You know in action movies when you see the lead star and the bad guy running all over the place, jumping over fences, running on top of buildings and generally doing moves that seem almost superhuman? While it might seem like that's just a really good stuntman — and it probably is —it's also a style of movement and one heck of a workout. Called Parkour, it's basically the most efficient way to move from one place to another, no matter what stands in your way.
And anyone who is somewhat flexible and able to run can do this form of urban gymnastics, says Heath Hensley, COO of Tempest Freerunning Academy.
"All you need to get started is a city and a need to jump around," Hensley says.
Learning the basics of Parkour — or Freerunning, which Hensley calls "Freerunning with flash" — is pretty easy. At the recent Jamba Juice Live Fruitfully Fitness Expo in Los Angeles, I got to try one of Tempest Freerunning Academy's beginners' classes. While most of Parkour is usually done outdoors, the beginners classes are held indoors, with mats, blocks and plenty of padding and spotting for safety. Starting with learning different ways to crawl on the ground, Freerunning teaches you to use your body in new 3-D ways, including rolling, jumping, and landing.
"A lot of people think that when you drop from a higher area to the ground, you just absorb with your legs," Hensley says. "However, that puts way too much pressure on your knees and ankles. Rolling helps disperse the impact through the whole body."
In the beginners' class, you learn the basic moves and then practice them on short padded boxes. You then progress to more complicated moves over taller and wider obstacles. With practice, you build strength, balance and full-body awareness. In more advanced classes, you learn how to fluidly link moves together to traverse through any environment.
"I'm not positive on the exact number of calories you can burn, but I know it's a lot," Hensley says. "Freerunning itself is a ton of cardio and strength conditioning. It's definitely no day at the park...Well actually, I guess it is."
Not to mention that learning or perfecting a new Parkour move gives you sense of accomplishment. And there's always a way to keep pushing yourself, he says. Just like any sport, injury is possible though. And after watching videos of Freerunning experts doing this kind of stuff, you can see why the advanced moves are for those with training.
"However, one of the biggest obstacles of life is fear," Hensley says. "You can't let fear keep you from trying new things."
His best advice? Train hard and train safe. Have you ever tried Parkour or Freerunning? Do you want to try it? I thought it would be impossible to learn, but it really wasn't, and it was a fun workout. Share your thoughts on this cool workout!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.