On this date last year I published a blog post titled Fit for What? which clearly struck a chord because it was shared widely and read thousands of times. I talked about why I had stopped running and wrote “I want to try lots of different things, move in many different ways. Climb a few trees, become less fearful of heights, play more and do it all with a body that is getting stronger not weaker with age.”
One year on, I don’t missing running and during this past year, I have tried to do all of the above. I continue to walk every day for pleasure and to run errands. I have tried to fit even more walking into my daily life so I can get stuff done at the same time. As long as I have the time, anything needing to be done within 3-4 miles from home will be walked. I have a movement practise where I continue to work on identifying my weak spots and I watch my movement habits.
I climb and hang from trees and get funny looks. I sit less, I sit differently. I work on my laptop from the floor in a variety of positions or I stand so that I can pepper more movement into my day while getting things done. I have changed my life in many ways to eek out more non exercise movement.
More recently I have become interested in Parkour not just for me but because I felt it would appeal to my teens, and as any parent of teens will tell you, they are moving less and less mostly due to technology and the demands of school and exams. I also felt it would give me some of the things I seek in terms of my own health. I personally am driven by the desire for self-efficacy as I age, to become less fearful in all aspects of my life and to retain and even regain the ability to move well long into my life.
Back in January myself, my son and daughter took part in Winterval, a Parkour initiative to get people outdoors in winter, which was physically and mentally taxing to say the least yet so much fun. The event took place outdoors in various parts of London. For days after, we had difficulty accomplishing the smallest movement task. Going up and downstairs and bending down to pick something up off the floor would have us wincing. Even laughter, of which there was much, was hard! All those many underused body parts screaming at us.
Clearly we were not put off as my daughter and I signed up for a 6 week Introduction for Women run by Parkour Generations at The Chainstore in East London. On that first Saturday, we turned up at the gym slightly apprehensive with 40 other women. What I had not expected was to be the oldest person there by about 20-30 years! That might have been a good reason to not go back for the second session but I held my own and persisted, thanks in part to the wonderful support of all the coaching staff. Besides my daughter was really enjoying it and that 5-6 hour round trip each Saturday evening was good quality time together before she heads off to University later in the year.
Over the course of the last 5 weeks, I have found the warmups to be the hardest. So important to prevent injury before you start jumping, climbing, vaulting, wall runs, rolling, swinging, crawling, balancing but yet so damn hard! This older long legged body dreaded the warm up, however I loved the sessions and the cool down afterwards, a chance to stretch out or work on some strength and conditioning. Each week something new to work on and a shared experience with other women, all with our own challenges to overcome.
Last Saturday, we took it outside, which is of course the goal. Practise in a safe environment, work on your technique to begin with and then take it outside where things are not so predictable, there’s a variety of surfaces and obstacles and a whole new set of challenges come into play. Parkour is as much mental and emotional as it is physical and these days due to our modern lifestyles and sedentary culture, we are deprived in all of these areas.
You are not likely to see me leaping from walls or buildings anytime soon but you might find me up in a tree, vaulting over a fence and working on my balance. We couldn’t resist a t-shirt either because Erin Hanson’s quote on the back of it is such a great metaphor for life:
I am not really interested in training or performance as I understand it but until such time as my life reflects the level of non-exercise movement I need, I am simply looking for new ways to load my body in a variety of ways that do not necessarily fall into the exercise category. I am most interested in being fit for life, being able to carry out any task without some body part letting me down and to have a fully functioning body for as long as I can.
Parkour might not be for you but don’t let age or gender put you off.
Move to live.
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