I Was Humbled by the Monkey Bars Today….
Have you been to a playground recently? Some of you have, but did you actually PLAY at the playground? As I ran around with my kids this morning, I eyed up the monkey bars and thought to myself “Sure, I’ll go for it. This used to be pretty easy…” So I grabbed on with both hands and pulled my feet up to keep them from dragging on the ground (story of my life!), and just danglged there for a few seconds like, ok what’s next. I tried to move one hand to the next bar and had to put my feet down. I tried again and made slow, very ugly progress. Whenever I was able to move forward it was via some spastic kicking, twisting motion. I have never felt so spectacularly weak or unathletic! It made me really appreciate the strength and upper body agility of those guys on Ninja Warrior, or for the old school tv watchers out there, American Gladiator.
I can do chin ups, pull ups, and 1 muscle up. I can hang from a chin up bar no problem, but something about moving through space hand over hand made me a fish out of water. I have spent the last 3 years learning about functional patterns of the body in athletics and everyday life, but I have been learning from the bottom up. Granted, we spend most of our time with our feet on the ground and we haven’t really had to propel ourselves with our arms since we left the trees and began to stand upright, but does that mean we shouldn’t be able to do it? To be considered functionally strong I think we need to a) be strong relative to our body weight, and b) be strong from the bottom up (which I think I am) AND the top down (which, apparently I am not).
It has become apparent we need to maintain a focus on what Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert call Original Strength in their book of the same title. We are supposed to be able to move like kids on the playground, but many of us are a long way from it. We should have a high strength-to-body weight ratio and be able to move swiftly and fluidly, but that is typically not the case. It’s not because people don’t take their kids to the playground anymore. The problem is the kids are doing the playing and the adults are doing the sitting and texting. I love the playground because I enjoy the challenge of crawling, climbing, running, jumping, balancing, and swinging to see if I “still got it”. I guess I should be challenging myself on the monkey bars more often.