One of the main reasons I began pursuing movement-based fitness was for the feeling of freedom.
I would spend hours captivated by YouTube videos of kids practicing parkour - sprinting, climbing, crawling, and vaulting through their environment like water. The next day I would go out and practice for hours on end. I’d walk through the neighborhood looking for opportunities to interact with something besides a barbell or a fitness machine.
You see the gym had become a prison for me. A white-collar, $200 per month, all-inclusive prison with pool and steam room. That part wasn't all that bad, not until I stopped growing. That's when the walls started closing in.
It took a while to realize the toll this environment was taking; it was sucking the life out of me. Seemed like everything about the establishment wanted to hold me down and keep me in the box - my managers, my colleagues, the rules, the accepted means of physical training. Maybe you’ve had a job like that though. Run.
Out the back window you could get a glimpse of freedom. A skate park, a wide open field, and a beautiful playground in the woods. Sunset Park was my oasis in this mad world.
In that park, I learned what freedom of movement means to me. It meant escaping constraints and bad vibes. It meant having fun with my fitness again. It was just doing it just for me. It felt like flying. No coincidence, vaulting is the movement that most closely captures the essence of what I was feeling in these times.
From that taste of freedom, I could better understand the toxicity of that particular gym environment. I was pouring in my efforts and I stopped getting anything back. All my passion and enthusiasm for movement was being squashed. I couldn’t see it until I got out of it - that’s good old fashioned Midwestern work ethic, for you. I made an important decision that flying was more important than a comfy cage.
With that I peaced the fuck out.
That was years ago. Since then I’ve floated, floundered, experienced epic highs and deep lows, and learned volumes about myself. My movement practice has been there with me through it all. Each facet means something to me and as you may have guessed, vaulting has a special place reserved in my heart.
So that was a really long introduction to what I wanted to share today, some vaulting practice.
These are mostly variations we teach in MovNat. I love to get into a flow of overs and unders with this rig we have in our gym. I practiced the individual pieces for about 40 minutes before I got into a more improvised flow.
The tripod vault is my standard. It feels safe, works at all speeds, and is versatile to pass over or climb on top.
The split vault is super efficient (lazy) and works well for for these railings.
The side vault and turn vault remind me of hopping over fences as a kid. Pushing through the locked out arm insures that you pass over smoothly.
The front (kong) vault has always intimidated me, fear of face planting. It takes trust to time the jump. Learning where to plant the hands and how to apply force through the arms is key for a clean exit. This one is super badass and worth the time to learn.
Vaulting is on the complex end of the spectrum; there are a lot of moving parts. It’s important to break down each movement into a progression of drills to embody the technique. Good coordination and timing is required...that takes a lot of time and a lot of repetition. The mental factor is high; you can quickly psych yourself out and form a block. In that case, sometimes you work through it and sometimes you put it on the shelf for a while. Either scenario is a valuable chance to check your ego.
For me, vaulting is a lesson in working with the fear; using it as a tool to grow. Training through that fearful headspace provides some powerful life lessons. Leaning into that fear we stretch the reach of our comfort zone. That’s why I practice.
Find the environments that allow you to thrive. Break down complexity into manageable steps. Approach challenges with a playful mindset. These truly are timeless principles, applied and absorbed through fitness.
Sometimes life feels like a cage, constrained by rules and tradition. Sometime you need to do something new to feel something different. Let your body out of the cage for a while and see what it does for your mind.