What is Parkour? “In the strictest sense as defined by David Belle, Parkour is the art of moving through your environment as swiftly and effectively as possible using only the human body.” -(Parkour Terminology & Definitions)
In other words? Free running–or being bad-ass and climbing walls, flipping off of buildings–or leaping over objects.
I can barely feel my legs–and I’ve still got a good five to ten minutes left in the parkour warm up.
“Everyone’s going so fast,” I say out loud, as I finish a spider crawl a good 10 seconds behind the 8 men in my class.
One of my classmates turns to me in support, “Go your own pace–this is about you getting better–don’t worry about us.” He smiles a hopeful–and helpful–grin.
We transition from backward spider crawls to front-ward hops. My body feels worn. I stop mid-way to the finish line. I hear my friend Matt begin to cheer me on. Then the other guys join in. Instead of being intimidated or embarrassed by the cheering–I breathe it in. It’s like being back on a team again. ”I can do this,” I say to myself. “I can get to that finish line.” And I do.
After ten more minutes of warm up–some struggles–and a quick game, Matt turns to me and says, ”I don’t think we are supposed to be winded after the warm up.” He’s not trying to mock me. He is tired too. Huffing and puffing, but also laughing, I nod along.
After refueling, we head back over to the mat for the parkour portion of the class. Now, barely able to feel my legs, I try and mentally prepare myself for what’s to come. Before coming to class, I imagined them teaching us how to step off of walls and do basic jumps. I was wrong.
As Matt and I arrive back over at the mats, we realize that there is a four and a half foot vaulting box sitting in the middle of the floor. My jaw drops and I begin asking myself, “How the hell am I — at 5′ 2″ — supposed to make it over this thing?” And now every excuse is going through my head as to why I should just stop now: “I think I hurt my legs during the warm up.” “This isn’t for me.”
I continue staring at the box–and then I make a motion as if I am going to attempt to clear it. And then I stop myself.
My instructor watches me as I indecisively go back and forth between going for it and not going for it. He walks over to me. “Libby, part of parkour is seeing an obstacle and just figuring out how to get over it–any way possible.”
He’s right. — Of course he’s right, he’s my instructor. And naturally, as a writer, I begin comparing what he has just said to me about parkour — to life. I think about the past year and how I made my way over, under, and around all my obstacles—how I didn’t let fear stop my perseverance, dedication, or determination–how I took on fear on a number of occasions and for lack of a better term–kicked its ass. Why I am even so fearful now–at this exact moment–I’m not sure–as the worst that can really happen is that I don’t make it over the vault–in which case of course, I’d get back in line and try again.
Matt is clearing the vault in what seems like an effortless manner.
I thank my instructor for the push–and accelerate toward the vault. Right foot up. Left hand down. Right hand down. Left foot up. Jump down.
It doesn’t look graceful. And it’s not quite exactly what I am supposed to. But I make it over the vault and in that single moment my confidence surges from a 2 to a 7. I whisper to myself, “Don’t look at the top of the mountain Libs–look at all the parts you need to get there.”
My confidence stays high and I go to jump the vault again–this time in what feels more like one swift motion. And then again–and again–and again. Though to be honest, sometimes, it feels as though I am going in such slow motion that my parkour name could be “Freeze Frame.”
The others are moving quickly through the vaults–the jumps–the moves–but I am taking my time.
I remind myself that this is my first time attempting this sport and that it’s just fine that I am still getting down the basics while others are twisting and turning themselves over one–even two boxes.
With each jump, I can feel myself exponentially getting better–I can feel myself getting more comfortable with the approach, the jump, and the landing. And I can feel myself smiling as I watch the others land their trick moves–my friend Matt gain some serious air–and my instructor cheer everyone on.
A young girl joins our class toward the end and as we are taught one last move (one that asks us to hold ourselves up on a wall spiderman style) she watches a bout of doubt appears on my face. She yells to me, “Believe in yourself.”
The doubt diminishes–and I am now overwhelmed with courage. I reach one leg out–grip my hands to wall, and lower myself into the Spideman like position. I am supposed to count to ten, but I make it to 2.5. My classmates–turned teammates–cheer.
By the time class is over, I feel exhausted. Parkour to me feels like it should be called parksore–and my legs are ready to come out from beneath me. As we go to pack up our things, my friend turns to me and thanks me for inviting him–he says that he had a lot of fun and that it was a great pick me up–for a down day. I smile and thank him for joining–for seeing what hobby hoarding is all about (Which is pushing through mental challenges–overcoming fear–mixing up daily routines–and challenging oneself).
As we walk out of the gym, I glance back at the mats and think to myself: We may not have done every move perfectly–but we did get one part of class right. We believed in ourselves.
Photos Courtesy of Elyse Mueller