Obstacle Course Race Training : The PT Barn (Monkey Bars)

Road trip !!!

Kirsten Whitehouse had organised a trip to The PT Barn for the St Albans OCR Training Group (With Coffee & Cake) (we really need team training tops for the group…) and as my arrangements for the weekend gradually fell away, I became able to attend.  Which filled me with equal parts excitement and dread.  I was about to face something I knew was not within my skillset, in the company of the elite, and under the guidance of coaches who would be used to dealing with people far more experienced than me.  It was a 0700 start, so I left St Albans at just past 0600, and made very good time on the M25.  The PT Barn was very easy to find from the postcode and instructions on its website, and there was more than sufficient parking space available outside.

Why am I here ???

I had parked between the cars of the very familiar Matt Stewart (who I had seen at the Bigfoot Challenge the day before, which you can read about here) and Ray Fletcher, and we were soon chatting as others started to arrive.  There were many faces I recognised and also a few faces I did not recognise, but they all looked like they would know their way around monkey bars and a rig.    As soon as Tony Leary arrived we began to make our way inside.  Now we had Kirsten, Tony, Matt, Ray, Robert Boarder, Daniel Spears, Jake Barber, Lee Jackson, Coach Tony Campbell, Andrew French, Robin French and Neil Robinson, all of whom I recognised, and a few new faces to me, in the form of Martin Bullock (who appeared to be still in his pyjamas), Dany Grade and Wendy Macartney, and then Nick Day joined us as we moved into a warm up.  Once again I found myself completely out of my depth at a Sunday morning training session !

The Dream Team

The session was being taken by Scotty PT, who was another new person to me today, and we began with an active warm up, moving around the edges of the inside area while doing various functional movements, all of which were very clearly intended to get us ready for the session to come.  It was a bit worrying that before we had even finished this bit Scotty already knew my name.  It then became even more functional as we split into small groups (and I was with Daniel and Matt, still feeling so far out of my depth !), starting off with taking turns just hanging from a bar, then moving from one side of the rig to the other using parallel bars, with one hand on each. 

I’m actually doing it !!!

I was surprised that I could manage that, because I would not have thought that I could.  I had started off wearing my fleece, but did not need to keep that on for very long at all !  This was not just any old warm up, some actual thought had gone into what should be included in it, and by the end of it I felt ready.  Or as ready as I would ever be.

Very arty pic from Kirsten

We split into two groups, the more advanced (most of the group) going off to do their own thing on the rig, while a few of us stayed with Scotty at the monkey bars.  We started with the (very) basics, some talk around technique, before he got us up there and working.  He took us through the correct grip, the different ways to travel, how important it was to have the proper movement happening, to be using the knees, and it all made perfect sense.  In my head. 

Use those knees !!!

However, I was finding it a lot more difficult to put it into practice.  I could barely reach up to the first monkey bar and just stay there holding it.  Scotty had noticed this and had a solution.  He told me to do three burpees and then go for it, and if I did not get to the other side I would have to do fifty burpees.  I got down and gave him the three burpees, sprung (ha !) up and attacked those monkey bars like never before, and managed to go from zero monkey bars to three monkey bars just like that.  It was all a matter of getting that initial movement, but more to the point it was being fortunate enough to have the good coaching analysing me to spot that.  Having been through the basics, we now moved on to more advanced movements like the gibbon clamp, but I was already more than happy with the level I had reached this morning.

A view of the rig

I continued practising what I had learned until my hands hurt enough that I knew it was time to stop, which allowed me the opportunity to watch some of the elite go through the rig, each of them helping the others to find solutions or offer help with new techniques.  Nobody was hiding anything from anyone else and it was a very collaborative session. 

Action shot !!!

It was also fascinating for me to be able to watch how they got from one end to the other with some ease.  They then added a progression and tried it with wet hands.  The rig seemed to contain everything – bars, hoops, ropes, rings, boards. 

Lee on the peg board

Once they had finished with the rig they moved on to the peg board, which, again, was just awesome to watch, as they flowed up and down it, or across it, with seemingly little effort.  By now we had been joined by more members of what has become Team Nuclear Phoenix OCR, who train at the PT Barn on a regular basis, and it shows.  They were going to be having a full training session after we had finished.

An awesome group of athletes, and me

We had been there for at least a couple of hours and because of the size of the group it has cost us £10 each.  For that we got access to excellent equipment and top class coaching.  The size of the group did not stop Scotty from making himself available to anyone who needed his input.  I would thoroughly recommend the PT Barn and it will be a big part of my training going forward.

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