Parkour (par-core) training is best described as the original functional training. The creation of Parkour is widely accredited to two French men, Georges Hebert and David Belle. They adapted French military obstacle course training into modern day parkour, also known as the "Natural Method." Someone who practice parkour are commonly referred to as a "traceur" (men) or "traceuse" (women).
Some, like the creators of Zombie Fit, based in St. Charles, IL, philosophize parkour as training and conditioning the way our primate ancestors (for fans of Darwinism) moved and reacted to physcial situations, while also conditintioning ourselves to survive the apocalypse. Well, I don't know about that. But I do know, precision, focus, efficiency is the primary spirit in which parkour training exists. I also know, I prefer my zombies in a tall glass with lots of ice. And the fact that my parkour experience wouldn't have been the same had it not been for the courage of my old pal and former colleague Tisha Howicz joining me.
I had heard about parkour, hadn't looked into it and then caught a segment on Chicago's WGN TV morning news. Without hesitation, my road trip went into planning by getting in touch with Tisha who lives in nearby South Elgin. We haven't seen each other in about 9 years (something about those far west suburbs too often hinders great friendships) but kept in touch via holiday cards (she's not a social media hound).
My hope was to make a stop to visit Tisha on my westward journey. Even better, Tisha knew the area well, particularly Excel Gynmastics where Zombie Fit classes are regularly taught and expressed interest in joining me. Perfect!
So there we are, a couple of old friends, arriving at the gymnastics studio where we see a bunch of young, late teen-age boys bouncing and flying around on a trampoline. Our instant observance, we're again the oldest of the bunch - - shocking. That doesn't hold us back. We're greeted by Rich Gatz, one of Zombie Fit's founders, lawyer by day, parkour junky by night and weekend. He's about 32 and previously served in the military. Rich is enthusiastic, personable, and very, very patient and kind to us old gals. "This will be easy for you, you're already in good shape, " he remarks while Tisha and I watch the gathering crew begin to jump, leap, vault, fly, and roll over padded boulders, balance beams, etc. We look and each other, turn to Rich and begin to laugh, no giggle, just straight out laugh. There's no f#@%& way we're going to pull any of this off.
We begin with a warm-up including a free run around the well padded gym, dodging balance beams, parallel bars and trying not to trip on multi-levels of pads, followed by a series leg squats, and high kicks. Next we do some core strengthening and balance work on the floor that consists of quadrupedal movements. So what's a quadrupedal movement? Simply put, your moving around on all fours (hands & feet). The basic quadrupedal movement I akin to moving like a leopard in the jungle. It's far more difficult than it looks, believe me. The core work is fantastic. The gallop quadrupedal movement, well, that's pure primate in action, and a little more awkward to get the hang of.
Tisha and I are in awe of the youngsters, a group of about 15, five (including us) are women. Clearly this a male dominated activity, but those girls are impressive. Admittedly we spend much of the class watching in amazement of their agility.
The final segment to the evening was a timed circuit that included a free run, push ups, quadrupedal movement and burpees. Three full rotations as fast as you can. By then we were spent, noticed it was 9:15 p.m. and called it a night.
Catch a glimpse of parkour in action (no, not me):
Women of parkour (excellent descriptives)
Rich Gatz of Zombie Fit talks about parkour
Parkour master creator David Belle in action
- Simply put, this is one kick-butt workout, once you get the hang of it.
- Reclaim your youth, moving like you did when you were a kid.
- Perfect if you're changing careers to become a stunt actor/actress.
- Boredom will never present itself; you're constantly moving.
- Ah, to be as agile as an orangutan, or a 15 year old - - you pick.
- Skate/snowboarders should be checking it out.
- Parkour conditioning belongs in EVERY elementary & middle school P.E. program. Seriously.
- Good coaches won't have you do more than your capable of.
- Intended for the injury free, do not attempt if you have ANY physical limitations
- You may not become the next big action hero, though I bet Mark Burnett has a reality show in the works you can audition for.
- If you're over 30, expect to be the oldest of the bunch.
- Technique to some of the moves goes against what standard fitness technique often suggests, expect some confusion to reprogram your brain and body.
- Male dominated (that's the con), girls are always welcome and hold their own quite well.
- A subculture like presence, you have to do a lot of digging to get good information, definitions, exercise explantions, etc.
So, the essence of Zombie Fit and Parkour training is this: developing the body (and mind) to be able to lift and throw heavy things, run fast and for long distances, and be able to physically navigate obstacles and urban environments in a highly efficient manner.
I say bring it on...to our youth. For I'm convinced the key to claiming victory over our nation's childhood obesity issue is to get our kids off their butts, away from the computer, tv, refrigerator, and cell phone and into high octane physical action so they can become their own action hero.