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Parkour: it's not like riding a bike

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Parkour: it's not like riding a bike

I have been training parkour consistently for 7 years. Not even my injuries have ever really stopped me. When my knees ache, I take a few months and work on my climbing. When the tendons of my fingers flair up, I may take a month to work on rolls. The practice is ever evolving. However, even with that approach to training my movement peaked in early 2016.

At the time I was managing a parkour gym in Columbus, Ohio. I was in that gym between 20 and 30 hours a week for about 2 years. Everyday I would work on my movement sometimes for up to 4 hours. I have since stepped away from that approach. I still train at that gym from time to time, and I still train outside a lot as well. However, the consistency and dedication that I had then has waned. It's not through lack of interest or passion. I am now working and attending school full time again. Even though I still work as a parkour trainer, the same time commitment is not there for my own training. In the past few weeks I have been trying to re-establish the level of training I was at 18 months ago, and I can say with confidence that parkour is not like riding a bike.

To maintain a high level in this sport we must continuously push the limits of what is possible. To step back from that leading edge for even a moment will cause us to wane in our abilities. Parkour is often said to be a struggle to be the best possible version of ourselves. Without a continual struggle we can still be strong and capable, however something is lost. For me the first thing was climb-ups. A movement that had take me 4 years to learn was lost in just a few months of atrophy. With a few weeks of consistency, I have gotten them back and feel a tease of what I am capable of.

One of the other things that you often hear about parkour is that there are no tricks, just hard work. The only way for me to regain that ground that I have lost is through habit, through daily practice, and through working with others who see movement differently than I do and can show me their way.

I am not writing this to be depressing, In fact just the opposite. Being comfortable is what got me where I am now. Saying to myself "I am good enough" or "I have made it" is a death wish upon growth. When you have gotten there, there is no where else to go, but that is not what has happened to me. I have plenty of things to learn and do.

I turned 29 the other day, which to some may seem young and to others may seem old. To me the question of whether I am young or old is irrelevant. The real question is what else I get to do in life. If I start thinking that I have explored all there is to see, then yes that is old, but if I keep my wonder and excitement alive, then life will blossom in front of me.

To be comfortable in life is to be in a state of decline. When we struggle, get told "no," loose money on investments, or break a jump, we may not always get "better." We may have less after those experiences, less power, less freedom or less shiny skin, but we do know where our limits currently lay. We gain some idea of what we need to do to push past those limits. In my book those are gains. No matter how long your winter has been, or how much dust has collected on the proverbial bike seat. It's never too late to get it out of the garage and ride. You will crash, scrape your knee, and you will get up and keep riding.


 

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Quadrupedi: Frog Hops

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Quadrupedi: Frog Hops

 

I do not recall the first time I learned to do frog hops, but I can remember the time they were burned into my psyche. It was the second American Rendezvous. Parkour Horizons was hosting several international coaches, including the Yamakasi and Laurent Piemontesi. The first day of the event we went to Hocking Hills in southeastern Ohio. It was hot and muggy. After the warm up, we broke into groups, and I was being led by Laurent. He took us to a long empty stretch of road. He then proceeded to tell us in broken English that we were going to do an exercise called 808. 101 repetitions of 4 exercises forward and backward. One of those exercises were frog-hops. But wait, there was more. That was just the warm-up.

To perform a frog hop, first crouch to about a 90 degree bend in the knees. Then your hands go out in front of you on the ground. The exact distance depends on the goal of the exercise. Usually the hands are placed 2.5-4 feet in front of the feet. Next the legs and feet hop sending the hips high in the air. Sometimes, we train coming into a tuck-hand-stand in each frog-hop. Most of the time bringing the hips just above the shoulder is sufficient. Then the feet come down closer to the hands than when they started. Again the distance moved by the feet is dependent on the purpose of the exercise. This series of movements is then repeated for repetitions or distance. It can also be performed in the reverse order going backwards.

The application of frog hops can be varied. They are used most often as a conditioning exercise to strengthen the body and increase endurance. They can also be used to traverse obstacles while staying low. Their other big application is as a progression to the monkey and kong vaults. A frog hop and monkey and kong vaults are all primarily the same motion. First, place the hands out in front of the body. The hips come high and the feet come to or past the placement of the hands. The difference is where and how these movements are applied. Frog-hops are usually applied to a flat surface where the monkey and kong vaults are used to traverse raised or lowered obstacles.

The frog-hop has several faults similar to many other Parkour movements. Again your wrist is in extension and bearing weight. The shoulder has a tendency to internally rotate. These are common faults in many parkour movements. The difference here is that since the frog-hop is used as a conditioning exercise, you are seeing much higher volume. There are dozens of wrist and shoulder prep protocols available on the internet worth researching. In the frog hop position, the hip joint is almost fixed at a 90 degree bend. Then we apply exertion to that bend. By the time you stand up from that position, opening the hip joint is hard. We sometimes call this “drunk legs.” Since most of us spend so much time with a closed hip position at work or home, this can lead to more problems. A good coach will have you perform other exercises to counterbalance with glute-ham activation and stretching of the hip-flexor and quad.

Frog-hops don't look all that cool. They are not one of the more exciting exercises in parkour. They do however, build strength, endurance, and character. They are one of the foundations on which many other movements are built. The frog-hop is included in every single warm-up I run. The frog-hop is in my warm-ups because of all the reasons I just talked about. It is an easy, low impact way to begin introducing people to exploring new ways of moving found in parkour.

 

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