I can't decide if parkour is the coolest or nerdiest thing I've ever done. You've all seen the episode of The Office where Dwight was really into Parkour. That was pretty nerdy. But the episode of Broad City where Abbi pretends to do parkour? That was pretty cool. I've thought about this a lot and I still don't have an answer. But I will say this—Parkour is hella fun.
Parkour is a sport that involves movement, usually through an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing. Houston is pretty lucky to have parkour classes offered through Urban Movement. I decided to try it out on the advice of one of the original co-founders, personal trainer Mandy Trichell. They have daily classes at Studio Fitness in the Heights and occasionally hold free classes at Discovery Green.
I went on a Thursday night to find a group of cool looking people gathered around the rig at the back of Studio Fitness. I immediately felt intimidated but then they all introduced themselves and assured me it wasn't as bad as what those Crossfitters do. I felt somewhat at ease.
For our small group of about 15, there were three coaches demonstrating the moves, watching our form and helping us to make any necessary adjustments. The big misconception about parkour is that it's all about jumping from building to building, but a lot of what I saw in the warm-up and the rest of the class was based on quickness, balance, flexibility, agility and moving your body.
We played a fun game in the warm-up where we partnered up with someone and "attacked" each other with a PVC pipe. The goal of the game was to avoid the pipe by moving out of the way—but doing so creatively. I was off to a good start, though I'll skip over the part where I almost passed out doing bear crawls across the turf during the second part of the warm-up. Lesson learned: Always hydrate and fuel before engaging in any physical activity.
Next up, we learned a super cool move by vaulting our bodies over a tall obstacle. We all took turns going over a bench that was about 4 feet off the ground. I did not embarrass myself too much. At least I don't think I did. This is the kind of stuff I came here expecting to learn.
Towards the end of class, we finally got to play on the rig. It's made up of rails and bars—the Urban Movement folks lovingly call it the CFR, short for Clusterf*ck of Rails. We had to balance our bodies over the rig by keeping the balls of our feet perpendicular to the bar—no hands allowed. I got the baby bar that was just a couple of inches off the ground since I was a beginner. Some of the other guys were on much taller bars and made it look so easy, the coaches gave them 20-pound medicine balls to hold. These are my new life goals. I couldn't actually balance myself for more than a few seconds at a time. I was assured this was normal for a beginner and with practice I'll get better. A lot of the other students have been there for more than a year and were pretty good at it.
Would I do parkour again? Absolutely. I think a lot of people would benefit from adding parkour to their regular fitness routine, especially if they're looking for a change from strength training and cardio. It seems like a great way to work on mobility and agility and in a way that is fun and restorative. People who are into martial arts would probably really appreciate the focus on movement as well.