Chin-up record attempt set for Tsawwassen gym
It was a reassuring, youthful wink that helped secure victory more than 30 years ago.
And judging by the confident sparkle still in the eyes of Stan Fiddis today, reaching his current goal looks to be within reach.
It's just a matter of performing 60 or so chin-ups within a minute and the 57-year-old fitness coach will set a Guinness World Record, something Fiddis is planning to embark on April 28 at Tsawwassen Fitness.
That's where all comers are invited to do their best to beat the current mark of 57 that, according to the Guinness Records website, is held by Guy Schott who managed the feat at the Sonoma YMCA in Santa Rosa, California on Dec. 20, 2008.
In addition to the record, a $1,000 prize is on the line.
But away from the notoriety and cash Fiddis is focused on the bigger picture—one that ignited his competitive fires at an early age.
"I started doing chin-ups when I was a kid, about 12 or 13, growing up in East Vancouver," Fiddis says after a recent training session in Tsawwassen. "We didn't have a lot of workout equipment back then. But we did have a soccer field with a fence. And so we took some of the wire off the top of it at the gate and did chin-ups."
Those in the group would challenge each other to see who could do the most. Whoever lasted the longest would win the day and not much more than bragging rights until the next impromptu contest, he said.
"I had a competitive spirit and I won my fair share. And when I did win I liked it so much that I made sure I was the best," he says laughing.
The chin-up total back then?
"Oh, I think we'd get up to around 15, something like that. Not the kind of numbers I'm hitting now," Fiddis says. "It was fun. It was a good way to build up strength. We also played a lot of soccer as well. And when I got a little older I actually got into gymnastics and did a lot of that."
Finding the right stage
The foundation was set. But Fiddis had yet to come across a stage to display his ability. That came just over a decade or so later at the now defunct Sea Festival in Vancouver in the early 1980s.
"They held a chin-up challenge at Second Beach and a police officer won it doing 30 chin-ups," Fiddis says, adding the event was not timed. "It was based on how many you could do."
Fiddis wasn't aware of the contest that first year and only found out about it after it was over.
"I was at Kits Beach later working out and this little kid was there and I asked him if he could count," Fiddis says, adding he asked the youngster about the previous day's chin-up contest and the 30 done by the winner.
"I'm going to do more than that right now," he told the boy and proceeded to rattle off 35.
"I knew they were going to do this contest again—it was put on by the B.C. Lung Association. So, the following year I went back and the same police officer was there."
Only this time, the defending champion had plenty of support with other police members on horseback, and motorcycles cheering him on.
"So, I just sorta sat back in the audience. And some people got up and did what they could do. And he (policeman) still beat everybody."
And when the event's announcer called for any other challengers to step forward, Fiddis emerged.
"I meekly put my hand up and said I wouldn't mind trying."
Fiddis admits he was in pretty good shape back then.
"I was wearing a pretty big sweat shirt and when I took if off everyone could see I was really ripped."
There was a collective "oooohhh," from the onlookers.
"To win I had to beat 30," Fiddis says.
Cue the "wink."
"So I did 30, stopped, looked over at the police officer, winked, and did 20 more."
Fiddis said the reigning champ left the scene before he completed the 50 to beat the Sea Festival record.
That was the start of several years of winning the competition until the Sea Festival was canceled.
"We had team and speed competitions for about six years straight," Fiddis says.
While all that is fond history, what made Fiddis want to try and eclipse a performance set in his youth?
"I was training one of my friends about a few years or so back and there were some young guys in the gym doing chin-ups and they asked that if I was the 'chin-up guy,' show them what I could do," Fiddis says.
He took up their request and proceeded to do 40.
"These young guys in their 20s were saying 'holy cow,' and I hadn't gone for it for several years."
Impressed by that, a friend checked out what the Guinness World Record for the most chin-ups completed in one minute was at the time and found out it was 53.
"I had always assumed the Guinness record was 100 or something," Fiddis says. "I had actually done 64 in a minute before and 86 in one pull at the Sea Festival competitions. So, I thought if that's all it is, I can do that."
Mounting a record challenge
Fiddis began training seriously in August 2010 and reached a level where he could comfortably do 53 in the one-minute time period.
He recorded some of the sessions and sent it to Guinness World Records officials who OK'd his technique—he holds the bar with his palms facing away from his body.
"That's more like a rowing motion using my back muscles more than my arms," he says.
But a freak training accident—Fiddis broke a finger re-racking a free weight—set him back.
Once his finger healed, Fiddis went back to the gym to shed some of the weight he'd gained while not training and resumed his quest to conquer the world record mark, splitting his time in the Tsawwassen gym, East Vancouver and Kitsilano Beach.
Pretty soon, he was back up in the 50s.
But injuries continued to make the challenge that much steeper as early in 2012 Fiddis damaged his rotator cuff while doing inclined bench presses.
"I think I had about 85-pound dumbbells and I kinda got outside with one of the weights and it doesn't take much to do some damage."
That pushed the chin-up challenge date from late January to late April.
In training now Fiddis is regularly hitting the 50 mark.
"I haven't gone wild yet," he says, adding the goal for the challenge is to hit 60 and possibly make a bid to break his personal best of 64. "I know I'm capable of doing it, but mind you, that was 25 years ago," he says laughing.
So, what makes Fiddis so good at chin-ups?
Is is strength or technique?
"It's all of that," he says. "It's strength, technique and mindset. When people ask me, 'How do you do so many chins?' I tell them that with me if I do it enough I simply got better at it."
Fiddis also explains that a certain body type also makes for good chin-up potential.
Mike Hamill, owner of Tsawwassen Fitness and a former body builder, agrees.
"It's strength based on body weight," says Hamill who has been a personal trainer for the likes of actors Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger. "For me doing chins it's tougher than for Stan. I'm a heavier set guy. I've got big legs from years of weight lifting and body building.
"Lighter, muscular guys who are strong in the upper body will have a better chance. And Stan has that body type. He's an ectomorph."
Hamill predicted Fiddis will be successful.
"I'd say he'll do 60 in a minute."
Strength and body type aside, Fiddis says there's a mental coordination that for him also has to happen.
"You get a rhythm. It's also a lot of tendon strength and breathing. You've got to have that together," he says. "Also, I don't count one to 50. I count in 10s and fives, and threes. Because, if you put the (goal) number too far away it's like trying to bite off something that's too big to chew."
He also has a mental picture of his body being light.
"It's a lot of psyche, that's for sure."
As he heads into the last month of training before the big day, Fiddis has embarked on two-a-day training sessions.
"I'll do a weight program and cardio, then a chin-up and push-up workout with one to 20 chins and up to 40 push-ups."
In total, that has added up to 110 chin-ups and 220 push-ups, which he then tops off with another 35 chin-ups.
"If I can pull off the 35 chin-ups after that, I'm pretty ready."
Thinking about what it means to be a world record holder? Fiddis says that's not been in the forefront of his mind.
"You know what, I don't care that much about setting a record. It would be kinda cool to have that," he says. "But for me, it's more about showing that somebody who is close to 60 can still be in good shape and compete with someone who's in their 20s.
"And that's an incentive to other people, and myself, to continue on and not feel too old to do that anymore. If you train, get the right nutrition, we can live healthier for a lot longer than we currently accept."