Bay Area Parkour

Train Hard - Stay Humble

I'm 42 years old, not particularly athletic but I was fascinated with Parkour and wanted to learn it. This is a catalog of my experience. I've been learning parkour for a little over two months, but it has been a fantastic ride so far. I'm writing this so that it may help others who are new to this sport.


October 1, 2009. My company is shutting down. I'm threatened with loads of free time. It's been a while since I had any. Physical activity has mostly been sporadic for past few years. I'm about 15lbs over what I should be. Must start working out.

October 25, 2009. I suddenly recall some parkour videos surfing the internet one night. I rerun them on youtube and discover I have been working out very regularly at a gym for the last few weeks, and have been thinking about something more physically challenging and less boring. In a flash I decide I want to do Parkour. I've never done anything like this in my life. Ever. I'm not quite sure how to get started. All the videos look exciting, but intimidating. I need some moral support. I email my colleague, (ex-colleague: same company. We'll call him V. ) who's known to try out crazy stuff. He's a little younger than I am by a few years. He's excited and wants to do it. We start looking for places where we can learn and discover Guardian Art. Run by baparkour member Guardian Caleb in Milpitas. V and I set up a trial class.

November 2, 2009. Trial Class. I'm not sure what to expect. I'm the oldest person in the class, and V is the second oldest. Caleb doesn't care -- he's confident he can teach us. The class is a foam padded room that is barely enough for the group assembled there (about 10 people). It's a mixed beginner/advanced class, but we start with the absolute basics --- frog stretches and shoulder rolls and we practice jumping on and off foam blocks and landing correctly. Some of the students are doing advanced moves like front and side flips. It's thrilling to watch something like this. Caleb lays out progressively harder "courses", but we can still do them. An hour goes by and V and I are thrilled. This looks like an enormous amount of fun and Caleb's methods are wonderful. We end the class with crunches to strengthen the core. Caleb is soft with me. Only 100 crunches. I'm toast at the end of it.

November 3, 2009. I've decided to do this. I'm going to sign up for the class. I explain to the family what Parkour is by walking them through the youtube videos. My kids think I'm nuts. My wife wants me to get my head examined. My visiting m-i-l is supportive, though. Go figure.

November 4, 2009. Jumping off the walls. Todays class is awesome. We're jumping off the wall and doing ledge-grabs onto a 7ft high tower. I'm supposed to jump off this one. My head is more than 12 feet off the ground. I look down at the mat and question my own sanity. But I do it anyhow. My form's not right --- I don't fly down like some of the better students and my landings are messy. But I have managed. We repeat the drill. My arms can't do ledge grabs any more. I can't raise myself over the wall. My shoulder ligament feels like it has torn. I sit out the last couple of drills. But, I'm still exhilarated with the experience. This is going to be a 3i day -- three ibuprofens as soon as class is done. V looks like his shoulder is hurting too, but he pushes himself.

November 5, 3009. Chiropractor. I had not expected this, but I am hurting from the class. No injuries, but soreness all over. Low-backache from who-knows-what -- probably from bad landings. I walk into my gym and a Chiropractor's giving free exams. Sure, I'll take it. She runs down my spine and points out flaws in my vertebrae and does an "adjustment." I tell her about Parkour. "Don't stop doing it," she says. "Let us help you perform optimally." This is cool, I think. Maybe I can survive this after all.

November 7, 2009. I have been sooooooreeee the last couple of days. My legs feel like lead and it hurts to walk. I realized that my "jumping muscles" have never been used. My third class today. It was not as extreme. It was a small class for mostly beginners. More landing and rolling practice. I manage it with all the soreness.

November 9, 2009. Vaults. Caleb runs us through a bunch of vaults and combinations of vaults. My legs are sore enough that it is now affecting my jumping (not that I ever had it good, but I feel worse than I felt in the first couple of classes). I suck at most vaults, but I'm fully defeated by the Kong vault. Try as I might, it turns into a one handed vault. For most of the vaults my butt is scraping the block. I'm trying to jump off my hands instead of my legs. Clearly this is going to take a while. I'm disappointed at the end of the class, but I'm acutely aware of what I need to work on. We ended the class with jumping off an even higher tower than before. My head is near the roof of the building --- nearly 14 feet. Oddly, I'm much more confident this time, although I think my form and landings still need work. V is doing a lot better than me. He got his Kongs within the first few tries.

November 10 2009. Chiropracty to the rescue. Chiropractor has continued to work on my spine. They are very encouraging. My low-back-ache is certainly better on the days I do this.

November 11, 2009. Extreme Soreness. The soreness in my legs is extreme. Even small movements hurt. Every grunt triggers a "You're too old for this" comment from my wife. My 8 year old daughter has no sympathy when she jumps onto my lap and I yell in agony. My 13 year old daughter finds it all too funny. I actually have a fever. I decide to skip class today.

November 12, 2009. Toxins. The chiropractor thinks the fever actually might be because of the Chiropractic adjustments. They tend to "release toxins" into the body that often induce things like fever. They can't help much for the soreness, but are reassuring that it will eventually go away. Still doesn't help me.

November 13, 2009. Upside down. I'm going to class today. It's new stuff today. We start with cartwheels. I've never been upside down on my hands in my whole life. I think my cartwheels are more like 45-degree instead of 90. We do dive-rolls and other fun stuff. We end with tons more crunches. I'm slow, but I manage to finish.

November 15-20, 2009. Ledge Grabs. This week began with more ledge grabs. Jump off a wall and grab a ledge and climb on top of it. My arms have fallen apart. I can grab the ledge, but I can't get myself up more than once. My arms are hurting so badly at the end of this class that I can't drive back home. It is a challenge simply to just hold on to the steering wheel. The other classes this week are a blur. Everyone's gearing up for Thanksgiving break.

November 21, 2009. Saturday. Front Flips. There's only two of us in the class. Royce is the instructor. I'm working on my cartwheels while Royce has set up the other student for flips. He is very patient and understands how I learn this stuff. Baby steps and mental framework. I can't believe it, but at the end of this class, I am doing front flips. They weren't perfect, but I was landing on my feet.

Thanksgiving break. Recovery Time. My soreness is abating, but it's still at unbearable levels. I can't get to sleep without Ibuprofen. Plus we go to Disneyland for the break. It was Ibuprofen three times a day. But the break is great for my arms to recover.

November 30. New Recruit. A friend of mine, M, is turning 40 today. We take him out for his birthday and he is intrigued about Parkour. I convince him to try it out. "If I can do it, I'm sure you can." Which, by the way is 100% true. I'm the newbiest of the newbies and slower to learn than most of the other people in my class.

December 2-5. Shin Splints. My arms have fully recovered, but a new problem has emerged: shin-splints. Where my jumping was weak to begin with it, with the shin-splints, it has become worse. I find myself stopping about 40 minutes into the class. My shins are very sensitive and the slightest pressure on them causes intense pain. There's now a "beginner" class focused on newbies, which I'm happy to accept. It is more focused on developing basic skills, which I clearly need. My wife has stopped her editorial comments now and I think is happy that I'm enjoying this.

December 7-12. Nearly Broken Fingers. M joins up for a trial class and is hooked as well. He is very sore for the first two days, but he recovers for the following week. I'm making slow and steady progress. We did wall spins this week. My first attempt was pretty poor. I ended up landing on my fingers and hurting them pretty badly. They're not broken, but they're swollen and hurting. I do get the wall spin finally, but only after I realize that I wasn't jumping strongly enough, and that my hand placement was all wrong. The Chiropractor feels that my shin-splints are strongly connected to nerve pressure in my lower back. She continues to try to focus on my spine-adjustments. My low-back is still hurting, but it does feel better on the days that I see the Chiropractor. She also recommends getting a compression sleeve for the shins. They help and I find myself hurting less, but I keep the sleeves on all the time, even when asleep. Liberal use of Ibuprofen to fight the pain in the shins.

December 14-18. Back Rolls. M, V and I are totally enjoying the class. My shins are still hurting enormously, but the hope is that they will eventually recover and get better. I'm able to last through the whole class these days, but the last few minutes are usually in intense pain. We're doing back-shoulder rolls, and prepping for front flips (which I've already learnt, so these classes are easier). My flexibility is still low, but it is getting better. We're jumping higher and farther and my form is improving. I actually do manage to hold my arms out while jumping and I have smoother landings. My kongs still suck. Somehow I can't get them. Chiropractor continues to do her thing for the back and shins. In moments of intense pain, I wonder if I should really be stopping.

December 22. Kong day. It's open gym today and I've decided that I'm only going to focus on getting my Kong's right. I set up a block and begin practicing. Royce, Andy and Caleb are all helping me with it. V (who has already mastered the Kong) helps me with a key learning: make sure you swing your arms as you're getting into vault. It definitely improves my form. Royce helped me focus on getting the initial part of the Kong right: don't bother getting across yet. Just have a controlled jump onto the block. 45 minutes of Kong Vaulting, and I'm starting to get it, but I don't have a great finish. I'm still happy about it though. I know I've made progress and it will take time for me to get it. I go on until the shins won't let me continue.

Christmas Break. More Recovery. I promise myself that Christmas break is for recovery. I only do light workouts and let my body recover. At the end of the break, I'm no longer hurting (except for my fingers which still hurt), but I've started to feel better. Unfortunately, I get hit with the flu. I'm not able to go to class until Jan 7.

Jan 7. Mind Over Matter. This is the class where we're more focused on mindset. This is something that I've known from my own experience that a lot of what we try to do physically begins with the right mindset, so this class was important for me to learn on how to focus on what's important. We did a number of things that we had done physically before, but this time we began approaching them mentally as well. I can feel the difference. I feel like I'm not throwing my body blindly at the blocks, but more focused on how to achieve the goals that I want.

Ok ... that's it for now. More as it unfolds.

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Comment by Anurag Mendhekar on January 13, 2010 at 10:22pm
Thanks Caleb. I'm looking forward to more fun and challenging classes with you!
Comment by Great Owl Lightning on January 13, 2010 at 11:37am
Nice Anurag! You tore it up last night in class! Proud to have you as my student!
Comment by marisa on January 12, 2010 at 4:06pm
Wow, it's always great to hear people's stories, especially as they're first starting. Please do be gentle with yourself, I hope to read about your continuing progress when you're 50. :)
Comment by SafeNSure on January 12, 2010 at 10:00am
...impressive log and dedication.
I'm your age-group and I can relate to pain and need of (some) therapy, which includes (some) medication, but it is a very fine line.
As Seng said, do not ignore signals from your body, and as BApk says, consider "the hard work of slow progression".

Also, the oldest among us know that "teachers open the door, but you enter by yourself": we are responsible for the safety of our bodies, and the priorities we establish in our lives.

Keep it up, and maybe tune it down a notch if/when bringing it outdoor.
Best wishes!
Comment by Anurag Mendhekar on January 12, 2010 at 8:22am
Yes ... I have moved into a "beginners" class which is much better for my level. I've also begun to understand my body better and I'm sure this will make things easier.
Comment by Seng on January 12, 2010 at 12:11am
Whoa, I am impressed by your dedication, but I'm seriously concerned about how much pain you're putting yourself through. Two days after your first trial class and you're doing drops of over 6 feet? And then, in a lot of pain going for even higher ones less than a week later? Sounds like a lot more fundamental movement practice is in order as well as strength conditioning. Also, rest is a very, very important part of training, even more so when injured and when returning to activity. Just as you aren't throwing yourself blindly at blocks anymore, don't ignore signals from your body when overcoming those mental obstacles you've set for yourself.

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