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Parkour: Week 4, Day 1 - Vaulting!

First, I realize I skipped blogging about the Saturday session (Week 3, Day 3) - if you're wondering, yes I made it. We spent almost the entire time practicing vertical wall runs and tic tacs, resulting in my calves hurting in really weird places (the outside of the calf). I went to the zoo immediately afterwards and never got around to blogging...

Anyway, today was awesome, without a doubt the most fun yet! We focused on vaulting the entire day, after a crazy upper body warmup... I don't remember the entire thing exactly, but I believe it was (start to end):

1 lap
1 set QM up and back
5 pullups
5 pushups
10 precision jumps
10 pullups
10 pushups
20 squats
5 precision jumps
5 pullups
5 pushups
1 set QM up and back
1 lap

It was pretty loony, I accidentally did 10 pullups each time (ow), but didn't have a problem with much. The last set of QM annoyed my quads, and my legs felt really weird (especially my calves, still sore from Saturday) during the final lap but I made it through!

After a quick ab workout for a couple minutes, we moved almost immediately into vaulting. This time Rob mixed things up - after a quick review of the basic principles and methods we've discussed to date, they simply lined up two "boxes" for us to vault on in two rows. Both boxes were about evenly waist high for me.

Instead of discussing the right way to vault, the form, etc., Rob simply asked everyone to take turns clearing the box - however we wanted to. It was interesting to watch how people did it - some slowly came up and scrambled over, most used one hand to climb over, one other person jumped over with both legs and I simply hurdled it.

Afterwards, Rob basically picked apart each method, demonstrating it and showing why it was slower or not preferred (aside from the hurdle - the obvious point there is that it's no good with something slightly higher or with any uneven surface on the far side). He then showed us the simple parkour vault which we would spend the rest of the class on.

The nutshell is that you approach at full speed, swing your hips out to the side, and using one arm for balance (not for power) you slide over the object sideways, keeping your hips facing forward, landing with the jump foot first and running through at full speed.

They let us all try this a couple times on each side, then Rob backed everyone off and focused on various points - this was the way he mostly taught this class, and it was kinda cool. Letting us figure things out, then pointing out what we were doing wrong. He started by having us focus on the Safety Vault - this is basically catching your momentum for a split second with one foot on the box, in case you need to stop (i.e. if there is an alligator pit on the other side of the box that you can't see until you start to vault it).

We all did a few safety vaults, stopping with our foot on the box, then following through. Rob then pointed out how most of us weren't creating enough of an arch - our foot on top of the box was naturally being placed about even with our shoulders, within a few inches of our balance hand. Instead we needed to move it way out, so that our balance foot was maybe two or three feet over from the balance hand.

We all practiced this for awhile, then he started focusing on our landing. How to pull the back leg through and bring it onto the ground and maintain momentum, so we continued to practice this for awhile, working up to higher and higher speed. He had us do a few at full speed then, just barely tapping the balance foot on the box.

After everyone seemed comfortable, he stopped us and had us reset. This was funny, a lot of people had a hard time at first! He asked us to each do 10 vaults, starting as slow as possible, then working up to fast, then doing the final one at what we felt was a safe speed but pushing ourselves as much as possible. A lot of people had a hard time slowing down at first, but we eventually got it going.

This was so cool for me - to feel the progression of speed and smoothness of the vault, it was awesome fun. By jumps 7-9 I was going at nearly a full sprint and very comfortable. For jump 10 Rob was yelling "go go go barely touch your foot!" and I tore at the thing full speed and caught the cadence perfectly, sorta reaching down to tap my balance foot as I went over full stride without any speed loss. This felt so awesome, and it was really cool because it almost felt like slow motion because of the slow gain in speed - almost felt like the same speed for my mind/muscles as the first super slow one. Interesting effect.

At this point we had about 15min left and I thought Rob would start winding down, but instead he decided to get tricky! He took the two side-by-side boxes and put them approximately six feet apart, then asked us to vault the first one, then the second one. The first guy to try this made it over the second one, but stuttered really bad between them. Rob reminded everyone to watch cadence and adjust. I was second and again it just meshed for me - I did not have any problems adjusting cadence and easily vaulted both boxes. Awesome.

After we each went through 3-4 times, Rob adjusted the distance between the boxes by adding a few feet, and had us go at it with a different distance. Again a few people at first had problems adjusting the cadence but it just "made sense" for me. This is something that I've been practicing a lot and have still been feeling a bit weird about - at speed the cadence always seems fine for me, lining up the proper foot at the proper time isn't a problem. At slower speeds though, I do tend to have problems - luckily parkour isn't about slow speeds.

Regardless we practiced this for awhile and it was a lot of fun. Myself and a couple other guys (there's one guy in particular that is a natural and takes to everything incredibly well) started to speed things up, then the guy that usually is so effortless totally botched a higher speed attempt and almost fell, causing Rob to yell at us to slow it down. It was cool to go into the first box at a normal speed, then try to accelerate over the second box. I enjoyed it a lot and had no problems with it!

Afterwards, Rob told us this was the first time in the history of the class that he's actually moved to two boxes in a row during the first day of vaulting - I guess the class as a whole is very athletic and getting it well. Cool.

With only a few minutes left, Rob and Travis said that we are going to start working forearms this week, because Week 5 is going to be spent practicing cat holds (grabbing the lip of a wall) and we wanted to get a start on making sure our forearms wouldn't be sore next week. So we all split up across the room and had a "hanging" contest! Various people hanging from various bars and whatnot as long as possible.

I was a little annoyed at this part since I (and a couple other people) were hanging off a square painted pipe, so honestly it was all fingers trying to keep me on, but whatever! We all hung as long as possible, eventually getting down to the three guys hanging from the wooden parallel bars (easy grip) and one guy hanging from a taped pipe (even easier). After awhile, it was down to Travis (the instructor) and one other guy, and eventually Travis slipped and fell! Winner, student! Yay! (I think it was slightly tainted by the fact that he was hanging off a taped bar, but he did a few pullups afterwards to show off so maybe he really is that badass!)

As a reward, we all had to do a parkour pushup, for the third time. You don't want to know what this is - let's just say, it took two minutes forty seconds (Rob timed it) and destroyed us. It's basically one long set of pushups and transitions... killer.

Apparently we're going to mostly focus on vaulting for the rest of the week, so I'm stoked about that. Homework is to "invent" our own "parkour pushup" which is basically to create a crazy series of actions to push yourself... two of us will be selected at random to show the class. Interesting stuff here!

Gotta say I'm major stoked. I think I'm definitely going to sign up for the Intermediate class, even if I have to miss Thursdays... it's just too fun to pass up. Only sucks that I'm almost done with my six weeks of basic class already!

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