Get in superhero shape with parkour


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It is clear from the superhero renaissance we are having that many of us wish to defy gravity. Have you ever dreamt of leaping tall buildings in a single bound like Superman? What about scaling a skyscraper, Spiderman style? Parkour may be the sport for you.

According to American Parkour, the sport, which originated in France, is “the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting to one’s movements.” In other words, a rad sport that involves high flying acts of gravity such as jumping from building to building, running across walls and swinging from beams. Not exactly for the faint of heart, my friends. Now, before you go full-on traceur (the proper name for a parkour athlete), diving off your rooftop, know that there is a great amount of physical and mental strength involved in training. Parkour, after all, is derived from the French, “parcours du combattant,” the name for an obstacle course used in training the French military.

Some places, such as Redcliffe, Australia, are looking to reduce or eliminate parkour in its natural form. Part of the issue is the safety of parkour athletes, but perhaps the police and government officials weren’t too crazy about traceurs using government buildings for practice. Meadowbrook, another town in Australia is opting to provide a parkour play space of sorts in local parks to combat trespassing and ensure safety.

While some may find parkour intense and beyond the scope of the body’s natural limits, some scientists recognize the link between the conditioning and movements of parkour and the natural movements of primates. Yes, you read that right. According to MSNBC, when scientists couldn’t get orangutans to wear monitors that would capture their movements, they enlisted the help of traceurs. Apparently, all of that swinging and jumping closely mimics the movements of orangutans and will give researchers a better idea of how orangutans store energy and live off a diet rich in fruit. Really, what is more superhero than unlocking the mysteries of science just by using the power of your body?

The goal in parkour is to get from one place to another by overcoming obstacles with speed and precision. There are some basic techniques in parkour one must master in order to successfully engage in the sport, such as the cat balance, which builds wrist and core strength, and the wall run, a vital move in the sport and a major component of freerunning, an offshoot of parkour. Dan Dinu, who runs the blog Parkour Train, recommends watching videos of people engaged in parkour before getting started with training to get a feel for the sport. His blog, along with American Parkour offer training videos and tutorials for those interested in supplementing their training or learning a few basic moves. (Obviously, do not try parkour on your own, especially if you are not training!) If you want to reap some of the benefits of traceur training, such as a powerful core and strong arms, some of American Parkour’s basic training exercises, particularly for the core, can be done at home or the gym.

You could learn more about parkour events, workshops and leagues in your area through sites such as the aforementioned American Parkour and the U.K.’s Urban Free Flow, a force in the Parkour community whose clients include Elle, Y-3 and Men’s Health Magazine.

Just one more thing: don’t go running on restaurant rooftops and get stuck, like this poor kid did in Virginia.  Oops!