This particular Monkey Bar Monday is especially special for a few reasons. The most obvious one will be (and those of you who stalk me on social media already know about this) that I’m in a different city at the moment! I’ve spent the past few days having a much needed mastermind (business, life, etc) with a good friend and fellow RKC, Amber Lee (Twitter: Geekpixie) in Providence, RI. We’ve been nailing down some strategies, talking theory and practice, and geeking out on “meatspace” things as well as multiple layers of digital life, business, and best practices across multiple fields. Several times since the early 2000s, our lives have intersected in meaningful ways. That whole thing is an interesting story for sure, but that’s less of a blog story and more of a we’re all sitting around eating stuff together story.
The other special thing about this Monkey Bar Monday is that there’s “extra monkey”!! “Monkey See, Monkey Do” was a huge part of why I was able to do what I was able to do for this week’s video. The video embedded below is my first ever actual factual successful run of Traveling Rings. And there’s a few reasons that it was able to happen. To be honest with you, I’d actually kind of given up. I thought maybe that I was too short or my arms were too short or… I dunno. I gave it what I thought was my best shot. But it just didn’t work. As we were parking and walking over there we saw someone else get a couple rings into it and then drop off and I thought “oh geez that person made a few of those look easy but then they didn’t get all the way across!”
At first I got up there and totally failed. In fact I got that on video too… But I chalked it up to me being 5’3.5″ and not knowing what the heck I was doing. Shame on me for thinking that. HAHAHA. Ok so after trying and failing on the Traveling Rings (I couldn’t even get off the first ring!!!!) I went and did some other stuff. They had these cool climbing ropes, monkey bars, dip bars, and someone had even added some nice hand balancing blocks to the park and I did a crow pose on those just for fun as well. But the traveling rings haunted me… Then, when we were in another area of the park, I saw this kinda skinny guy run up to the rings. He was tall and lithe and hopped onto the little stump that someone had rolled over to the rings. He grabbed the first ring with BOTH hands and shoved back with his feet against the stump VERY hard. WHOOOOSH!! He wooshed backwards then forwards where when the timing was just right he grabbed that second ring. Then he pulled back and forth on both rings to get enough momentum to reach the next ring, and the next and the next until he made it across with no problem.
HUH…. I kept thinking about it some, and then noticed that some children had left the other stump under a pull up bar so that they could reach it. The children had rolled the stump there and I figured it was maybe 50-70lbs or so, and that I should do some squats with it for fun. It was smooth but large and awkward so why not, and turns out it weighed less than I assumed, maybe 40lbs or less. There’s a video of that too, and the movements are roughly inspired by some basic ideas from DVRT Ultimate Sandbag training and of course Zach Even-Esh’s Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning. (Another thing on my list to write up for you is the awesome experience I had while at his Underground Strength Coach certification recently…) After doing a couple rounds of that I carried the stump back up the hill and set it under the opposite side of the traveling rings, from where the children had taken it.
Hmmm I thought… no one was even in the area anymore and Amber seemed to be checking her email or otherwise checking some stuff out. I got back on that stump and thought about how much momentum that tall guy had generated. I grabbed the ring with both hands and just decided to start swinging back and forth as hard as I could… I mean… were my arms even long enough??? Whoosh whoosh whoosh… WAIT A SECOND.. I could totally reach that next ring. And I did. I grabbed it then hollared out and set up my phone. DO or DIE time, once chance. I had 10% battery left in my phone and maybe 1 gig of storage. I set it up on the little mini tripod and got Amber to come over and follow me with her phone in the odd case that maybe just maybe I’d be able to get across a few rings… which is exactly what happened and then some!
So once again I grabbed the first ring with both hands and whoosh whoosh whoosh took my time to get a whole heck of a lot of momentum going. You’ll see in the video that I’m actually pretty awkward with that part, but then I grabbed the next ring with my left hand. I started pulling back and forth on both rings before letting go of the back ring and WHOOSH forward JUST BARELY far enough to grab that next ring! WOAH!!! Then I did it again and again, maybe just an inch to spare each time. I traversed the WHOLE THING first try?! What?!?! Watch out Muscle Beach, I need to come do this there too!
So, what’s the lesson? Sometimes things seem impossible, but a little monkey see monkey do action can make all the difference. Sometimes you need to go all in, with both hands and really throw yourself into it. Sometimes you need to sit back and watch someone who knows what they’re doing–and for something more complex than these rings it’s probably a VERY good idea to get yourself a qualified coach. (I follow this idea in all areas of my life–for instance I think that I’ve become unphotogenic in candid photographs and am considering finding a modeling coach to work with me for a couple hours on some strategies, because I’m tired of looking like a doofus in some photos.) The other lesson is that sometimes you just have to “try something on” and not be afraid to fail. I can’t stress this enough. So many times I see women (and men too) who don’t really give things a full try because they’re always being observed or feel like they are. Others (while often well-meaning) can sometimes make us a little hesitant to really just play around with something and find where we fit it. And sometimes the not-so-well-meaning general public with their ceaseless commentary can be more than a bit too much to deal with… A lot of what success seems to boils down to is simple, humble and humbling practice when no one is looking. Some days it just won’t work, others you’re golden. Either way sometimes it’s best to experience either one WITHOUT COMMENTARY or observation from others. Do understand this is also personality dependent… and unlike many of the recent extremely popular “articles about introverts” making their rounds of the social media circuit, some people actually do have different learning styles which may require an element of privacy at times. In leu of privacy, having a resilient attitude can also help. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say “Hey, man, I’m just playing around with this…”
And sometimes it’s a good idea to throw a log around while you get your mind right for the bigger task at hand. But this–all of this–is why I really came out here. That and because I was tired of sweating so much in the Florida heat that just going to get the mail from the mailbox required a shower and change of clothes. I needed to get my mind right, for business, for fitness, for life. It’s good to step back. We all know what we don’t want, but I find that (at least for me) I occasionally need to step back into a larger perspective and think without any imposed boundaries… what DO I want? Specifically. So on the days when I’m tempted towards less productive activities I can more easily keep my eyes on the prize. However big or small it may be.
Some things to keep in mind for traveling rings (I am by no means an expert, I just now tried them for the first time):
Theoretical prerequisite checklist (stuff I can already do that I think helped make this happen from a strength standpoint)
- Plenty of grip work, including plenty of one arm bar hangs for time.
- Plenty of time on the monkey bars, ESPECIALLY where you’re skipping one or two rungs at a time, you’ll be experiencing that in a bigger way on the traveling rings
- Plenty of time being familiar gripping rings at all. Actually working with Mike Gillette’s new Rings of Power book would work well towards the grip and general ring familiarity here.
- General upper body strength and shoulder stability. If one or both shoulders are a sore issue, this might not be the best activity for you.
- While you never really do anywhere near a full pull up with the traveling rings (at least that didn’t happen when I did them) you do need to have strong, active lats working with your shoulders. Being able to do plenty of pull up reps that actively engage your lats (as well they should be anyway) will really help you out.
- Lately I’ve been doing one arm bar hangs with “scapular pull ups” and really trying to pull as hard as possible while fully engaging everything. It’s like a really really tiny partial one arm pull up.
Have you ever tried the Traveling Rings? If so, please add your experiences and tips below!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂