Rowan County man plans to use power of belief in trying to set new world record for crunches

Published 8:27 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2021

SALISBURY — When he was running track and playing football at South Rowan High School in the 1970s, John Peterson received some memorable advice from a legendary coach.

“I’ll never forget what Coach (Larry) Deal always told me,” Peterson said. “He always said, ‘John, no matter what, even if nobody believes in you, believe in yourself.’ ”

Peterson took that wisdom to heart and has kept it in his mind ever since. He’ll likely be repeating those words in his mind on Thursday morning when he attempts to push his body to the brink. The 64-year-old plans on doing as many abdominal crunches as he can muster for two consecutive hours without stopping, which he believes would be a world record.

“Nobody has ever done it,” Peterson said.

Peterson will make the attempt at 10 a.m. at The Forum, which is where he has been exercising his abs for almost a decade. He anticipates completing somewhere between 13,000-14,000 crunches in 120 minutes and doesn’t even plan on stopping for a bathroom break.

This won’t be the first time Peterson has pushed the limits of what his body can do. In 2018, he completed 6,774 crunches in an hour. At the time, that number was higher than other recorded hourlong crunch counts on Record Setter’s website. Record Setter is a platform dedicated to helping people track and record unusual records. Just a few months later, Peterson completed even more crunches but from a 45-degree angle for what he said was another world best.

He keeps up with other abdominal achievements through the internet. Peterson said he’d one day like to earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Rowan County native has been keen on the core since he started researching physical fitness several decades ago.

“Your core is your lifeline,” Peterson said. “It supports your whole body.”

Peterson said he’s put an emphasis on maintaining his physical fitness since he was a child. He ran several distances at South Rowan and was on the track team during his time at Livingstone College. Peterson prides himself on being able to do workouts that most people his age cannot. For those who haven’t been as diligent about exercising, Peterson said there’s still time.

“I don’t care how old you are, it’s never too late to exercise,” Peterson said.

He’s been ramping up his training over the past few weeks in anticipation of what he hopes will be a record-breaking day. He’ll likely do 15-20 minutes of serious stretching before he gets started and plans on keeping his breakfast light.

When he lays down on the mat at The Forum on Thursday morning, Peterson won’t be worried about counting the number of crunches he completes. That’ll be a job for Rayna Gardner, who works at the 2318 S. Main St. fitness center and has tracked Peterson’s attempts previously. 

“I try not to count,” Peterson said. “I just do them until it’s time to quit.”

He’ll also have a few friends there to watch and record videos of the athletic endeavor. Peterson said he encourages anybody else who wants to watch to come and cheer him on as he goes.

Not only will Peterson find motivation in his own pursuit of fitness, but he is also dedicating the crunches to his wife Beverly, his favorite NASCAR driver David Reagan and the Shriners Hospital, which is a nonprofit that provides medical services to children across the country. 

Peterson said he plans to continue to keep coming up with new crunch challenges and would like to use his midsection to raise money for various charities. One event he’s targeting is the Cheerwine festival next year, where he said he’d like to break another ab-related world record in front of festival goers.

That’s what Peterson has in store for the future, but on Thursday he’s just out to prove what Coach Deal preached all those years ago.

“You’re capable of doing anything as long as you believe in yourself,” Peterson said.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

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