Parkour workshop

I went to a parkour workshop yesterday held at 25 O’Clock Brewing in Urbana—one small bit of the UnConference (a very Urbana thing).

I’ve been interested in parkour for years now. I have included various bits in my own training, and also gone to train with the campus parkour group (the same people who led this workshop) a few times. For various reasons (social timidity, physical timidity, lack of fitness) I haven’t managed to establish a regular practice of training with the campus group. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not interested, so I was glad to learn about this workshop, which seemed like a safe, easy way to get back into it—and was.

We were led in a warmup, followed by some quadrupedal movement: Bear crawls, aka foot-hand crawls, both frontwards and backwards, followed by a move I know by the name “traveling ape,” although there are probably other names for it.

After the QM we went for a very short run to a wonderful object that could perhaps be described as a free-standing wall of old railroad ties locked in a wire cage. It had a flat metal top which together with the cage made it great for practicing cat hangs: The cage provides enough of a toe hold that even people with limited grip strength can hold on long enough to get a good workout.

The next thing we worked on was shoulder rolls. I was particularly glad for this part because I used to be able to do shoulder rolls, but at some point in the last 35 years lost the mix. Starting from a kneeling position, though, I was able to recover my roll. In just 15 minutes of practice I was back up to doing rolls from a squat. From there I’m sure I can work up to rolls from a standing position pretty quickly.

(Actually, the main delay is that for some reason the rolls made me queasy. I don’t remember that from 35 years ago, but yesterday I got queasy after a few minutes rolling, and my stomach didn’t completely settle down for several hours.)

After rolls we did some vaults. We started with the safety vault, which I’d already learned (and have continued to practice, because it’s really handy for things like getting across downed trees while out hiking). Then we proceeded to some initial progressions for the kong vault. I’d always thought of the kong as the most advanced vault, but that’s when it’s used to traverse a gap beyond the thing you’re vaulting. It can also be used like the safety vault as a way to get on top of some object, and that’s what we learned yesterday. With a low-enough wall (waist-high, rather than chest-high), I can already get on top with a kong vault.

Shout-out to restorative exercise specialist Ashley Price who spotted that the parkour workshop was going on and suggested that I attend.

Today I’ve already included a bit of parkour in the day’s activities, adding a bit of QM to my afternoon walk, both foot-hand crawling and a bit of ground kong. (The latter is excellent practice for reminding myself that I need to keep my knees together, something that does not come naturally.)

Shoulder rolls and precisions

In a very small way, I’ve been persisting with my parkour training.

I’ve been practicing my shoulder rolls with some success: I can now do shoulder rolls from a kneeling start on both left and right shoulders. With that under my belt, I also did some from a standing start on my right side. I want a little more practice before I do them from the left side.

Next will be to do them at a run, and then to do them after dropping from a height. (Not a high height—I don’t want to hurt my feet, ankles or knees—but I want to develop the ability to drop from a height, absorb the impact of landing, and then go into a roll if necessary. It seems like a useful skill.)

The other thing I’ve started with are what the parkour folks call a precision: a jump to a specific point. You’ve seen them in movies where the actor (or a stunt man) jumps from one beam to another over a gap, or jumps from the top of one wall to the top of the next wall.

In the interests of not killing myself with my practice, I’ve been doing all my jumps at ground level, jumping and then landing on a curb. I’m not jumping very far—I still have no explosive power—but so far I have reasonably good accuracy. (The curb is maybe 6 inches wide, and I’ve managed to land on it, and to not topple over, pretty much every time so far.)

The distance I can jump is growing, which I think is just improving neuromuscular recruitment. (That is, at the level of the muscles, I’m getting better at firing off each phase of muscular contraction at the best moment to launch myself, and at the level of the limbs, I’m coordinating my arm and leg movements so that everything works together to launch me the distance I’m trying to go.)

In other news, packing to move proceeds apace. We’re soon to be at the point where we’re living in our summer place as much as we’re living in our old apartment. And we’ve learned that we’re #2 on the waiting list for Winfield Village