Thursday, January 29, 2015

Parkour Take 1

I've been wanting to try parkour for years now but at the same time I've suspected that it's one of those things where the idea of it sounds better than the reality.  But one of my projects for the winter is to improve movement, range of motion, strength, etc. and not just for triathlon but for life in general.  I want to be able to move easily, smoothly, supple leopard-like.  I've been working with the functional movement specialist for range of motion, neuromuscular type stuff, etc.  I had 2 weeks of a set of exercises and now I've progressed to the next level.  I had some improvements from the tests she did 2 weeks ago though it felt to me like she wasn't pressing as hard though it could be that I did get better so it didn't feel as hard.  I'll go back in 2 weeks and hopefully that will be it.

As for the parkour, I finally decided to pull the trigger.  I went to watch a class first to see what was involved but the secretary had told me the wrong time so no beginner class was going on when I got there.  Instead I spoke with the owner, told him about my surgeries and bad knees and middle aged-ness and he assured me I'd be fine in the introductory class.  The instructor could modify things for me if there was something I couldn't do or I could sit out if I wasn't comfortable with something.  Sounded perfectly reasonable.

Until I got to class.  The class was huge for the size of the area we had to work.  Very cozy.  The instructor looked a bit overwhelmed and called another instructor over to help.  We started with a 10 minute warm-up that was mostly stuff I already do to warm up for running, no problem so far.  Then the instructor brought us over to an obstacle course that we were supposed to run.  And he was timing us.  No instruction and the only thing he let us practice ahead of time was a wall we had to run up then hoist ourselves over onto a platform at the top.  The wall is circled in the photo below.

Because this totally looks like something a 50 year old beginner with bad knees can do.

The instructor had to put his leg out for me to use a little for leverage on the practice run.

The course also involved balancing on these metal bars on the ground.

Here's a single bar

But we had more than one bar.  First we had to stand on one bar and jump to a second bar that was maybe 2 feet or so away.  Just far enough to be hard.  Then we had to walk across a line of the bars stacked end to end of each other.  I managed to stand on the first bar.  Just.  But when I jumped onto the second bar I couldn't stick the landing and ended up on my ass.  The instructor looked worried but I got up and was o.k.  Then I had a hard time staying on the rest of the bars.  I did make it up the wall on my own during the test but I skinned my knees.  There were tunnels to crawl through and walls to climb over in between all of this and those parts were fine.

Then once on the platform at the top of the big wall we had to climb down bars like the ones on the floor except they were on the wall.  I drew them in red on the photo below.  Then touch the black metal bar and you're done.  Except you have to make your way out of the foam pit which is not as easy or fun as it looks.  This photo must have been taken when they first put the foam in.  It is not so clean and shiny looking now.  Thankfully I was not being timed on how long it took me to get out of the foam pit.  And hopefully I won't end up on YouTube.

All of this in the first 20 minutes of class.  I was ready to go to the front desk and beg for my money back at that point because this was not at all what I had in mind.  But I stuck it out and the rest of class was great, exactly what I was hoping for.

We started off learning quadrupedal movement, or moving on the ground on all fours.

Basic Quadrapedal Movement

Quadrupedal Gallop

Ground Kongs

Quadrupedal Side Lunge

Crab Walk

Very cool stuff, I'm excited to practice it and I think it'll give me exactly what I'm looking for in terms of mobility, strength, supple leopard-ness.  Plus FUN.

We also worked on air squats, something I've been working on on my own but I was very happy for having some feedback.  Turns out I'm doing o.k. with them but can turn my knees out a little more.  For some reason I was getting light headed/dizzy when I'd stand up from them though.  Will have to watch that, don't want the embarrassment of passing out in class.  I have low blood pressure and often have issues with this when getting up from sitting for a long time or laying down but I've never had it before from squats.

Then we worked on jumping straight up and landing quietly in a squat.  Not sure I was doing that right, we didn't get a whole lot of instruction on how to land quietly.  Guess it's a trial and error type thing.  This is something I want to work on and get better at.  I think it'll help my running and save my knees.  Those parkour guys move like cats and that's my goal.  Supple leopard all the way.

Now if I can just get over the SORE.  My quads were sore and twitchy last night from the squats but at about 3:00 this afternoon the hurt settled into my arms and chest.  The quadrupedal movement works the upper body a lot more than I realized at the time.

The funniest part of the evening was when I first got there and was waiting in the reception area for class to start.  I saw an old co-worker of mine from my engineering days, a woman about my age who had quit to have kids.  She was there waiting for her kids and I had to explain to her that yes, I was there to take a class.  Because normal 50 year olds go to parkour gyms to pick up their kids, not to skin their knees and fall on their ass.

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