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Flow: Making It Look Pretty

As it turns out, Parkour is not just a bunch of leaps and balances. There is also an artistic element that I think is an integral part.

alana parkour swingAs a beginner, I’m learning a lot of individual movements. I practice the same vault repeatedly, over and over, until I can get it right. But then what? What do I do after I vault over something? Do I just stand there? Do I go somewhere else? And how do I do it?

In my recent class, I learned about flow, the stringing together of the movements as though they have a purpose, a certain type of grace and style that separates the newbies from the more experienced.

Think about language for a moment. Some people can string together words so effortlessly that we call them poets. Some people can’t. Who do we prefer to listen to? Which person is able to impress us with their words? I’d say it’s the people with flow, the people with that ability to communicate to us in a way that leaves us breathless. The same goes for Parkour. When a parkour artist can chain together his or her movements in a way that flows, everything just seems right.

Here’s a recent video of my coach Gerardo from Parkour Ways teaching me to string together a few movements. His grace is really lovely.

And here’s me:

Getting better, but definitely lacking something. (Please ignore the unflattering construction uplighting on my ass.)

I think, however, there’s more to it than just looks. It definitely seems pretty when the flow is present, but I think there are more practical implications of attaining flow. For instance, landings. If you smash into the ground with both feet after a vault, sure you’ve landed it. Good for you. You might want to continue running and you end up tripping over your feet and looking dopey, or worse, you may have also have sprained your ankle because you landed too hard without any grace and with no ability to continue forward.

I’ve tried cat leaps onto a wall. Let me be clear about this: smashing into a wall hurts. And yet, when my coach Kurt did it, he was graceful and light and barely made a sound, leaving himself the ability to continue on to the next obstacle without the string of expletives that were leaving yours truly when I attempted the same thing. Flow matters.

An article over at suggests we shouldn’t train, we should play. I think that’s a good part of it. Getting mad at the obstacle isn’t going to help; we need to simply enjoy what we’re doing, and it’s a lot more enjoyable when you look awesome and feel good and you don’t whomp your ass on a ledge, let me tell you.

Here’s one of my favorite videos that demonstrates some really beautiful flow.

As an old friend used to say, let go, let flow.



The Lazy Vault: Not Really For Lazy People

In my last class, we focused on the lazy vault. By it’s very name, one might assume that it’s for the energetically disinclined. This is not the case. The lazy vault actually takes a decent bit of momentum and, as usual, confidence to properly execute.

Me attempting the lazy vault.

Me attempting the lazy vault.

Continue reading

Where Should I Practice?

Parkour is generally known for being practiced in a natural, outdoor environment. This means you can use pretty much anything you see, though I’d avoid monkey around with other people’s expensive cars and your grandma’s sofa. What if, though, you’re a beginner like me and you don’t want anyone to see you? What if it’s cold outside or slippery and wet? Where can you practice? Continue reading

Improving Your Balance

From day one, it was pretty clear that balance is key to being successful at parkour. It’s also key to being successful at, say, walking, so most people do have some degree of proficiency from the get go. Parkour offers a way to upgrade those balancing skills to help us in daily life as well as in the practice. Continue reading

The Cat Balance

I just tried out my first cat balance. First impression: I am not a cat.

Cats gracefully walk across poles and narrow ledges, one foot in front of the other, without making a sound. I strive to be this way. Cats also puke in your bed. I do not strive to achieve that. I do strive to achieve surviving if I have to crawl across the top of a fence with hungry zombies pawing at either side of me. Continue reading

Quadrupedal Movement

After a few classes, the quadupedal movement has yet to go away. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s going to continue popping up.

Here’s why I think we do it: if you have to run through fire to avoid a zombie, the pain in your legs will be something you’re already used to.

Here’s why we really do it: Keeping four points of contact with the ground or other surface will allow you better balance and added safety in precarious situations. Additionally, it trains your coordination and endurance, and it also gives you another way to walk. Continue reading

My First Class

My first class was a really exciting experience. It was also scary, thought-provoking, and difficult.

Coming from a background of CrossFit, I had no idea what to expect when walking in. There were a few women there, which made me feel a bit more at ease, and I’d also brought a female friend with me. We might as well have carried signs on our chests that said “CROSSFITTERS HERE.” Continue reading

Why I Started Parkour

When I turned thirty, I didn’t want fitness to be a constant uphill battle. I wanted it to be something that I could maintain without too much effort. I also wanted to knock the fuck out of any zombies that might decide to pop up from the grave at some point in the future.

As a child, I was a musician with hyper-flexible joints. That meant that I sat out of a lot of gym classes, frequently hid my slings and casts under my sweater so the kids wouldn’t make fun of me for yet another injury, and spent quite a few hours in physical therapy. My parents were terrified that I’d hurt myself and end my potential musical career. As a product of all that, I ended up being a pretty lazy adult. I was never overweight, per se, but I certainly wasn’t athletic. Continue reading