“Parkour looks easy,” thought our dumb-asses. “All you do is jump, run, and roll around. Anyone can do it.” Since both Kim and I are coordinated, fit, and do a lot of unconventional natural movement training (like this), we thought parkour would be a walk (and roll, and jump) in the park. Then we visited Penzer Park and had a big ol’ humble pie thrown in our face.
A Trip To Penzer Park
A couple weeks ago, a rare thing happened: I actually saw something interesting on my Facebook timeline. It was a video promoting a new outdoor parkour playground called Penzer Park. It looked a lot better than the calisthenics parks in Vancouver, so one sunny Saturday Kim, our friend Jason, and I went to check it out.
Penzer Park is a forty-minute drive from downtown in the heart of the suburb of Langley, an area none of us born-and-raised Vancouverites had ever visited before. There was, however, a place on the way to Penzer we had visited before and had to stop at, La Charcuterie. There was no way we couldn’t make the slight detour there to be verbally accosted by the Sandwich Nazi and pick up a couple one kilogram (no joke) sandwiches to replenish our bodies after our workout.
When we arrived at Penzer Park, we were immediately impressed. The parkour area was even larger than we had expected and very well designed. The ground was a soft spongy rubber material, signs everywhere explained various parkour movements to novices like us, and colored routes of different levels marked the way through the obstacles.
Also, in addition to the parkour area there were some impressive bike and skateboard parks and a basketball/soccer court. While we may sometimes make fun of Langley, we couldn’t help but be jealous of the Langleyites for having a park like this.
And they were taking full advantage of it.
The park was teeming with young kids and their parents. There weren’t many other adults like us, and it was sometimes annoying to have so many kids around. I guess you could say they added to the challenge by being unpredictable moving obstacles.
It turned out that an additional challenge was the last thing we needed.
A Crash Course in Parkour
Since we had no idea what we were doing, we started off by following the signs that were posted around the park and explained the basic parkour movements. They looked simple, so we decided to do them as an easy way warm up. We very quickly realized how wrong we were.
Take the simple vault as an example. All it takes is to run towards a barrier, jump, push off the top of it with your hands, tuck in a ball, swing your legs through, land on the other side, and keep on running.
After watching another guy vault with ease, I decided to give it a go. I ran towards the barrier, put my hands on it…
… And froze. Just as I was about to jump my brain screamed, “F*#k that!” and stopped my body dead in its tracks. It didn’t like the idea of me clipping my toes on the barrier and smashing my precious skull on the ground.
That’s the moment I learned to respect parkour. It’s just as mentally challenging as it is a physically challenging.
Bounding is easy. Bounding from the top of one pole that’s barely big enough to stand on to another? That’s scary.
Swinging is easy. Swinging, letting go, and hurtling your body in the air to grab the next pole? That’s scary.
Balancing is easy. Balancing while walking along a narrow bar seven feet above the ground? That’s scary.
Parkour looks easy, but it’s scary. It’s an unexpected mental and physical challenge.
Quickly humbled, we took it slow. Little by little, we progressed, built up our confidence, and slowly sped up the movements. Eventually, we even started combining them. It was physically and mentally taxing. And it was a lot of fun.
After about an hour we were beat. We went back to our car to eat our gigantic sandwiches and drive home. Happy with our progress, we thought we’d more or less figured out parkour. Then I watched this video of a parkour expert playing around at Penzer Park and was once again brought down a few pegs. This guy was on a whole different level than we are.
Man, parkour is f*#king hard! But fun.
But it’s fun.