Andrew Shapiro ’21 is no stranger to world records. As a high school student, he set three. But when he attempts to break the current world records on Aug. 18, he’ll be doing so to help an important cause — one closely linked to his studies here at UNH.
In 2016, as a high school junior, he set three world records — 3,515 pull-ups in six hours, 5,742 pull-ups in 12 hours and 7,306 in 24 hours. The current 24-hour record, according to Guinness, is 7,600 — but Shapiro is aiming for 10,000 and hoping to raise $10,000 for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international nonprofit marine wildlife conservation organization.
For many, breaking a world record once would be enough. But ask Shapiro why he is willing to do it again, and he explains that despite setting three records, he views his previous effort as a partial failure. “I broke the records, but I stopped six hours short because my body gave out on me. I knew that if I trained myself to overcome that and do more pull-ups at an even faster pace, I could truly smash the world records,” he says. “The root of the inspiration was wanting to see how far I could push the limits and how far I can push myself without breaking.”
For the past 10 months — while completing his first year at UNH as a marine biology major — he’s been training. “I started by trying to maintain a pace of 12 pull-ups per minute for as long as possible,” Shapiro says. “On my first day of training, I could only keep up that pace for four minutes. Now that I am nearly complete with my training, I can maintain that pace for five hours and 30 minutes.”
Training for three world records while navigating all that comes with the first year of college was anything but easy, Shapiro adds. “Most students have a lot of late nights just doing homework, but throw a few hours at the gym on top of that, and you don’t have any sleep or energy for the next day. My classes took priority. I wanted to attend UNH because it has an awesome marine biology program that is connected to the Shoals Marine Laboratory,” he says. “I took a class out at the Shoals Marine Lab led by Jessica Bolker. She was an incredible professor, and she really helped our whole class get acclimated to college. I also took a class with Margaret Rodgers in the Hamel Rec Center this spring semester, and she helped me work towards a personal trainer certification.”
Being home in Virginia this summer gave Shapiro the time he needed to focus on his training, and he used what he learned from his prior experience to improve. “When I trained for the records the first time, I had little knowledge or experience with it, so I got injured a lot, beat up my hands from blisters and didn’t take rest days,” he says. “Training this time around has been a lot more productive because I have a better idea of how to take care of my body and prevent injury.”
His first record-setting attempt was part of his high school’s Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. “I was 17 years old, and it took a lot of convincing when I asked people to donate because they didn’t fully believe in me,” he recalls of his Pull-Ups for Life effort. Shapiro wasn’t about to give up, however. He was inspired to raise those funds in honor of his father, who was battling cancer. “Eventually I got enough support from the community and was the top fundraiser at my school that year because after I set the records and the news story got out, people from all around the country donated to my Relay for Life team,” Shapiro says. He raised more than $7,000 for the American Cancer Society — and his father beat the disease.
He hopes to make a difference this time as well with his Pull-Ups for Ocean Life event. “I want to raise money for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Organization because I am a marine biology major who has always looked up to their efforts to protect ocean life,” he says. “I figured I could probably inspire people to do some good and help out the Sea Shepherds when they see how hard I work.”