Parkour is a discipline that mentally and physically challenges students with fun, creative movements. It's basically the maneuvering of obstacles. Or, play disguised as exercise. Since I want to stay in shape, but don't necessarily like working out, the concept appealed to me.
I signed up for the Discovery Class (recommended for beginners) with Parkour Ways, owned by Kurt Gowan and held at Vie Custom Fitness in Lincoln Park. The first part of the hour-long session consisted of stretching out and warming up with bear crawls, crab walks and similar movements across the studio room, resulting in a serious thigh burn.
Next up, was balancing on and walking across a metal railing. For me, it was more about the attempt than the actual execution. After several tries, the best I did was take two steps before toppling over. I considered it progress.
The third and final exercise was jumping over a wooden wall that was about waist high. It reminded me of the pommel horse in gymnastics, as I had to kick my legs over the wall, while transferring my weight from one planted hand to the other. I wasn't that smooth at first, as I used my butt and feet to help push me over. After several tries though, I cleared a few jumps without even a mere graze of the wall.
Even though the hour flew by, which is always a welcomed thing when I'm working out, I wanted more obstacles thrown at me. But, as Gowan made clear, his classes are about learning the principles of Parkour, not just performing flashy stunts, as depicted in so many YouTube videos.
When my class ended, I thought about going for a run since I didn't feel like I exercised hard enough. Then I got home and felt the ache in my legs while walking up the stairs to my apartment and the soreness in my arms as if I had just lifted weights. Turns out, I got what I wanted - a workout without it feeling like one.
Classes are available for kids and adults in the Chicago ($20/class) and Northwest Indiana ($10/class) areas. Regular workout clothes (preferably long pants) and most athletic shoes will do just fine. Sessions are held indoors at Vie Custom Fitness in Lincoln Park (free parking lot and small locker room available), 32Forty Community Center in Bridgeport and Lattof YMCA in Des Plaines. Outdoor classes are held at the corner of Sedgwick and Wisconsin in Chicago, Hammond High in Hammond, IN and Centennial Park in Munster, IN.
For more information and class schedules go to Parkour Ways.
Photo credit: David Joseph Gall