Last month, I started practicing monkey bar hanging for my daily practice for this year. (Last year I practiced deep breathing. You can read about that here.)*
To be honest, the first part of the month was a wash.
In the first month of my practice (May), I gained a lot of strength very quickly. I went from only being able to hang on to the bar for about five seconds to hanging on with a really strong grip for about thirty seconds. I also started doing really strong L sits while hanging.
And then June came. I got really sick at the beginning of the month, and it took me a long time to recover. It also got hot, and I don’t do well in the heat. As a result of the heat, my hands also got sweaty, and I couldn’t hang on to the bars well.
Most of June, I regressed. At least a third of the days of June, I didn’t even do real bar hangs. I went out and stood on my monkey bar frame and held on to the bars, but I didn’t do a real hang.
Another third of the days, I did a real hang, but I could only hang on for about 1 to five seconds.
To be honest, I worried that I had picked the wrong practice to do. I worried that for most of this year, I would write you every month and say, “Well, nothing exciting happened this month. I didn’t really make any progress.”
I thought about quitting at one point. And then I thought to myself, “What if I didn’t make much progress the whole year? What if I am never very good at monkey bar hanging?”
I decided that even if I am pretty bad at monkey bar hanging the whole year, I am still going to keep doing it. Why? Well, when I am not very good at something, it gives me opportunities to be curious. For instance, this month, I got curious, and here are some of the questions I asked myself:
1) Why do my arms feel weak?
2) Why can’t I hang on for very long?
3) What if I look silly in all my monkey bar hanging pictures?
4) Why do I have such large arms?
5) Why am I doing this?
Here are some of the answers I discovered by being curious:
1) Why do my arms feel weak? My arms feel weak because I have never done prolonged monkey bar hanging before. I also haven’t been doing any other practices recently to build strength and adaptability in my arms. So, to build these things, I started doing push ups again, and I am going to start playing around with kettle bells.
2) Why can’t I hang on for very long? I can’t hang on to the bar for very long because A) my hands are sweaty, so I’ll use chalk to make them dry; B) I haven’t been practicing grip strength, so I am going to do some exercises like carrying around weight plates and, perhaps, climbing. This will definitely help my monkey bar hanging, and it will also help me if I ever have to hang off the side of cliff. (Like if I am ever an extra in Mission Impossible.)
3) What if I look silly in all my monkey bar hanging pictures? Why do I think I have to look a certain way in pictures? It’s totally fine for me to look like myself learning how to navigate monkey bars. And, by the way, it’s not really about if I or anyone else looks perfect. It’s about whether we are playing, learning, being curious, and gaining strength. Any time we do that, it’s a win.
4) Why do I have such large arms? Who said girls have to have small arms? Why do we think that girls have to be small, rail thin, not take up space, etc. etc.? My arms have always been on the muscular side. I think it’s because I did a lot of cartwheels, hand stands, and tree climbing when I was little. Those are cool things to do, and I am learning to be grateful for strong arms that let me do those things, whether they are bigger or smaller. The goal is not to have thin arms, big arms, or any particular kind of arms. The goal is to do fun stuff and play. By the way, I write this item for myself, but I also write it for any girls and women who have been told their arms are too big or they are too muscular.
5) Why am I Doing This?
I am doing it because I believe that the more powerful we feel in our bodies, the more powerful we feel in the world. I am doing it because I have a mind, body, and heart, and all of these parts of me need nurturing. I am doing it because girls and women are often socialized to worry about how they look to other people, rather than to have fun exploring the world with their bodies in a joyful and playful manner.
So, I am doing monkey bar hanging to feel more powerful, to nurture my body, and to explore the world with my body in a joyful and playful manner. I want everyone to feel powerful and joyful in their bodies.
These are some of the things I learned the first part of this month when monkey bar hanging wasn’t going very well.
Towards the end of the month, I felt stronger and a little more confident. I started doing L-Sits again, and I also started hanging off two bars at one time. That was fun.
I don’t know what is going to happen next month, but I am going to stay curious and playful and find out.
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*Last year I practiced deep breathing every day for a year, and I blogged about it each month. You might like to read my last post about it here:
This year I am practicing monkey bar hanging. You might also like reading the first post in this series:
Published by shellypruittjohnson
My name is Shelly Johnson, and I am a writer and philosopher with a Ph.D. in philosophy. One of my primary personal and philosophical interests is how we can learn to love ourselves and each other better in order to cultivate personal and political resilience. I teach ethics and a variety of other courses at a local college. I am the author of the blog Love is Stronger. I am also the author of three logic and critical thinking books for high school and middle school: _Argument Builder_, _Discovery of Deduction_ (co-author), and _Everyday Debate_, published by Classical Academic Press. You can reach me at email@example.com.
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27 thoughts on “Month Two of Monkey Bar Hanging”
How amazing that you dedicate and explore these new activities and new ways of being! I love it how you face all the assumptions, judgments and conditioning head on, and inspire us to look at ourselves in the mirror very differently than ever 🙂
Thank you so much for this lovely and insightful comment, P. I think exploring these different activities and ways of being forces me to face a lot of my own assumptions, judgments, and conditioning. It is a really good practice for me! I guess all good practices do this.
Hooray for the monkey bars! They really do build up your core. You look fabulous in those pictures, like you are having a wonderful time. Nothing silly about that! Also – if it helps with your hands, I bought some workout gloves with grip that I use for monkey bars or a chin up bar. You should be able to find some for very reasonable price at a sporting goods store.
That’s so nice, M.B.! I can definitely tell my core is getting stronger through doing these hangs, and I will definitely keep those gloves in mind.
I think this is amazing and you have inspired me to explore something like this. Your photos are fantastic!!
That is so sweet, Lisa! Thank you for reading and commenting and for your kind words. I am really having fun doing this, and I would love to hear about your adventures sometimes if you start a practice.
Being muscular is empowering! 🙂 My hubby uses weight-training gloves and they would really help, just as M.B. Henry suggests.
I think it is empowering, too, Ann! And I just have to get over my conditioning that muscular girls are odd. I will definitely keep those gloves in mind!
Love your attitude!
So sweet, Jodi! Thank you!
For grip strength, you could try a DynaFlex. It’s this gyroscopic ball thing climbers use. I use it to help prevent my RSI from flaring up.
These monkey bar hangs also look like an awesome back stretch. I think I’m going to have to find some.
I will keep DynaFlex in min for sure, Nicole! Thank you so much for this advice. I am going to start climbing, too, so I appreciate this advice. And hanging is so great. It definitely feels great on my back, and I feel like a lot of muscles that have been asleep for a while are waking up.
You are an inspiration in so many ways. I think you must have to have a lot of core strength to do those L sits, and you look elegant and athletic. Hurrah for strong arms and a curious mind! I love that you explored all the self-doubt that we all feel when we have setback or do not feel we are progressing at the rate we set for ourselves. This is what happens in all learning, isn’t it? The struggles end up teaching us so much more than if it was easy.
That is so kind, Ali! I think I do have some good core strength, but my core is definitely weak in some areas, too, so I am grateful for this new way to build it. And you are very right. Self-doubt is a part of the process, and when we give our selves time to explore it, we learn a lot. Thanks for inspiring me, too, Friend.
Stay playful and stay strong! Keep up the good work and have fun, all the while building upper body strength. Hope you never tire of monkeying around!
Thank you so much, Debra! My goal is to keep playing on them, even when I am older, for sure!
Go you 🙂 I never did get very far with my deep breathing. You’re inspirational – thank you 🙂
That is so kind, Nik! Thank you. And breathing is always there waiting for you, and it’s okay you didn’t get very far this time. I know you will when the time is right.
I am getting better at it. I’m doing a crystal healing course with meditation in & the breathing’s coming via that 🙂
Oh, that is wonderful! I am glad you are doing that. I need to work with crystals sometime, too.
have you worked with crystals before? I’m halfway through a crystal healing course 🙂
even before then I found them so enchanting!
I have not! But I think they sound interesting. That is really cool you are taking a course.
I collect qualifications, & knowledge. Always reading & learning. The crystals are fascinating. I hope you do get to enjoy some
Sorry to hear you were ill, hope you’re well recovered now
Thank you so much, Nik. I am doing a lot better.