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Slide Monkey

 Slide monkey or thief vault is a clever little movement.  Early in my training it eluded me. I struggled to learn it for the longest time. It’s not overly difficult; however, it was psychologically challenging for me. The slide monkey is included in the fundamental movements of parkour. When we teach a basic vault progression, this vault is always included. However, it is one of the more complex vaults that we have to learn.

The object is to approach an obstacle such as a rail or a low wall moving parallel to it. First, you place your inside hand on the obstacle. Then the inside leg plants on the ground. The outside leg swings up providing lift to the body. Both legs come over the obstacle. In the air the hands pass the obstacle under the body, so when you come down on the other side you're still holding it with the inside hand. The leg that was outside, is now inside and lands first. Because the outside leg is the prime mover, the thief vault pivots the hips from being parallel to the obstacle to being perpendicular to it once exited. This redirects the body as well.

The thief vault is used any time you need to get over a low wall. It doesn’t work as well to get up on top of a low rise. This is because the legs are far from being under your center of gravity at the highest point of the movement. When the goal is to pass over a low obstacle onto the ground on the other side, this maneuver works well. Since it redirects the direction of the hips and therefore your momentum, it is a great vault if direction change is the goal. The other application for a thief vault is sengree or monkey play. They are beautiful vaults. The legs swing in a large ark, and the body seems to hang for a moment in the air. Because of how the legs work in the vault, it allows for easy and quick transitions between other vaults.

Again the same wrist faults we always talk about in parkour are present here. They may not be as bad in the slide monkey because the vault is gentler. Rarely will the forces involved in say a kong vault be applied to the wrist in a slide monkey. In the top of the movement where the body weight is positioned over the hands, there is a tendency to collapse in the chest and internally rotate the shoulders. This is a weak position and can cause injury. Finally, a leg of foot clip will end your fun and flow really quick. A clip is where you don’t get high enough with the feet and they trip over the obstacle instead of clearing it. To protect the wrist use proper wrist prep exercises. For the shoulders remember the chest proud cue. One of my favorite cues for that is that there is a light on your chest, like ironman, and we need to point that light up at the sky for this vault. To prevent foot clipping, remember a good strong swing with the outside leg. Also, don’t be afraid to plan on putting your foot on top of the obstacle when learning the movement.

The thief vault is one of our more rudimentary vaults. When I teach a vocabulary of vaults, it is almost always included. However, it took me months from the time that I started training to the time where I mastered the thief vault. This was because it has a psychological factor to its toughness. The fear of falling in a thief vault is very real. I remember clearly the practice where I finally mastered it. We were on a playground in the heart of OSU campus. The playground is no longer there, but my memory is. Now the slide monkey is ubiquitous with my flow work.

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Move Through Space!

The environments of interplanetary travel and alien worlds present several problems to the human body. In microgravity astronauts lose 1% bone density per-month. On Mars the bone loss will be less dramatic, but with only 62% gravity of earth the astronauts will still continually weaken in comparison to earth bound individuals. We need to find a way to mitigate these effects without the use of heavy equipment. At roughly $10,000 to get a pound of material to space, a 300 lb olympic weight set isn’t cost effective. The distance that these men and women will be from home is literally astronomical. In addition to staying healthy, we need to keep them happy and engaged: enter MovNat, parkour and acro-yoga. These are disciplines that “use your body and only your body to move through space.”

 

The problem in 2 parts.

 

Part One: The Journey

 

During the 10 month plus space flight, from Earth to Mars the goal should be to mitigate the damage done to the body as much as possible. NASA has been testing some systems to help with this, like CEVIS (Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation System),  TVIS or (Treadmill Vibration Isolation System) and RED (Resistive Exercise Device). These devices have worked with with some success. However, the bone loss experienced by astronauts is still about 1% per month, an astronomical amount! This is because having something pulling down on you in this way is still only applying force to the more solid parts of the body. It does nothing for the liquid dominant cardiovascular system, which is used to operating with the force of gravity. CEVIS, TVIS, and RED are also less than effective because there is a limited amount of time that the astronauts can spend in these devices. In normal Earth conditions we are under the force of gravity basically all the time. On the ISS if they spent 4 hours a day with these devices, that would be a significant amount of time spent that cannot even compensate for their environment.  There is no way that we are going to find a way with current technology and cost prohibitive measures to keep people as fit in an extended stay in a 0 g environment as we could on earth.  

 

Every piece of equipment that is taken on the Mars mission will increase cost. If the training in space is done right, the only thing the astronauts will need is the TVIS. Everything else can be achieved using the space shuttle itself and the body. What would work best for the trip is a practice that would look similar to acro-yoga here on Earth. On Earth acro-yoga is the art of lifting and moving other people in space. Instead of “lifting” people it would be an art of finding ways to use a workout partner to provide mutual resistance using a confined space. If each astronaut were paired with another of roughly equal size and strength, many strength exercises could be performed with minimal or no equipment. It would also be surprising if integrating this system would not have a positive effect on the astronauts’ balance when they re-enter a gravity environment. This is because maneuvering another person in this way would be similar to negotiating gravity in a constantly changing environment.

In addition to what could be achieved using this partner resistance system, there is a lot more versatility that can be applied to the TVIS, like quadrupedi in space. There are hundreds if not thousands of methods of locomotion that humans have available to them other than walking and running. Many of them do a very good job to challenge the human movement system much more globally as well. Adding something as simple as a bear crawl (foot hand crawl) to the list of exercises done on the TVIS would vastly increase its versatility. Bear crawls increase the need for cross body limb integration and stabilization and distribute load across the upper and lower body.

 

Part Two:  The Destination

 

On Mars astronauts experience 62% of Earth's gravity. What we need to do is to find ways for them to increase the effects of gravity with minimal equipment and maximum safety. First and foremost, using “body armor” training pre-mission, during the flight, and once on Mars is without a doubt the most important thing they will need to do. Rolling your ankle on Earth is no big deal. On Mars that could be catastrophic. The nearest drug store with an ankle wrap is several light minutes away. Therefore, training the ligaments and tendons of the joints is key. In addition to that, once on Mars, the astronauts should be trained in a series of natural movements to stay fit and healthy, including crawling, walking, running, lifting found objects, jumping, climbing and anything else that may be needed on a martian environment.

 

The most important thing that will be added to the mission by this proposal is that these methods of fitness and training will be fun for the astronauts. For much of this mission these brave men and women will be 8 light minutes from home. They will have only their fellow astronauts to keep them company. If they have a system of fun challenging partner and group based exercises, it will go a long way to keeping their spirits up. Parkour, MovNat,  and Acro-Yoga are all fun, engaging and entertaining. That is what these folks out there will really need, and if it keeps them fit at the same time, all the better.

 

If you think about the logistics of the mission, there is no other option. Excess materials add significant cost, and an exercise system that is dull and monotonous will only dampen spirits. If the environment, equipment, and the bodies of the astronauts can be used to keep themselves healthy, happy, and engaged, isn’t that the clear choice?



 

http://www.mars-one.com/faq/health-and-ethics/how-will-the-mars-mission-physically-affect-the-astronauts

 

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/64260main_ffs_factsheets_preflight.pdf

 

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/64247main_ffs_factsheets_fitness.pdf

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1128.html


 

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Don’t Forget to Breathe.

Movement and breath are inseparable. Trying to have one without the other is impossible. Breath is contradictory because it is both conscious and unconscious, automatic yet controllable. Breathing can be used to induce a state of activity and a state of calm. Breath is vital. We only last a few minutes without it. However, most of our lives we go completely unaware of it. Here, we will take a few moments and consider the breath, and how it can be used to vastly improve our lives.

 

Breath in movement. We need to have a habituated breathing pattern during movement to induce flow. Breath is the origin of all movement. Humans can go weeks without food, days without water, and only a few minutes without breathing. When the breath and movement are timed and correlated, things flow. This is easy to imagine for very repetitive sports like running, swimming or biking. Inhale for 3 strides or strokes, exhale for the same time those motions require. Synchronizing the breath with something like weight lifting is also fairly easy to execute. The old adage is to inhale during the eccentric phase, when muscles contract while lengthening,  and exhale during the concentric phase, when muscles contract while shortening. However, if we are engaged in a more complex sport like soccer (football), yoga, or parkour, we need a new model of how to breathe. There are moments where we need to hold the breath and brace (a Valsalva maneuver) to create intra-abdominal pressure. There are also times we need to take several rapid breaths to saturate the system with as much oxygen as possible. Perhaps most importantly there are times we need to consciously slow breathing to lower the metabolic needs of the body. Through training and conscious effort, learning how to regulate the breath through the complex movements of sport will improve performance, reduce energy costs, and help create a state of flow.

 

The mind leads the body and the body leads the mind. Over the next 15 seconds take 15 deep breaths. Do it now! I guarantee that at the end of that you feel a little strange. Perhaps lightheaded, warm, and the lights in the room may have gotten brighter. If you are very sensitive, you may have felt your heart rate increase. These are autonomic nervous system responses. Your body senses that your breathing pattern has changed significantly. Fast deep breaths mean danger, preparing a flight or fight response. Your blood vessels dilate bringing more blood and nutrients to the extremities, sweating and heart rate increase to prepare for action. Your eyes dilate to bring in more light and information about the coming danger. Now do just the opposite of the last exercise. For the next minute try and take just four or five deep, slow, and controlled breaths. The response is the opposite in a lot of different ways. The perception seems to widen out. Your visual acuity decreases and sounds become much more prominent. Your heart rate will decrease, and you begin to feel relaxed. Your body is recognizing that the breathing pattern is entering a rest and recovery state. Both of these are conscious actions that induce unconscious responses.

 

Using breath to induce a state of activity. We used to have outdoor parkour practices all over downtown. On the occasions that I miscalculated the traffic and knew I would not make it in time to partake in the warm up, I would use breathing to create a state of preparedness for activity. Over the course of 5 to 10 minutes I would change my breathing from regular resting breathing to a state similar to the first exercise described  above. Try this next time you do a training session. Instead of a traditional warm up, sit in a chair and over 5 to 10 minutes increase the breathing rate to that of full activity. It is very interesting to notice that while sitting still the heart rate can increase and a full body sweat can occur.

 

Using breath to induce a state of calm. The final breath technique in this article, but by no means the final breathing technique is using breath to induce a state of relaxation and calm. I suffer from clinical depression. I do not manage this with medication, but with breathwork and meditation. There is nothing special about my practice. I try to meditate every morning, but usually only do about 4 mornings a week. I sit for 20 minutes and focus my attention on my breath. When my attention wanders from the breath, I gently lead it back. Being present with my breath has made me a better friend, coach, and person.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive look at breath. However, this is in large how I use it to improve my performance as an athlete and a person. Learning more about your breath will enrich your life by understanding the relationship between your mental state and the impact it has on your physical being.  

 

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/know-when-to-hold-it-how-to-breathe-while-lifting.html

 

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