by Katherine Pett
If you’re still in the market for a New Year’s Resolution, consider trying a new type of exercise. Recently I tried out parkour and had a LOT of fun!
I am not an athletic person (read: picked second to last for dodgeball), and I’ve never developed great coordination (read: I bump into doorways as I walk through them). But in 2014, I joined ClassPass, a sort of exercise subscription service that lets you pick tons of workout classes in your area, and “parkour” caught my eye. So that’s how I ended up in a playground in Somerville about to learn to jump around.
What is parkour? According to Google definitions, parkour is “the activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.”
Prime examples of parkour from pop culture are this:
Which of the two do you imagine I resembled in my attempt?
What was the class like?
I was a complete beginner at this, and I always feel self-conscious at workout classes if it’s my first time there. A typical thought process goes something like: “How does the spin bike work? I can’t clip my shoes in. Ah! Everyone can see I can’t clip my shoes in! Panic.”
But this class had more of the atmosphere of a block party than a hardcore workout. I showed up with my husband, Carl, and immediately Blake, our super-friendly instructor, introduced himself as we signed our waivers. Music was blaring from a bluetooth speaker, and everyone was just, well, hanging out.
To my surprise, other people in the class started coming up to us and introducing themselves, shaking our hands, and telling us we were going to have a good time. In that way, it was a little like church. Then, we got started.
We warmed up by running in a large circle following directions like “Switch!” or “Jump!” which meant we should change directions or jump as we ran. As the warmup progressed, Blake added instructions to lay completely flat on the ground, complete a burpee, etc.
After that, we all gathered on one side of the circle, and Blake explained the rules to a game so simple even I played it in childhood: The Floor Is Lava. We were tasked with getting everyone across the circle with only a certain number of feet touching the ground.
As a short female, I played this game by getting onto other people’s backs as they hopped on one foot across the lava expanse. Not much of a workout for me, but it was a good way to get comfortable with everyone in the class really, really quickly.
After warming up, Carl and I headed toward the play structure (yes, for children), and the class was split into groups of two and three. We then were tasked with getting one member of our group up the playground and to the slide without letting them touch the structure.
This may seem like a silly way to get a workout, but let me elaborate. Three separate times, I had to carry a very nice woman I had just met up a bunch of stairs on my back. And, after a couple of attempts, I did it! Step-ups can be difficult in an aerobics class, but going up stairs loaded with twice your weight? That’s a workout.
Then we switched to work on jumping; something parkour is famous for. We practiced “precisions,” or jumping directly to a specific spot. I was paired with a middle-aged woman who had been doing parkour for almost a year. I asked her what got her into it, and she said, “I heard it was for everyone, so I tried it!”
For the last activity, we lined up to run an obstacle course over the park’s picnic tables, over the fence and back. I watched as experienced parkour-ers rolled or hopped, or used one arm and one leg to propel themselves over the table. I could not do this, as it turns out; so I just ran over everything. It also took me a minute to get over the fence, but once I figured it out I was fine.
Finally, we were split into pairs; Carl and I were finally paired up together and given a bunch of calisthenics – squats, lunges, pushups, etc. – to complete. By this point, I was tired but happy to recognize the exercises.
Parkour was a great workout, just as good or better than a bootcamp-style workout, but much, much more fun. I really enjoyed the social aspect and the “goal-oriented” style of the class, which kept me busy and not looking at the clock waiting for class to be over. Ultimately, I’m glad I tried something new!
If you’re interested in a parkour class in Boston, here is the link: http://pkgamericas.com/timetableboston.
Katherine Pett is a first year in the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition program. Follow her on twitter @smarfdoc.