Play and Variety is the Spice of Life

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.”
Paulo Coelho

When I first started following my bodyweight training routine, it felt very raw and empowering because it was mostly centered around building strength. And because it was new, it was very fun and exciting, too!

As a result of many months of hard work, I am now the strongest (and most flexible) I’ve ever been in my life and am able to do many things I couldn’t do before. (Read: muscle ups, handstand push ups, one arm push ups, L-sits, back levers, [one-legged] front levers, etc.)

And now, the time has come to strike a balance between strength-work and play.

My broski and I playing a game called "Clockwork" on the traveling rings.
My broski and I playing a game called “Clockwork” on the traveling rings.

When I first discovered muscle beach, I used to ONLY have fun.

I would arrive at the beach and immediately go into play mode. I didn’t do sets of anything. I didn’t time my holds.  (What holds?!)  I would do whatever I wanted willy-nilly.  I would go pump on the flying rings, walk on the slackline, do yoga on the green, sprint to the ocean for a refreshing swim and swing on the traveling rings until my hands would rip.  And there you have my first year at muscle beach.  All fun and play!

I look like I'm having lots of fun... BECAUSE I AM!
I look like I’m having lots of fun… BECAUSE I AM! (Long arms are long.)

After about half a year, I had built up all the strength necessary to fly like crazy on the traveling rings. They are now a prime example of strength work that have become skill work. (Skill work is anything that requires a lot of practice to improve and doesn’t involve strength as the main component.) In any case, they are still to this day, the funnest apparatus to me.

When I lost fat, I started following a proper strength routine

I started to lose fat sometime around early 2013 and it turned out that I wasn’t as muscular as I thought. My arms, grip and core were very strong for the traveling rings which I had gotten really good at but not much else.  And my legs were only strong for very specific things: cycling up mountains and slacklining.

But now with my bodyweight routine in hand, instead of going straight to the traveling rings, I would put on my Casio watch to use its countdown timer and militaristically time everything from the bodyline drills to L-sits to support holds and so forth. I’d even time myself between sets of strength work to ensure that I was getting enough rest. (Otherwise I would only wait 20-30 seconds before getting fidgety.)

This was quite the change for me and I liked it. It had structure. I had goals. I was increasing hold times. I was writing them down in a log and the weekly progress was very motivating.

Workout of the day!
A collection of my WOD’s built up over the months. I’d spend about 10min putting one together before a session. It helps a lot to keep me on track and know what reps/times I should perform.

After about 6 months, something strange started to happen…

I’d arrive on the green to warm up and in the distance I’d see my friends playing on the traveling rings. I would have this itch to just go play around instead of starting my routine. But I told myself “No, I’m not going to succumb to fuckarounditis. I’m gonna trudge through my WOD (workout of the day) and kick ass. I’ll play on the traveling rings after.”

It helped that I usually had a workout buddy with me as we would motivate each other. But it wasn’t long before I started to realize that I wasn’t happy sticking to a routine so strictly all the time.

So what is the point of all this strength if I wasn’t enjoying myself?

So eventually there came a time when I was doing my exercises and I realized I wasn’t enjoying myself. Sure, handstands and front levers and even L-Pull ups are fun. All movement is fun!

But I felt bottled up by my routine. It had become a chore. It had become much like going to a gym and just lifting for the sake of lifting.  I had stuck on my regimen a little too strict and started to get bored. All work and no play makes Anto a dull boy.

When I went on vacation, I took that time to reevaluate my goals.

Just like how sometimes people need to take a break from their diet for a couple weeks to get a hold of themselves psychologically and physiologically, I took a break from working out methodically. I went out to Mexico for vacation and I only did my bodyweight exercises purely for maintenance.  I took this time to ponder how to strike a balance between strength and fun.

antranik holding front bird on bar
I found a pull up bar on vacation… Weeeee!

I reaffirmed that…

  • I don’t exercise for aesthetic reasons. I have always liked the way I look and probably always will. The reason I want to lose fat and gain muscle is because being lean enables me to progress faster with bodyweight exercises.
  • I like to workout to not have muscular imbalances and be a well rounded individual.
  • I like to work on my flexibility because it makes me feel good in my own skin and undoes all that sitting.
  • But more importantly, I workout because it’s god damned fun to MOVE and be able to express myself in anyway I want!
Found a floor to do handstands on! Hooray!
Finding a floor to do handstands while on vacation? Easy peasy!

Solution? It’s time to learn more skills.

Now that I have a fairly good amount of strength, I want to use it and enjoy it for stuff that requires a little more finesse and coordination. This is what skill work is all about. Learning new skills are fun. So I decided that nowadays I will go through my strength routine but dedicate much more time toward new skill development, much like how a gymnast would. (They don’t spend 6 hours doing heavy lifting. They spend most of that time perfecting their skills.)

For example:

Solution? Have a Play Day as needed!

When I asked my friend Soop, a long time OMB resident, how often he works out, he told me: “I work out three times on the weekdays and then Sunday is all play.” That’s right. PLAY! He had a reserved play day. (He is the one in the red shirt in the middle next to me, by the way, haha!)

One of the many fun Sundays at OMB... this one was 80's Mustache Movember. Soop is the one next to me in the red.
One of the many fun Sundays at OMB… this one was 80’s Movember. (New Split: ABCxPlay)

I have to play. If I don’t play, what’s the point of all this strength training I’m doing? I need to let loose and just have fun once in a while to feel free again. And while play may seem aimless, there is pleasure in that aimlessness. So I believe playing around and having fun with my ever-increasing strength is conducive to staying content and happy and discovering new ways to move!

Why not HOOP? (Photo capturing one of the very fun "flow parties" I threw back in 2012 at old muscle beach.)
Why not hoop? (One of the many “flow riders” day parties my friend and I put together)
If your park has swings, why not use them? They're not fun only for kids, you know?
If your park has swings, why not use them between sets? They’re not just fun for kids, you know?

It’s time to increase my skill repertoire…

You may have noticed that in my bodyweight routine, I added many inversion-recommendations such as crow pose, elbow lever, tripod headstand and forearm stand. I had forgotten about many of these in lieu of improving the freestanding handstand and the funny thing is, these other inversions are doing nothing but helping my handstand! (I’m coming to get you handstand!)

So anyway, here are some other skills I want to master (mostly A-level skills for now!)…

Still Rings

Want to master by Summer 2014

Want to master by the end of 2014


Want to master by Summer 2014

Want to master by end of 2014

Parallel Bar

Want to master this year, 2014

Want to master by end of 2014

Next Year

  • ?

Inspiration by Ido Portal

Ido portal does nothing but talk about movement. In regards to this topic he says,

“One has to patternize in order to de-patternize. From my experience, the best of the best, the biggest improvisers are those that were once sitting inside a cage of techniques and freed themselves up. That cage makes you stronger, sharper and appreciative so when you are freed into improvisation you have more to work with. The other side is that part of you might never get truly free, and that is a risk every practitioner must decide whether to take or not.”

isolation integration improvisation
I’ve been doing the isolation and integration. Now it’s time to also play with improvisation.

In the spirit of Ido, here is me playing around…

You probably won’t be instructed to do the above in any yoga class because it’s just me playing around and being creative!  This is what I’m urging YOU to do! Interestingly enough a lot of yoga “flows” in classes are not flows whatsoever, they are cookie-cutter routines and there’s nothing liberating about them usually!

Inspiration by Ryan of Gold Medal Bodies

When Ryan of GoldMedalBodies witnessed his kids growing up, he realized they move just for the sake of movement and fun. Inspired by his kids, he ended up creating this article on cool moves that will help get you moving in fun ways. He teaches how to somersault, frog jump, bear walk, cartwheel, and broad jump! He urges you to break out of your structured routine and just try these for fun either on the side or try them before/after your routine, but to not get overly serious about them, otherwise you’re missing the point.

Sooo… why not cartwheel?

Inspiration by Nicolas of Start Bodyweight

In a recent article, Nicolas eloquently explains how “the bodyweight world is evolving through a mixture of heavy borrowing and cross-pollination from other disciplines: From circus and hand-balancing arts, to gymnastics, martials arts, dance, parkour, etc.  A new embodied knowledge is emerging, which has more to do with the art of movement at large, and less with that of simple bodyweight exercises.”

In the end, he calls on you to…

In conclusion…

  • All that strength training is paying off because now, I can play harder.
  • My quest for more strength will probably never stop because it takes strength (and flexibility) to express oneself with full body control.
  • Balance between play, variety and strength work is not just much more fun, but realistic.
  • I will continue following my routine and using my casio watch to time my holds and update my workout log to ensure progressive overload is happening!
  • I’m just devoting a lot more time towards skill work and play days where I just let loose.
  • All of this allows me to increase my movement repertoire so that I could achieve my dreams of flowing on the floor and rings.
  • RyanHurst

    Great article. :)

    • Antranik

      Thanks Ryan! Means a lot coming from you!