Tough parkour session

It’s 4pm on a hot and steamy Saturday afternoon. There are about 30 people waiting at Jacobs Ladder for today’s parkour training. Most are teenage boys who are playing at climbing the old bomb shelter dug into the side of the hill. Their skills are impressive and I watch them practice their skills with admiration.

We separate into three groups for training. The first timers head off in a class together while I join a group who have been training parkour for less than six months.

We start by running 700m to the court house’s retaining wall. Every time we are stopped by a red traffic light we stop to do plank or squats. On the way we walk backwards down a flight of stairs to practice our balance. I’m drenched in sweat by the time we reach our first training location. We practice dead arm hang and wall climbing. The red brick retaining wall is about 1.8m high. We start by all dead hanging at the same time. Then we practice our dead hang in the style of a Mexican wave, each starting our hang when the person to our left is hanging. We then do the same for our climb before jumping safely down off the wall back onto the footpath.

We run another 500m dropping down a ramp to the Brisbane River and then up a flight of stairs to a park next to the Commissariat Stores on Queens Wharf Road. We’re going to train in the park, but first have to get into it. There’s a 2m wall blocking the entry to the park. Yes, there’s a flight of stairs that we can use but this is parkour training so the point of the exercise is both to try to scale the wall in one move and to ask a training buddy for help if we need it. I fail to scale the sandstone block wall on my own at the first  attempt and ask one of the men for a boost. On my second attempt I attack the wall with more confidence and, while I ask for help, I don’t end up needing it. I grazed my arm on the first attempt but am unphased.

We practice ‘flow’ in the park. The park is cut into a hill so there are stairs, railing and gardens. It’s fantastic fun to find my own route from top to bottom. I do some vaults, some wall drops and some balance, both standing and in quadrapedal. After a few flows we practice trying to flow silently. This means landing softly on our feet when we jump, vault and run.

After about half an hour of flow practice we run 850m to the city Botanic Gardens. Along the way we practice stepping across bollards, from one to the other and traversing a low barrier between two footpaths. There are some large boulders set in the lawn at the gardens and we play on them, jumping onto and over them. I practice some precision jumps from ground onto the rock then off the rock, finishing with a parkour roll. It’s playful fun. Our activity here is to learn how to fall backwards safely, spreading the momentum of our fall with a backwards roll. It’s a run exercise but I definitely need a bit more practice with this technique because I bump my head a few times (you are supposed to roll over your shoulder but clearly I missed the memo 🙂 ).

After our backward roll practice the instructors tell us to pair up with someone our size and chose a number: 21, 31, 41 or 51. I pair up with the only other adult man in our class and we select number 51. Our task is to piggy back carry our partner for the number of steps we have chosen. My buddy carries me for 51 steps. Then I carry him for 51 steps. We swap and he carries me again for another 51 steps before I take my turn again. The third time he carries me my buddy decides to push himself for 102 steps. I just do 51 steps for my third turn. He then does about 200 steps for his third turn, including carrying me up a flight of stairs (not part of the route our instructor selected). To finish I carry him 102 steps to push myself. I ask how heavy he is and he tells me that he’s 84kg plus his hydropack. That’s almost 10kg heavier than I am. I am both pleased and surprised that I was able to carry a full grown man on my back like that. We have covered 600m in our carry hike.

To finish our session we run 1.3km back to Jacob’s Ladder. The run is largely uphill and we keep running on the spot at every red light along the way. We sprint the last 500m up Edward Street and finish with core muscle exercises at Jacob’s Ladder.

This training is probably going to be perfect for Tough Mudder in Sydney. We’ve covered 3.95km in short bursts broken up by obstacle work. This type of running is similar to what we’ll be doing at Tough Mudder and the obstacles are similar to those I’ll be tackling in that event. Even the training duration (2 hours 15 minutes) is similar to how long Tough Mudder is likely to take.

I was fatigued already when I started the parkour training session after my 2 x 1 hour MTB rides but I made it through with a smile on my face.

Total: 3.95km fast running + obstacle training.


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