Propel challenged me to face my fitness fears in the month of May. My previous blog post was all about me taking a yoga class which was a huge fitness fear. This time around, I took a Parkour class. Parkour (pronounced par-koor) is an amazing sport of moving rapidly through an area by negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, climbing or by any means necessary. You might be asking why this is a fitness fear and I would ask you” have you ever seen any Parkour videos on YouTube?” Those people are nuts! They leap off tall buildings, jumping rooftop to rooftop. They do backflips off walls. They dive between steel fence railings. To be blunt, they are insane! I’d prefer not to end up in the hospital which makes this a fitness fear. Take a look at the video below and you will see that there is significant risk in getting injured.
I had the opportunity to visit the Parkour gym of a fellow FitFluential Ambassador and take a beginners Parkour class. Ryan Ford is one of the pre-eminent Parkour athletes in the country and owner of Apex Movement and Athletics in Denver. Ryan and his crew are the stars of the video above and they make it look easy. I was stoked to be hanging out with Ryan and learning a bit about Parkour. Right off the bat, Ryan put my mind at ease by explaining that Parkour tends to get sensationalized on the web and that Parkour is actually very safe for a variety of reasons. He explained that high-level Parkour athletes train everyday to perform those stunts. He also explained that I am in control of every movement. If there was something I didn’t feel comfortable doing, I could just step back and not do it. Ryan also explained that most of the Parkour injuries stem from people seeing a video and trying to perform that stunt without learning the necessary skills. He assured me that I wouldn’t be trying any double backflips and that he was going to start me at the bottom and progress to more intricate skills which is the safe and correct way to learn Parkour. Ryan is genuine, sincere and authentic which made me feel comfortable and ready to learn more about the sport.
We started by doing a series of dynamic stretches, aimed at getting the blood flowing and the muscles warm. I don’t usually do extensive stretching before a workout, I’m more of an after workout stretch guy, but hindsight is 20/20 and I’m glad we took the time to stretch before we got to work. The first skill that we worked on is pullups. I’ve never been able to do many pullups, but Ryan showed me a little trick that will help build the muscles necessary to do pullups. He had me jump up to the peak pullup position and then do a negative (slowly lower myself down) to the ground. I must have done 20 or so of these negative pullups and my lats are still paying for it!
Next we worked on a skill that is paramount to all things Parkour and that is balance. As I would learn throughout the class, balance is the key to staying safe and being able to progress through the various Parkour skills. As you’ll see in the video, most of my class was focused on getting comfortable balancing on a rail that was less than a foot off the ground. When Ryan first demonstrated what we’d be working on, I thought it would be a walk in the park. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Balancing on the balls of my feet and trying to perform various movements while maintaining balance is incredibly more difficult than what I thought. I was getting really frustrated with myself for not begin able to balance perfectly at this seemingly remedial task. I was 15 minutes into a great workout, sweating, heart pumping and frustrated. Ryan suggested that we take a short break to mentally regroup. This was a perfect time to grab my bottle of Propel and hydrate. Parkour is a legitimate workout and hydration plays an important role in keeping the muscles active and performing under stress. Propel is, in my opinion, the perfect hydration source as it’s enhanced with vitamins and tastes great. After a short break, we got back to working on my balance. As my balance got better, Ryan began introducing more and more skills. Turning around, walking back and forth and jumping from rail to rail were all things that I haven’t done since I was a kid. Over the next twenty minutes or so, I began to get better at balancing and we moved on to the next skill. I didn’t expect it, but my abs were screaming the next day.
I briefly mentioned to Ryan that I run a lot of obstacle races so he was eager to teach me the right way to vault over a wall and keep my stride. Ryan is a great teacher and is very good at showing the right way to perform the skill and explain why it works. He showed me how to plant my hands at the top of the way, kick up my opposite leg and thread my other leg through that then creates the first step in the stride so that I can keep running after leaping the wall. I must have picked this up quickly and nailed a few jumps as we transitioned into the next skill, which is the one that made me most fearful of this sport.
Ryan brought me to the trampoline, which is also where the foam pit is. Part of me was excited to jump into the foam pit and the other part was nervous that I was going to be trying a front flip and land on my head. I was more nervous of the possibility that I would have to explain this injury to my wife while in a hospital bed. These thoughts quickly passed as Ryan was beginning to teach me the correct way to tuck and roll. This is the first step in performing a safe and successful front flip. After several attempts at tucking the right way, Ryan felt I was ready to flip into the foam pit. As you see in the video, Ryan does a near flawless front flip and I started to get nervous again. Thankfully, Ryan showed me a way to put my hands on the mat and use the trampoline to propel (see what I did there) my feet over my head and flip me into the foam pit. Getting out of the foam pit is a workout in and of itself. It took serious effort to wade through the foam to the edge and pull myself up and out of the pit. I did a couple more flips focusing on what Ryan taught me and tried to rotate more each time. After pulling myself out of the pit three times, I was out of breath and ready to cool down.
While stretching out, cooling down, and drinking Propel for post workout hydration, Ryan was educating me on the sport of Parkour and how it’s still in its infancy. Competitions aren’t mature enough to have serious prize money or notoriety, but they are growing and getting more attention. After taking this beginner class, I can testify to the fact that not only is this a serious workout, but Parkour athletes are serious athletes and really work on honing their craft. In the video above, they make this sport look easy. Let me be the first to tell you that Parkour is pretty much the exact opposite of easy. My respect for this sport and athletes grew exponentially after trying to perform the most simple skills while these guys bounce around all over the place. My heart rate monitor proved to me that the beginners Parkour class provided an amazing workout.
Big thanks to Ryan for teaching me about Parkour and helping me to conquer a fitness fear. Also want to thank Propel for challenging me to get out there and do things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Have you ever tried Parkour? If not, is it something you would try? What are your fitness fears and what is holding you back from conquering those fears?
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