I joined Parkour Generations for one of the indoor and outdoor classes which take place all over London, thinking: what’s the worst that could happen?
Steve leads the indoor class in Holloway. It’s exercise in a group rather than group exercise and this group is a very friendly bunch. Atmosphere is key during the activities that follow the thorough warm-up. I am pleased to keep up with the stretches, but my lack of upper body strength is showing in the press-ups: one set just, two maybe, after that… well, ambition is good. The group is divided and rotated around different stations, set up with exercises that Steve and assistant Hector demonstrate. Lots of jumping and rolling over vaults and, according to your ability level, you can use different parts of your body, or none.
There is also a focus on body conditioning, with lunges, squats, and walking backwards on a wall from plank to handstand. Ambitious again but one can try. Luckily, I am not the only beginner and all the regulars encourage us. It is tough but fun: when I jump to grab a rope, I catch it to my surprise and enthusiasm from the others. Under supervision I try to roll over a vaulting horse to my feet – and try again when I fall off – twice. Graceful, this is not. At least it isn’t on concrete…
Two days later, I join the outdoor class: also advertised for beginners but this is a different ball game. This group is smaller (numbers fluctuate, as you can just turn up at the start of a session) and works faster. Ladies: bring a backpack, running with a handbag makes you look like a twerp.
This is closer to actual parkour as you train within the urban furniture of Vauxhall. It’s a more military-style training: the regulars repeat exercises with the slower newbies and press-ups are used as penalties. With less explicit demonstration, I find this tough. I am also too short to plank between two walls, which has to be pointed out to the coach.
We’re instructed to hang on a rail moving along a wall, climb on top and land as quietly as possible – all with a penalty of five press-ups. I am just trying to land. Seconds after asking how to do it, I have clearly misunderstood the instructor, and land hip/back first onto concrete. One hour into the two-hour session and it’s game over.
Senior coach Leon steps in, applies first aid, and calls an ambulance. A&E shows it is a soft tissue bruise: rest and painkillers will do the job. Regulars are made to sign a waiver and fill in details for next of kin. This ain’t no Zumba kids and the outdoor class felt one step too far for me. However, Wednesday’s regulars assured me they improved in months, and I start to wonder how long it would take to jump a vault properly… As I said, I guess ambition is good.
Parkour Generations run indoor and outdoor sessions for various abilities, at locations across London.
Image courtesy of Parkour Generations