During a conversation with a relatively recent Caver who has been doing CrossFit with us for a few months, I asked her if she’d be interested in taking a parkour class. I was very surprised when she told me that it seemed to her that Parkour was more of a “guy thing” or a boy’s sport than a girl’s. Now, in my opinion, there may be some good reasons why not to try parkour, but that should definitely not be one of them. Parkour isn’t a guy’s sport, especially not any more than CrossFit is a guy’s sport! I can see why some people may think that, say, boxing is more becoming for men than for women (that is not my personal opinion, women can be boxers if they so choose, but I can understand that line of thought more so than for other sports.) but women excel and love to practice most sports, and especially parkour! It is actually more beautiful to watch, in some ways, than guys doing parkour. While elite traceurs (male parkour practitioners) can be more powerful and explosive, traceuses (female parkour practitioners) are generally more graceful and have beautiful “flow” and lines. It’s hard to explain, but I really don’t have to because I have a video to prove it and you’ll see what I’m talking about:
So now we’ve settled that issue. Parkour isn’t “for boys”. How about for CrossFitters? Well, depends what kind of CrossFitter you are. It seems that these days CrossFitters are interested simply in CrossFit. Old school CrossFitters had a broader interest. Back in the day, when no one knew what the hell CrossFit was, some of us (including Roger and myself) were like CrossFit evangelists telling everyone about it, and Greg Glassman would travel around with his posse talking to people and having seminars and explaining to people “What is CrossFit”. This is a partial quote from the “What is CrossFit” page on CrossFit.com:
“Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.”
Back then it wasn’t about simply decreasing your Fran time, or 1-rep maxes, it was about being exposed to a wide variety of movement stimuli. ”Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survivial, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness..” part of the prescription was to go out and try all these things, including gymnastics. As a matter of fact, my second exposure to parkour came at a CrossFit certification seminar in Sta Cruz where Glassman had guest speaker Jesse Woody from American Parkour do a little presentation on parkour as part of the cert. In my own Level-1 certification I assisted Roger in teaching the gymnastics segment (we taught handstands, back handsprings, round offs, rolling, presses, etc- not just “handstand push-ups” leaning against a wall) and we got to learn combat from John Hackleman. It was all part of the program just as much as working with a barbell was. The CrossFit that I was exposed to at first which drew my attention included all these interesting things and the piece that resembles it the most is when I see it at the highest level at the CrossFit Games. At least they got to do a triathlon, run an obstacle course and throw stuff. So my point with all of this is that it saddens me when Cavers box themselves in to just “specializing” in CrossFit. You should go out and try stuff! But you’re afraid of getting hurt!- OK, be extra conservative. Don’t do anything rash or be reckless. Swim in a pool, not in the open ocean. Try parkour in a safe gym environment with instruction, not on a wet metal rail over asphalt. Try rock climbing in a gym first before you go do it at the Red River Gorge. Recently not only Cavers but thousands of athletes went off to do the “Tough Mudder”. I heard about a lot of injuries, not just from our gym but from friends of friends. I can guarantee you that if these people trained Parkour in a gym environment first before going off and trying obstacles with a 10 mile run built in they would have been far less likely to get hurt than if they just “winged it”. Their prior experience would have left them much more confident as well. Sure it’s possible to get hurt training new sports in the gym, but it definitely makes you more robust in other activities and the real world!
Now this relates to the ”American Ninja Warrior & Parkour Seminar” that I am hosting here at our very own Cave on Nov. 4th (for adults) and Nov. 3rd (for kids). (The kid’s event is basically sold out but if the weather forecast is for no rain we will open 12 more kids slots.) This, believe it or not, is the perfect situation to step out of your comfort zone and do something new- and relatively safe. How “relatively safe”? As safe as your CrossFit class. Seriously. That safe. Maybe safer. We are very good at designing and scaling obstacles and as long as people listen to instructions and don’t go try something stupid that they’re asked not to do, the risk is minimal. Usually athletes surprise themselves and have big smiles on their faces the whole time and thank us later. What if you can’t make it or it’s not your thing? That’s fine, but try something else. Dance. Judo. Gymnastics. Try something that involves different types of coordination, agility, body control and timing. Maybe it’s picking up an old ball sport that you used to play with your friends as a kid like tennis, baseball or basketball or perhaps it’s going biking, skiing or snowboarding with some of your fellow Cavers. Maybe it’s taking your old skateboard out of the garage, albeit going to the sporting goods store to buy a helmet, wrist guards and knee pads. Live it up, use your body. It’s rewarding!