The Cave

The Cave Blog

Training in Trees…

When I was a little kid, one of my favorite things to do in the “whole wide world” was to climb trees.  Looking back on it, the trees that I climbed were probably not all that tall, maybe 25-35 feet or so, but they sure seemed tall to me at the time.  I lived in “Park Merced” in San Francisco.  This beautiful little community next to Lake Merced is sprinkled with all kinds of pine, eucalyptus and other trees.  The condo-houses also make nice little rings around a common back yard and they’re attaced, making it very convenient if you wanted to get from one roof to another, so for a kid it’s pretty much a natural climbing playground.  A few weeks back, Rafe Kelley, founder of  ”Parkour Visions” and Seng from BAPK dropped by CFM on a Friday night just after OSTN.  We had an interesting conversation on training, the pros and cons of CrossFit, parkour, climbing, and training on trees.  I told themabout my injured knee and how lack of consistent rest has been keeping it from getting better.  Rafe and Seng seemed genuinely interested and concerned about my health and well-being.  I asked them about their recent training and they told me that they had just been in UC Berkley and that the trees there were amazing.  I asked about the trees and they told me that they had been doing quite a bit of their training on trees.  It’scurious to think of the evolutionary forces and implications of  developing competent movement on trees.  When we do pull-ups, muscle-ups, pull-overs, kips, swings, etc, on bars we’re really using an artificial imitiation of part of a tree or branch.  Pull-up bars and rings don’t occur in the natural environment, but trees do and although our recent evolutionary history  has us generally roaming on open grasslands, thus our bi-pedal abilities, supposedly displacement through forest and jungle foliage was part of that history, albeit a little further back.  I found this video of a famous traceur doing a little training on some pretty incredible trees.  If you go out and find a tree to climb or decide to scout out a bunch for some good parkour and functional movement training, be careful.  Remember that tree branches can break, especially rotten ones, and that you’re probably quite a bit heavier than when you were 8 years old.  (I know I am.)  Also, falling off trees is a great way to convert potential energy into kinetic energy, and as Jeff Jone’s t-shirt says, “It’s not the falling that kills you, it’s the sudden deceleration.”

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6 Responses to “Training in Trees…”

  1. Matt Mihaly says:

    Probably best to stay out of eucalyptus trees entirely. They’re called ‘widowmakers’ in Australia for their habit of more or less spontaneously shedding large branches that fall and kill whoever is under them.

  2. Connellan says:

    Oh… You should hear the other Moms when they see my boys in the trees… Urg.

    My “rule” is to have two body limbs secure at all times… in case a tree limb gives. I don’t think the boys think about it much, but when I watch them, it seems instinctive to follow that advice.

    Anyway…. If you want more info on the super importance of playing outdoors, I HIGHLY recommend the book, “Last Child in the Woods.” It offers really compelling analysis on the importance of being in nature for both for athletic and intellectual well being!

  3. Amadraeus says:

    Thanks for that piece of advice, Matt. Connellan, that is deinately a well-thought out strategy!

  4. Bill N. says:

    @Drais, very interesting post. I was also a tree monkey as a kid. Climbing trees always seemed a natural expression for play, and the ground is usually soft if you take a small fall. As a teenager, my dad bought a chainsaw and had me trimming trees around the house (if a branch broke he would yell, “…ride it down”!) I parleyed that into an unexpected source of income in college with tall-tree trimming gigs (I would never use a ladder, too dangerous). Not sure if you saw this post I put on FB recently, but check out 0.14 - 0.22. .

  5. Amadraeus says:

    Bill, I checked out the link. Pretty sweet video. I’d seen it before. I think I’m going to post it on a future blog if I can embed it.

  6. Emily Cookson says:

    There are some great climbing trees around Lake Merritt, right near Fairyland in Oakland. Hard to get very high, but lots of big low clean branches to “boulder” on. I can imagine the fun of jumping from limb to limb, for the parkour crowd… The boys and I drive over there sometimes just for the trees. I don’t know what they are, something with smooth gray bark and no fussy little twigs — beech, maybe.

    We had big white pines in my back yard growing up; I shudder to imagine Adrian at the top of one, 40-50 feet up, but Nathan would probably be fine. I loved it SOOO much and never felt like I was going to fall out of the top branches — I would sit up there for hours. There was also a lower branch you could jump off, holding a rope swing attached to another tree — the rope eventually rotted through but we used it until the last fibers gave way. Knocked the wind out of my brother, but it was a worthwhile risk.

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