Open this year!

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