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December 29, 2005

One of the Coolest Things I've Ever Seen

Traveling Rings - Like Freerunning/Parkour on gymnastics rings.

It's www.swingaring.com.

Check out THIS VIDEO

From the LA Times: "The 75-foot-long, 15-foot-high steel frame supports 10 rings, each set about 8 feet apart and suspended 7 feet off the ground. The idea is to swing down and back as artfully, and inventively, as possible, ideally without hitting a pole or rogue ring."

Do you think normal gymnastics rings are fun?  This takes it to a whole new level.  Currently, there are only two sets of "travelling rings" in the United States: The origional Muscle Beach Rings in Santa Monica, California, and the relatively newer Riverside Park Rings in Riverside, New York.

The Travelling Rings are a relic of the gymnastic past of Muscle Beach.  From back when Muscle Beach was about feats of strength and strength stunts.  Back in the day when you needed some skill to back up your muscle.  The Muscle Beach Bodybuilders of today would be considered "all show and no go" by the old timers.  Or maybe the old timers just would have called them pussies.

The swingaring website asks, "Have you ever dreamed you could fly?"  With skill you can swing or freestyle from one end of the 75 foot structure to the other with all the grace and style of Parkour, but flying in mid air and without any obstacles to surmount.  Like Parkour, it has this skateboarding/surfing/snowboarding feeling to it.  It's all about flow and style.

If you don't want to spend the money to fly to Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, CA, or Riverside Park, NY to play on the rings, it turns out you can have your very own travelling rings built in your backyard for only $8000.

I wrote the first part of this article over a year ago, when I first heard about the rings.  After going there and getting to play on them myself a few times, I wrote this in my blog:

So I finally made it back to the rings in Santa Monica.  I'm totally addicted.  I got my first "leg over" and my first (albeit jerky) "dislocate".  A leg over is basically tossing a leg over the back ring before you release, and a dislocate is a flip.  Note that my dislocate didn't look anything like hers - mine looks more like a two-leg-"leg over". Anyway, I'm really pumped, I'm officially elevated from the average dude just trying to swing up and back. I can't wait to actually get good at this.

Unfortunately, I only have the strength, at this point, to do about two flips on each run. Then after that, I have a pretty hard time making it up and back. I really need to work on my pull. The natural thing to do your first time is a "hammer pull".  I was lucky that someone taught me a stronger pull - I do a 1/2 turn pull (which I guess is called a back pull).  The back pull is ok, but the guys doing a cross pull (full turn) get about twice as much power. There are even a couple guys who do a cross pull into a one arm dip - basically a one arm muscle up. The amount of power, height, and speed that they get is unbelievable. So next time, I really want to work on my pull - basically my power. Also I'd like to get a lot more fluid. It looks so cool when people travel smoothly and with style.

Here is what it's like - an advanced swingset. There is something unbelievably fun about swinging through the air. Just the act of "traveling" from ring to ring is fun. Then, working in some style and some tricks, ti really is like flying. It's like snowboarding in mid air. It can be a total rush trying a new trick, at the beginning of the rings with everyone watching. Or it can be totally chill just cruising through space with nothing but the sound of the wind rushing past your ears. Down at the opposite end of the rings it's all quiet, there's nothing between you and the sun and sand and the ocean view, you're elevated up in the air, and you've always got to do a few spins as you swing out on the last ring, before turning around and coming back. The crew down there is amazingly cool also. Everyone is a superhuman athlete. It's my kind of people. I'm totally sure that if I lived here I'd be hanging with them.

Now I just want to go there every day. Unfortunately I don't think that I can get all the way down there every day. The times over these last three weeks that I have gotten away to swing on the rings or to bust out a workout have done wonders for me though.

This really is the most amazingly cool expression of fitness. This is what I'm all about - a really big, hella fun toy that requires huge amounts of strength and coordination to play with. It really is like parkour, but flying. These guys are all monsters in terms of upper body pulling strength, and it's just from playing on the rings.

It really reminds me that anything you do - if it isn't fun, and it isn't with really cool people, it's usually a total waste of time. The way most people approach fitness, as a means to an end - is only ok. If people could find ways to pursue high levels of fitness - for fun, and because it's fulfilling and meaningful to them, the quality of their health and fitness would skyrocket, much less their satisfaction and the quality of their life. That point where your fitness becomes your favorite part of your day, something to look forward to, a time to play - that is when you'll be fit for the rest of your life.

By Josh Hillis
author of The Stubborn Seveon Pounds: Take Your Body from Good to Rockstar
(NASM-CPT) National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer
(NASM-PES) National Academy of Sports Medicine Performance Enhancement Specialist
(RKC) Russian Kettlebell Challenge Certified Instructor
(RKC/CAS) Russian Kettlebell Challenge Combat Applications Specialist
(CF) CrossFit Level II Trainer
www.joshsgaragedenver.com

© Joshua Hillis 2005

Comments

I live in Santa MOnica, and I've seen those rings, evn did a go around my very frist time. but after some time I've lost my "grip strength" and its hard for me to swing on those rings. Any suggestions for improving my grip strength? So I can once again soar in the air?
Thanks.

I agree with your whole-heartedly -- when you get to the point where you love your workouts; when they're fun and challenging, then you've really gotten to where you need to be. Because fitness it's a destination, it's a journey that never, ever ends. Using as just a means is just silly. What's the point if it doesn't make you feel strong and amazing and like you could take on the world??

I would love to try those rings someday. Probably need to work on my upper body strength a bit first, so I can really fly. It must have been a lot of fun. Thanks for the great videos!

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