by DAN VINSON
Click here to support monkii bars’ Kickstarter campaign.
The “Wild” Life
This outdoor gym did more than just get me into the best shape of my life; it changed the course of my life.
In the spring of 2007 I received word that I had landed a summer position as a Wilderness Ranger in California’s Sequoia National Forest
. I was also a Division I athlete at Georgetown, and this would be the crucial summer in between my Junior and Senior year. I wanted to be in excellent shape for my final season, and CrossFit was going to my training method. During my first wilderness tour, I spent all of my free time constructing an all-natural CrossFit gym near the meadow I would use as my base camp. I made a combination squat rack and dip
station out of logs and stumps; gathered every shape and size of rock for weights; discovered cliffs I could use to do handstand pushups; and organized fallen trees as box jumps
. Surprisingly, it was difficult to find tree branches low enough to do pull-ups
, so I tied a rope to a branch and looped it around a nook in a tree. This setup looked and functioned like a trapeze pull-up bar and added some excitement to workouts. This outdoor gym did more than just get me into the best shape of my life; it changed the course of my life.
While I was living in the wilderness, my best friend and co-founder, David Hunt, worked as a Wildland Firefighter in Montana. Whenever we’d get a chance to catch up, the common theme was how wild life had become: fires, bears, storms, and rescues. After we graduated from Georgetown in 2008, David received word that he would be stationed in Ethiopia for 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer. I’ll never forget the first picture he sent me of him working out in his new gym: squatting a car axle in a mud hut with a group of curious onlookers — it was AWESOME! He spent two years training like this and came back home in the best shape of his life. No bumper plates, no dub-step, no high socks or Nano 2.0’s. Just the raw desire to do the best with what he had.
In 2010, I was fortunate enough to make the trip to Africa and see how David was living. We constantly revisited our unique training methods and how we both felt inspired to take it even further. The ideas were still abstract, but we knew at that moment that we wanted to use our experiences to motivate people to bring their workouts outdoors.
The Birth of Monkii Bars
monkii bars: We know people will see it and think of the freedom of the elementary playground, but know that this is something new.
Fast forward to January of 2013. We had just been accepted to a startup accelerator in Colorado. I had somehow made the move to Boulder, and we were sitting in my empty apartment with some bamboo shoots, duct tape and a pile of nylon webbing. We were excitedly acting on a new idea: a gym that you could take anywhere. Our first concept was a portable kettlebell made with a bamboo handle. After quickly putting together a makeshift prototype using a shoe for weight, David swung it up over his head to test it. The shoe-weight flipped all the way around and smacked him in the back of the head.
I was still laughing when I noticed he looked like he was either concussed or was having a light-bulb moment. “What if we created a suspension trainer that stored all of the suspension material inside the bamboo so it was easy to bring anywhere?” monkii bars had just been invented.
As we were sitting there looking at our new invention, David said the name out loud: “Monkey bars.” It was perfect — reminiscent of a childhood memory to which everyone can relate. We wanted the name to stand out, of course, and after several spelling renditions, we decided on monkii bars
. We know people will see it and think of the freedom of the elementary playground, but know that this is something new.
Monkii bars are a lightweight and ultra-portable suspension training tool that ignites adventure and enables you to work out anywhere. They come as a set of 2 bars with the suspension material stored inside each bar. Functionally they mimic Olympic rings, allowing you to do the classics such as pull-ups, dips, pushups, rows, and toes-to bar. You can also add the more exciting gymnastic movements like muscle ups, ice cream makers, skin-the-cat and countless others. The portable, lightweight and sexy design makes them easy to bring camping, on a trail run, to the office, on vacation to Europe or even for a quick WOD at home.
Getting Back to the Wild
Whether you use monkii bars outside of your office or in a far off land, you join the small, but ever growing group of people connecting back to the wild.
“What if we did a workout underneath a hot air balloon?” I said this in August of 2013 while we were brainstorming ideas for a promo video conveying the theme “work out anywhere.” After a quick laugh and going through the various scenarios ending with me in jail or falling to my death, we did not revisit the idea… at least not until someone agreed to let us attempt a monkii bar workout underneath their hot air balloon. On October 22, 2013 we took off in Longmont, CO. About 500 feet off the deck, I hopped out of the balloon while David lowered me down to the monkii bars we had attached before takeoff. I was underneath the hot air balloon for over an hour and did as many reps and movements I could think of. As we began to descend, I noticed cars pulled over and people taking pictures. I waved and smiled even as I saw the Longmont Police show up. There’s no way this is illegal…right?
We touched down and the officer made sure I was alright, laughed, shook his head and drove off. We did a quick interview with the local news, grabbed a big breakfast and I went home to get ready to coach an afternoon CrossFit class. This was interrupted by a 48-hour news frenzy that literally went worldwide. If you search “man dangling beneath a hot air balloon,” you will see what I mean. My Dad was proud to share that we had been written about in the “weird news” column.
There are still small groups of people that gather across Europe to celebrate and honor the Wild Man. They believe that these rituals must go on so that our connection to the land and to the wild remains intact. Even though the modern world tells these people otherwise, they continue to remain open to the wisdom of the old ways. We believe in the Wild Man and we love the outdoors. Whether you use monkii bars outside of your office or in a far off land, you join the small, but ever growing group of people connecting back to the wild.
Ready to get back to the wild or looking for a way to change up your routine? Click here to support monkii bars’ Kickstarter campaign. Find monkii bars on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @monkiibars.