Tuesday, April 17, 2007
When I was but a lad in junior high school, lo these many decades past, I found myself in a gymnastics class. The teacher, who later went on to become the women's gymnastics coach in the Olympics, managed to scrounge enough gear to field a team that later took the junior nationals. Rings, bars, mats, horse, ropes, trampolines, all like that.
I was not on that team, being a scrawny kid who liked and did but one event, the trampoline, at which I was only so-so on my best day. Couldn't get past the double back summi.
However, one of the things that was still being done in AAU competition, though discontinued shortly thereafter, was the short rope climb.
Here's how it worked: You sat on the floor holding onto an inch-and-a-half rope that ran up twenty feet to a circular board called a tambourine. When the whistle blew, the clock started, and you used your upper body -- no legs -- to rise from the floor, hand-over-hand up to whap the tambourine, at which event the clock stopped.
Guy with the fastest time was the winner. Wasn't a female version, though I don't know why -- at one time, I recall correctly, the record for one handed-pull-ups was held by a woman who was a trapeze artist in the circus.
We had a kid who could do the twenty-foot rope in six and something seconds, and he won the championships in Florida that year.
It was an event that needed as much strength as the rings to be competitive. The world record at twenty-feet was -- still is, far as I know -- held by a man named Donald Perry -- no relation to me.
Back in the fifties, Don, a UCLA student, could go from the floor to the top in 2.8 seconds.
Think about that. If you've ever tried climbing a rope, that should impress you no end.
If you want to see something else that will impress you, go look at this: Whoa!
Anyway, rope climbing is a terrific upper body exercise; done right it works the front and back of the upper arms, the forearms, hands, shoulders, belly, back, abs, lats, everything from the ass up.
I used to do it years ago when I snagged a piece of ship's hawser from an abandoned dock in Baton Rouge and hooked it to limb up a live oak in the front yard. Alas, I didn't bring the rope when we moved to Oregon.
I'm gonna be sixty next birthday, so to that end, it seems like a good idea to get back into shape. I've ordered a piece of rope long enough to loop over a tree limb out back, and I'm gonna try it again. Limb is only about fifteen feet up, so that'll make it easier, though I suppose I could just go up and down more times.
Once I get back to the point where I can go up and down it one time ...
Cue the Tarzan yell: Uhhhahhuh-ah-uh-ah-uh-ah-uhh!