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Hardin finds home in freestyle calisthenics

Posted: December 6, 2017 - 1:33am  |  Updated: December 6, 2017 - 1:35am
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Cade Hardin of Evans recently competed in the Battle of Bars, a freestyle calisthenics competition in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He built a training facility in the backyard at his parents’ house to continue his progression in the sport.

When Cade Hardin began body-weight training, he couldn't find an appropriate training facility.

So he built his own in his parents' backyard in Evans. Now, Hardin continues working outside on his new sport, doing gymnastics-like moves on an assortment of metal bars, some that form parallel bars, others that form a tall square shape. It's all in an effort to continue his calisthenics work.

"Anyone can lift weights and get big, and it does take a lot of hard work to do that," he said. "But in my mind, your body was made to move. And this is the most creative form of movement."

Hardin, 24, who works for Discount Tire, is the oldest of three siblings (Rachel, 21, and Jacob, 19). He grew up playing baseball, basketball, football and soccer. Baseball was his main sport - he played travel ball for years.

At Lakeside, he played football, basketball and baseball. The school was his main base during his prep career.

"If there was ever a day after school that I had to go home, it was really weird. I didn't know what to do," he said. "I was used to staying after for some sort of lifting or practice or game year-round."

Hardin's life changed when he broke his elbow just before his senior baseball season at Lakeside. Because of the injury, he didn't play college baseball. Instead, he ran track for one year at Augusta University. After that, he started lifting weights by himself. After awhile, though, he grew bored.

So Hardin started working on his core strength. Then, he began doing calisthenics. Through social media, he discovered the freestyle side of the sport.

"I kind of fell in love with it, but I didn't have the background with flipping and spinning," he said. "There was a fear I had to get over. I'm still getting used to it. When I see myself doing a backflip on video, I still can't believe I'm that person."

Hardin is doing street workout, a form of freestyle calisthenics (body-weight training). He describes it as a mix of Parkour and gymnastics.

"It has the flipping and spinning of Parkour," he said. "And then we do a lot of gymnastics strength elements. With the street side, you get to throw your own individuality into what you do."

In August 2016, his friend, Ty Snipes, asked him if he had seen former Greenbrier baseball player Eric Jenkins doing American Ninja Warrior workouts. Hardin sent Jenkins a message and the two began working out at Jenkins' house, where he has a Ninja Warrior course. Back then, Hardin couldn't do a handstand. He's come a long way since.

"It just becomes a lifestyle from the way you work out," Hardin said.

Hardin continued working out and recently took the next step in freestyle calisthenics, competing in a 16-man tournament in the Battle of the Bars in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He uploaded a 60-second, unedited routine to Instagram, tagging the event organizers. After two weeks, he received an invite to his first World Calisthenics Organization event.

There, two competitors faced off in a four-minute routine, with the competitors switching off every 40 seconds. Three judges determined who had the best routine - competitors needed two judges' votes to win the match. The routines were judged on things like strength, flow, individuality and showmanship. Hardin won his first battle, advancing to the top eight. Then he lost to a more experienced competitor.

"A lot of people have been training in this for three or four years or have a gymnastics background," Hardin said. "I just started from scratch last August.

"It just showed me what I needed to do to get on top. Great learning experience."

Hardin has his eyes set on two upcoming Battle of the Bars competitions in April (Philadelphia) and June (Chicago). Competing in one event, if not both, is going to take more hard work, he said.

"I'm going to have be that good to where they're going to want to invite me," he said. "And I plan on being that good."

When he's not working, Hardin trains as much as he can, starting with stretching. He also does yoga to work on his flexibility, a key part of the sport. If he does a full training session, he'll go for two and a half hours at his house, sometimes with his girlfriend, Megan O'Connor, training with him. Hardin also trains on Tuesday nights at Gymnastics Gold.

In the meantime, he's in the process of getting his personal training certificate. Hardin is also trying to get certified in calisthenics (a two-year process), which could lead to him training others in the sport.

In the future, he's thinking about trying out for America Ninja Warrior - he said he'd have to improve his grip strength. But for now, he's sticking to the sport where he's found a home.

"Now," he said, "I'm going to train harder than ever for street workout."

 

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