Parkour: How to Get Started
Transform an urban landscape into a gym with Parkour, a new exercise discipline.
Picture the opening scene in the James Bond thriller Casino Royale: Daniel Craig is chased through a sandy Madagascar construction site, vaulting over fences, leaping between girders a dozen stories up, rolling along huge pipes, shimmying up crane cables. Now imagine a small group of 20-something athletes mimicking the same moves in your local park: running along half-walls, scaling playground equipment, shimmying up basketball poles. They’re aficionados of parkour, reveling in the thrill of stunts and mastery of moves while enjoying conditioning and strength-building benefits.
Parkour, also known as free running, is a relatively young sport in which the traceur (as a participant is called) runs, jumps, climbs and rolls to traverse a city’s obstacles. A typical course may include streets, buildings, railings, ramps, stairs and vehicles. But this is no race. Efficiency and style are as important as speed, and the traceur sees himself as one with the environment. While a distant cousin of crossfit, parkour has an outward focus on the athlete’s interaction with the environment, versus crossfit’s emphasis on the athlete’s core fitness.
Some classic parkour moves include:
Cat Leap: Jump, grab a ledge above with two hands, then pull the body up to the top of the ledge.
Tic Tac: Run up the side of a wall, then down the wall back to the street.
Kong Vault: Use two hands between spread legs when vaulting over a wall.
Roll: Run into a forward roll.
To get started, you might want to hire a trainer who specializes in parkour: Many gyms have special facilities and coaching. Most major metropolitan areas have parkour communities that organize training, meetups and jams. Or check message boards at americanparkour.com for local connections.
If you’re over 40, you may prefer to be a parkour spectator. Keep an eye out on your travels. While parkour is usually not a competitive sport (because style is essential and subjective), last year the “German championship” was held at Dusseldorf International Airport, with participants taking advantage of soaring 20-foot ceilings, baggage equipment and Jetways. Closer to home, look online for local jams. (A search on “parkour jams” and your city name will bring results. There’s also a national listing of jams at americanparkour.com for local connections..) But if watching from the comfort of your armchair is more your speed, a quick search of YouTube will yield a full evening of inspiring videos of the best of the sport. Or tune into cable TV: MTV’s Ultimate Parkour Challenge and G4’s Jump City.