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: