The Wall Street Journal | April 6, 2015
After Work, an Architect Heads to the Bars, Rings and Mat
By Jen Murphy
Mr. Vaughn attends hourlong gymnastics classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The classes work to build strength to properly enter a pose such as handstand, among other things. Handstand skills are broken down to focus on strength and balance. A handstand class might practice entering the pose in a number of ways, such as piking both legs up at the same time. “Part of the trick is practicing different ways so that you become comfortable with all of them.”
He says most classes are geared around progression. A rings class for a beginner, for instance, typically starts with a dead hang. “That seems simple but just hanging with your arms above your head is hard,” he says.
The next week’s class then goes onto a false grip, where your wrists are balanced inside the rings to give you a shelf to push off from. “I felt like my wrists might rip off when I first tried it,” he says, “but you slowly develop calluses, which help perform moves like a muscle-up.” A muscle-up starts with a false grip on the rings and then you push your body up until your hands and rings are at waist height.
Eventually students work up to more advanced moves such as skin the cat, where you start in a dead hang and raise your legs up to a 90-degree angle. You then lift your hips to bring them over your head. “This really gets your shoulders flexible,” he says.
On the pommel horse, he suspends his body in the air and does loops with his legs. “It’s kind of like walking around on your hands,” he says.
Mr. Vaughn says he was at first intimidated by the stall bars, which look like a wide ladder against the wall. Gymnasts hang from various rungs and perform exercises such as leg lifts and use the bars for stretching. “It was a humbling experience,” he says. “But it’s an incredible core workout.”
On weekends, Mr. Vaughn often does a series of classes, sometimes starting with a handstand strength class, then a gymnastics level 2 class and ending with a flexibility session. When he can’t make class, or needs to relieve stress, he practices moves on the apparatus in his apartment, where he lives alone.
“Hanging from the rings is a great stress burner,” he says. “If I can’t think clear, I might go do a handstand on my pirouette bars,” referring to a piece of equipment that looks like a low set of parallel bars.