Hands down the winner

DO student unofficially breaks the world hand walking record

Ashwin Kalyandurg, OMS IV, walked 3.2 miles on his hands over eight hours. Learn how and why he did it.

Around campus, medical student Ashwin Kalyandurg is known as Tarzan or monkey man.

The 23-year-old, who’s a fourth-year at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, unofficially broke the world hand walking record in June by covering 3.2 miles on his hands over eight hours for several causes, including childhood obesity and pediatric cancer. In September, he followed that feat up with a 3.78-mile hand walk over seven hours to raise money for autism and multiple sclerosis.

Kalyandurg’s ultimate goal is to walk the Boston Marathon—on his hands, of course—in hopes of raising funds for veteran amputees. Following is an edited Q&A.

How are you graduating from medical school so young? What kind of residency are you hoping to get into?

I attended a dual-credit college and high school program in Boca Raton, Florida, which allowed me to earn my college degree by age 17. Then, I started medical school when I was 19.

For residency, I’m really interested in neuromusculoskeletal medicine/osteopathic manipulative medicine (NMM/OMM).

How did you start hand walking and why?

I started hand walking when I was 14 to try and get attention in college because I wanted to be known as something other than “the 14-year-old.” It was very liberating because it’s something you can do wherever you are. You can always get a great workout from walking on your hands.

Tell us about the world record. How does that work? What are the rules?

The official world record holder is Sarah Chapman from the UK. In order to break her record, you have eight hours to walk farther than 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) on your hands.

In June, I unofficially broke the world record by walking 3.2 miles on my hands over eight hours. I have witnesses and video footage of the start and finish, but Guinness says I need continuous video coverage. That’s something we didn’t have because it was difficult to film for that long. I’m hoping to officially break the record soon.

When I saw the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, I was really angry that the most elite runners in the world were rewarded by getting killed and maimed. I really wanted to show people that even if you blow off my legs, I can finish on my hands.

You don’t walk 3.2 miles continuously, right?

You’re allowed to pause. I usually need to shake out because all the blood rushes to my head. I’ll go anywhere from 45 to 100 yards before stopping. The most I can walk continuously is 200 yards, but that’s not something I want to do when trying to break a record because I need to pace myself.

Tell us about your plans for the Boston Marathon?

When I saw the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, I was really angry that the most elite runners in the world were rewarded by getting killed and maimed. I really wanted to show people that even if you blow off my legs, I can finish on my hands.

I have to be able to go from 24-36 hours to do the marathon on my hands. In order to handle it, we’re trying to build an Iron Man suit for me. It’s something I’d love help with actually. We need someone who is good at designing orthotics. A friend designed gloves for me to take the stress off my hands. But ultimately for the marathon, I’ll need wrist braces, shoulder braces and a back brace, which would all be incorporated into an exosuit. An exoskeleton would reduce the amount of work I need to do and would allow me to go faster and longer and with less strain.

What are the benefits and downsides of hand walking?

My posture is phenomenal, my core muscles are really tight, and my back is thick and strong from hand walking. When I breathe, I can breathe very deeply, so that’s pretty cool.

As for the downsides, some hand walkers say they get floaters (in their vision) and extreme wrist pain. I haven’t had vision issues, and I’ve only had wrist pain in extreme cases when I’ve walked on my hands for a really long time.

In the past, I’ve also experienced migraines, muscle spasms, and blacking out. However, I’ve recently discovered that receiving osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) helps to prevent these extreme side effects. When I walked 3.78 miles in September, I had a friend doing OMT on me. He stretched out my tissues and got everything moving and supple. I didn’t have any extreme symptoms start developing because he was breaking knots up before they could really form.

How do you train—for the walking in general and the marathon?

I do pushups, pullups, squats, run with logs. I swim. Everything I do is outside. I’ll go rock climbing for two hours, then explore the woods by campus, where I swing from branch to branch from one end of a two-mile stretch of woods to the other without touching the ground. That’s why they call me Tarzan or monkey man on campus. Then, I’ll walk on my hands for another hour.

Practicing performing OMT on others helps, too—it makes the muscles in my hands and fingers stronger.

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