Parkour: The Ultimate Workout
I guess July was the month to try new things. I did my first mud run last weekend and a week before I tried parkour…and I loved it!
When I was younger I was very athletic. I played baseball, football (with my brothers), volleyball and basketball. But once I hit high school I stopped playing sports. My friends changed and none of them were into sports so I just followed their lead. Probably my biggest regret from that time.
So needless to say over the last 30 or so years as I packed on the pounds and embraced my sedentary lifestyle, my coordination and athleticism went to hell.
After the weight loss I’m committed to regaining what I lost. Despite my disenchantment with using a personal trainer, Parkour offers me two things I long for – natural movement and building strength.
My husband loves to quip about my “cat-like reflexes.” Actually, that’s our code for me tripping, stumbling or flat out falling on my butt.
What Is Parkour?
I’m sure you’ve seen the YouTube videos of kids leaping off walls and vaulting over railings. But I didn’t really learn about Parkour until I read Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall. I’ll post a review later this week, but needless to say, it lit a fire in my belly.
Basically it’s moving freely (running, jumping, climbing and quadrupedal movement) over and through any terrain (usually urban) using only the abilities of your body. Parkour helps develop strength, balance, agility, coordination, control and precision.
My Greatest Challenge
After my first class, I learned that my lack of coordination and athleticism weren’t my problems. My biggest enemy – fear. Fear holds you back. I kept imagining I’d twist an ankle, break some fingers or worse.
When you start to learn parkour, you’re not working 20 feet off the ground. I learned jumping techniques by using wood blocks that were 2 inches high. Not terribly frightening. But then there were the shoulder rolls and vaulting. Eeek!
Adding to my fears about injuring myself (or just looking stupid), I’m always nervous when I try something new at a gym. Most gyms just are horrible at creating an environment where you don’t feel self-conscious about your abilities. I always think I’m giving everyone a good laugh with my bull in a china shop moves.
Well, not so at Urban Evolution. Everyone – my classmates and instructor — were super friendly. Other than one teenager, everyone in my class was just like me. It was so relaxed. The only pressure I felt was what I did to myself.
When I try something new, I always want to do it right on the first try. While parkour was no different, I must say I never had so much fun getting things wrong. It took a couple of tries, but I stopped worrying about how uncool I looked and focused on getting the mechanics right (not perfect).
After a 5 minute warm up, we set our sights on learning how to jump to a specific spot and land properly. When leaping, you keep your heels up and land on the balls of your feet. When landing, you still keep your heels up and go into a squat. Not as easy as it sounds. I had trouble hitting my spot – I had a tendency to overshoot. And when I landed, I immediately became Weeble like. What I learned – when you lose your balance, go into a deep squat. You regain your balance immediately.
My husband filmed me during class. When I watched the video a couple of days later, I immediately saw a glaring error in my technique. I’d always leep with my left foot first. I needed to leap with both feet together. I got better as class went on but clearly I was thinking too much about tripping up.
I think the last time I did a summersault I was 9-years-old…and I was never any good at it. So when we moved on to rolling, fear took hold. My trainer saw how big my eyes got and asked me to try a summersault. Yikes!
He walked me through it step by step and low and behold…I did it! And got dizzy. But I got off the mat with a big grin on my face. Oh, it was on.
Rather than the summersault, we learned how to roll parkour style. Also known as a shoulder roll, and you don’t roll straight across the spine. Instead you roll from one shoulder across to the opposite hip. You start in a deep squat. Reach your arms diagonally to one side of your body and place your hands on the ground in a diamond position with your palms flat. You drop your forward shoulder to the ground and tuck your chin to your opposite armpit.
It takes a lot of practice to get it right. I had difficulty keeping my body in a tight ball. But I was more focused on rolling on my shoulder muscle, not the blade (ouch!).
We then tried combining our first two moves – jumping and quickly going into a roll. I just want to say, that when it comes to parkour, speed is not my friend.
Of all the moves from my beginning class, vaulting freaked me out the most. I constantly imagined my feet getting caught on a rail. I really worried about getting my legs high enough to clear the obstacle…be it a wall or rail.
First up was the safety vault. It took me some time but by the time class was over…well I won’t say I mastered it…but I started getting the hang of it. Although I need to work on keeping my hips square to the practice box.
As for the speed vault, well that needs more work…a lot of work. At this point in my illustrious parkour career, running and jumping don’t mix.
Can’t Wait For My Next Class
At the end of 2 hours, I earned my White Wrist Band allowing me to move forward with the white level (foundational) parkour courses. I’m required to take a minimum of 12 white band classes before testing to see if I qualify for the green level courses. Basically I need to master the moves before learning new moves that build off of the foundation. I like that.
What I didn’t like? The soreness. Oh man, I’ve never had a more exhilarating, exhausting full body workout. And from my shoulders to my toes (yes, toes!) I was sore. It took 4 days for my body to recover. Four frickin’ days!
Yet, I can’t wait for my next class. Alas, it won’t be for another 3 weeks, when I get back from Texas. So I have more sore muscles to look forward too.