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Parkour: Week 5, Day 1 - Cat Leap!

Woohoo! Sure enough, today we went straight into the cat leap. Totally solid, I can see this being wicked fun - up there with the vaulting, though challenging in a different way.

Today I also brought the camera out again, though I ended up fiddling with the position so much during class (we spent a lot of time "down" waiting in line for the box) that the time lapse will be super jerky... Ah well.

So, before heading out to class I hit RFD with some friends (a typical Monday thing) and decided to actually have a beer this time. I was careful, got a small one at just after 5 and it worked out okay... it seemed to be through my system by class at 7, and I didn't have any problems with my stomach (my biggest fear - throwing up due to the heaviness in the stomach, not the alcohol). Nice to know I can handle this in the future if I'm careful.

Warmup (x3):

1 lap (4 blocks)
5 wall runs each leg
10 squats
1 QM up and back
10 pullups

Yet again at first blush this warmup didn't look so bad - yet it was by far the hardest warmup of the year. Everyone noticed it and commented on it, and this was the first time since the first class that Rob actually cut the warmup off early due to time (only about 3/4 were done).

Take a look at that and see if you can figure out what's so hard about it... If you guessed the wall runs, you guessed right (if not, you are forgiven for not knowing). After running 4 blocks, sprint ten feet straight at a wall, then "run up" it. Land in a good squat, controlled landing. Repeat 10x, then do a bunch of other stuff and get back to it. Not cool.

In the photo on the side my time lapse caught me at the top of a wall run - you'll notice my hand is over that black line, which I believe is 11 feet up. I'm just in the process of pushing away from the wall to give myself clearance to land properly (normally in a wall run you'd be grabbing the lip of a wall and then pulling yourself up).

Anyway, it was very brutal. As Rob pointed out though, he was pushing us hard and we felt totally different about it. It's amazing how much conditioning I've built up in five weeks - within five minutes of the warmup I was not at all tired, and even after today's workout I biked an extra 4 miles and am sitting up on the roof grillin' ribs and don't feel sore or tired at all. This is sweet.

Okay, so after the warmup we spent a little extra time loosening up our arms, shoulders, and elbows, then moved straight into the cat leap. Rob taught this in his usual way, which I'm really enjoying - he shows us the technique, then has us each try it once in a controlled condition. He then points out a certain thing to work on, then we repeat this process until we have it under control.

To start, he had a volunteer basically run and try to jump onto the box. That failed horribly (of course), then he explained why - we needed to absorb momentum, land on the box safely like a cat, then climb up. Hence, cat leap.

He then had each one of us stand about two feet away from the box and jump onto it without any real tutelage, trying to land in the proper stance he showed us. This was both funny and cool - I think fully half the class basically bounced off.

He pointed out the noise we were making and how we needed to land in control with our feet and hands against the box, then sorta extend down to work the fore-arms a bit (as seen in the picture to the left). We then tried again, everyone doing a little better. After this round, he discussed the trajectory and how some of us were jumping at the box instead of in an arc towards it.

At this point I was thinking to myself "okay this would be easier if I was running" - yet again, the slow stuff is just tough. This particular motion seems more natural at speed. On the other hand, it's very weird to be throwing your feet forward in a jump - this goes against all my training for jumping (except the running long jump into a sand pit). Normally you want to lead with your upper body on a jump so that your momentum is under control when you land. This doesn't make sense when you are jumping at a wall though. Duh.

We spent a few more cycles like this, jumping from further away until everyone was doing a good job, then Rob said the magic words - "Who wants to try it running?" YES PLEASE.

I could go on about this for awhile, but ultimately there's not much to it. I'll just say this - it made sense. Was I a natural and perfect every time? No, I needed to work a bit here and there. Did I land it easily and pull it off every time? Yep, absolutely. Again, this is one of the things that just clicked. Hurling myself at a wall, absorbing my momentum with my legs, then catching the tips of my finger on the lip of the wall... makes sense. How bloody weird is that.

What wasn't perfect? I need to focus more on absorbing momentum with my legs first to control my landing against the wall - I tend to land either hands first or hands and legs at the same time. This is just a matter of trusting my grip with my feet mentally I think - even though I never slipped (good shoes, grippy box), I think I was afraid that my feet would slip and I'd smash my face into the lip if I absorbed all the momentum with my legs. So instead I was absorbing more than I should with my arms. This can be corrected, it's just a mental thing (not a physical thing).

After this, Rob and Travis talked about conditioning and climbing up over an obstacle once you landed a cat leap. This doesn't seem that hard to me in my head, but I know that physically a muscle up like this is actually very hard without your legs. On the other hand, we're landing on a wall - so you get to use your legs. I guess this won't always be the case though.

So we practiced basically reverse muscle ups on some of the blocks - starting with your body all the way up (vertically) over the box and then lowering yourself down. We were doing this on an angled box which was NOT easy - after a few of them the chalk wore off my fingers and I started to slip off at the bottom. Kinda funny. This was purely a grip thing with my fingers, so I didn't feel too bad. The exercise as a whole was pretty interesting and fun, though it felt weird to not use your feet when they are so obviously there.

After this, we did a set of inverted muscle ups - starting in a vertical up position, going down until our chest was against the edge of the box (vertically), then back pushing up. I did two of these "properly" until my bad wrist refused to take the pressure - it's really generally very unhappy when my hand is bent and putting weight downwards on it in that position (I have to do pushups up on my hands rather than palms flat because of this, etc.). I messed around with a few different ways but couldn't find a comfortable grip like this, but using my feet to scrabble up the box I didn't need to put much weight on my hands. This was cheating though... alas. Something to work on.

After this, we ended with the normal stretching and broke up. During the stretching, Rob talked a bit about the weekend he spent in New York at a parkour jam and some of the things they got to do. Sounded pretty awesome. He also again commented on the fitness level of the class, and how we generally were a higher level than he was used to, which is cool. Overall, it was just a really good, smooth class.

I'm starting to feel now, from week 4 and into week 5, that this is pushing far more into the "fun" territory and is getting away from the "grueling" territory. It was always fun, but with the increased conditioning in these weeks and the new interesting things to work on the class is really just turning into a good time. It's almost like the conditioning goes unnoticed now - though, to be fair, during the conditioning it sucks. It just doesn't matter two minutes later anymore.

That in and of itself is pretty awesome. So, good times.

To end things off, here's a link to the timelapse from today, sorry for the jerkiness - next time I'll just leave it in the corner and let it get what it gets.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pete_waterman/3652744886/

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