Time. Most of us bemoan the fact that there never seems to be enough of it. Along with the job, we have families, pets, court and overtime. Trying to squeeze in a workout between commitments sometimes becomes darn near impossible.
As a long-time trainer and fitness aficionado, I’m always on the lookout for workouts that are not only physically challenging, but also germane to our job as cops. I recently discovered a unique way of training, one that is a bit unconventional, but one geared to what we do every day on the street. What is it? It’s called, Parkour.
David Belle developed Parkour in France. The discipline’s main goal is teaching individuals how to move easily and quickly through their environment, by any means possible. Movement includes running, jumping, climbing, rolling, changing direction and vaulting. During the 1920s, a man named Georges Hebert instructed the French military in Parkour training, and it soon became the standard.
Recently, I spoke with Jason Yusko, owner of a local business called, Polar Fitness. Jason conducts Parkour classes for both beginners and experienced Parkour practioners. He modeled his class after the popular TV show, American Ninja Warrior. Some of the obstacles used during the Ninja competition are in Jason’s studio: the devil’s ladder, vaults, rope climb and metal bars used for balance. But the main thrust of Jason’s six-week “Nothing to Ninja” course is to get participants fit, using their own skills as they work their way through their environment.
The environment can be a gym, a local park, a run through the woods, or even through a downtown area. The idea is to use whatever obstacles one encounters. That might mean vaulting planters, sets of stairs, or climbing the side of a wall and then leaping off. Parkour participants are taught how to jump, leap and roll, thus preventing injuries. As you might imagine, a Parkour workout involves the total body, as you run, jump, climb and leap through your surroundings.
Jason talked about the importance of balance, and how it plays a role in everything we do. Many of you are senior officers with a lot of time on the job. As we age, our ability to balance begins to decline unless we constantly work on it. Parkour will improve and increase your balance and stability. Think about when you were a child, or even now, when you are out with your own kids. The children may jump up on a three-foot wall and start walking the edge, that is until you tell them to get down. But that’s exactly what they should be doing—working their way through their surroundings and honing survival skills like jumping, balancing and climbing.
Kids choose to stay outside and would play all day if you allow them. They groan when called in, even when it’s time to eat. They would rather continue to ride their bike, play ball, explore and climb trees and obstacles; it’s what they do. You did the same things when you were a child. Then, as you grew older, you began to structure your workouts categorizing and specializing. You became runners or weightlifters, maybe bike riders or hikers. You abandoned the best workout one could ever have, that of a child having fun.
One of the many benefits of adapting Parkour workouts as part of your lifestyle is the mental aspect involved. When engaged in Parkour activity, one needs to stay focused and remain in the moment. Unlike running or pumping iron in the gym, where many people wear iPods and other entertainment devices to distract them, in Parkour you must think on your feet and listen to your body. Concentration on the movement at hand, and anticipation of the next move is imperative. Trust me, if you engage in Parkour you will begin to know your strengths and abilities like never before. You will know your limitations, but also gain self-confidence by knowing what you are capable of doing. This self-esteem transcends every aspect of your life, making you a better person.