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Parkour Day 2: Wreckage

I found out today my technique was not so good.

It started Tuesday morning - even though I felt find Monday night, I woke up Tuesday with my quads almost completely locked, totally stiff. No pain but they just refused to handle my weight properly. I could walk fine but could not bend, crouch, etc. without intense concentration.

This continued through most of the day, with me deliberately working them to try to get them to loosen up. Repeat all day Wednesday. Walk to Primal for Day 2...

Warmups today were brutal because of the quads. Repeat this sequence three times:

Run around the block (4 blocks)
10 Pushups
10 Explosive Pullups
10 Squats
10 Tuck Jumps

The first set was okay, though my quads were really hurting. The second set, running around the block was hard - I ended up sorta hobble jogging instead. The tuck jumps at the end were not cool, but I handled it. Third set was rough - I had to walk about halfway, and hobble jog the rest - my legs just wouldn't hold my weight. I was the last person in the class to complete the warmup.

So, picture ~10 people sitting on the mat holding a V formation (sitting down, legs up about 30 degrees, torso out about 30 degrees) ripping up their abs. Everyone needs to maintain this position until the entire class is done warming up. Oh, wait, that's me - trying to do 10 tuck jumps when I can barely bend my knees.

The idea of a tuck jump is simple. With functioning quads it is not that hard. From a standing position, you quickly crouch into a squat and explode upwards off the ground. While you are in the air, you pull your legs up and tuck yourself into a flying squat, then you extend your legs back down as you land to being nearly straight. As you land on your toes, you carefully absorb your weight all the way back down into a nearly full squat, with the goal of landing as quietly as possible.

Yeah, so, I felt pretty bad having everyone watch as I clearly painfully repeated this - let's just say I literally had to pause a good 5-10 seconds between the last few jumps to mentally prepare myself to force myself through it. Well, that's the point of a challenge right?

This was followed by another joint warmup session. More inability to handle things. Let's be clear - I wasn't in *pain* doing this. My quads simply weren't functioning. You know that feeling when you try to lift less than your max weight, but a lot more than you can comfortably lift? That's what I was feeling every time I tried to do anything. Simply hopping on my toes was nearly impossible. 20 hops in place. 20 hops back and forward. 20 side to side. Switch to the right leg, repeat - I could only get about 10, stop for a couple seconds, then a few more. Left leg did okay.

Loosening up the knees was okay. We then did some new joint warmups - loosening the hips, then the shoulders, then the elbows and wrists. Solid.

On to broad jumps! Basically, a tuck jump but instead of doing it in place you go forward about six feet. It takes about five of these to cross the gym, then we go back. We did this three times. Again, torn up - my quads! I know, it's like a broken record.

On to the precision trainers! These are the little H things I talked about last time, three two-by-fours nailed together to land on. We did more landings on these, another group challenge with burpees, and more practice.

At this point we got to meet the founder of the gym (as well as American Parkour apparently), which was pretty cool. He was going to be leading an Advanced class at 8PM with people who have been training for about a year to a year and a half, and they were going to be practicing landings from what appeared to be fifteen to twenty foot heights - oof. He helped us with our form, forcing us to do some extremely slow tuck jumps - instead of landing into a squat fast, we would land with our knees only slightly bent and slowly pull into the squat.

As he was walking around the room coaching us on our style, I missed a landing and my quads gave out and I fell over. He told me that I was leaning too far forward, to which out of a bit of frustration I replied "I have no quads, they are torn up."

So, let's be straight - we've got two trainers handling a class of about 10-12 people. Aside from being obviously worn out I think I appeared to have my stuff together, and even these very experienced guys didn't see anything wrong with my form. As soon as I said this though, Mark pounced on me: "This shouldn't be using your quads that much. Stick your ass out more when you land."

Huh? I try a couple more landings with this method and finally I feel it - what the trainers have been talking about all along. Instead of controlling my entire body weight and balancing with my quads, just sticking my ass out about two inches more results in a considerable amount of control passing to the back of my leg (glutes and hamstrings, remember?). "Oh." Mark looks at me and goes "See how much more control you have?"

Wow, no doubt. Apparently this is the problem - and perhaps why no one else in the class that I talked to had problems with their quads. A simple nearly invisible adjustment to my form will result in a better control of my body during landing and a lot less pressure on my quads. Fantastic. It should have occurred to me to ask - Travis and Rob kept mentioning we should feel it in our glutes and hamstrings but I never did. Now I knew why.

After this, we all landed a few more precision jumps from about six feet back (a lot harder than it sounds), then wound down with stretches and whatnot.

Homework: 10 precision jumps onto a curb. I'm going to miss the Saturday class (will be camping at the beach), so I'm going to make it a point to practice my form further and try to get my body used to controlling less with my quads, more with my glutes. Hopefully give my quads time to recover as well.

It's amazing, really. I've always had problems with my quads being sore because I rely on them so much - running, biking, jumping, direction changing, sprinting, etc. (case in point, my torn quad earlier this year resulting in a week on crutches). It never occurred to me that I was relying on them *too much.* Now I need to train myself to use them more, which can be achieved by subtle shifts to body posture. This will definitely be my focus this week.

When I got home, I took an ice bath - first time I've ever done that. It kinda rocked. Quads feel a lot better now. I'm not looking forward to tomorrow though... hope I can manage kickball okay.

Next Monday we're going to focus on moving from a landing into a forward run. Cool, cool, cool.

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