your first parkour class: What to expect
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
Coming along to your first parkour class can be intimidating! Videos on YouTube and Instagram might make it look like you’ll be jumping off a building ten minutes in, but nothing could be further from the truth. This blog post aims to spell out what to expect at a parkour class, to help break down that intimidating veneer.
This post is (arguably overly) long, and maybe goes into a bit much detail. It’s not a prerequisite or requirement to read it, by any means, and we've included a 'too long; didn't read' section that includes all the important stuff.
This blog post is aimed at people who want to come along to class, but might be feeling a bit anxious about it. Hopefully, armed with information and preparation from this post, we can help ease some of those anxieties and get you along to give parkour a go!
You don't need to bring or buy any special equipment. Just wear whatever you're comfortable moving in.
Remember to bring a water bottle and stay sun smart! And if it's cold, to wear layers.
Be sure to make the coaches aware of any injuries or relevant conditions that affect your movement, and if you're carrying medication you might need (like Ventolin), and anything they can do to help you feel comfortable.
All classes start with a warm up, to prepare your body for moving and training.
There will be some sections of the class focused on improving your strength and conditioning
There will be some sections of the class focused on learning new movement skills. This could be discrete skills (like a step vault) or more intangible ones (like improvisation).
All classes will end with a cool down, which helps ease your body back to a more resting state, and to minimise soreness.
After class, be sure to do some more stretching or self massage, to eat a good meal that provides the calories and protein required for recovery, and to rest.
You might have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the days after the class. This should pass in 2 - 5 days. Light movement (NOT strenuous exercise), hot baths and showers, rest, and hydrating will help aid recovery.
When you're ready, book in for another class. Or you can find local parkour spots with the Victorian Parkour Map, and some some training buddies through the CoMinMunity, Melbourne Parkour, or WoMP facebook groups, or the Parkour Earth Discord server
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
Parkour training is all about longevity - we want you to be training and playing for decades to come. That means developing strength and conditioning to minimise risk of injury, as well as developing your own risk intelligence and emotional self awareness when faced with a scary challenge. It takes time! You don’t need to rush into it, and should never feel pressured to do anything in a parkour class.
Ask questions! If something isn’t clear, let the coach know, or ask them for a more detailed breakdown.
Everything can be modified for your level or your body. Coaches will often provide several options for any given drill or move. If a particular skill or movement still seems impossible for you, you can always ask for another progression or modification to help you get there. If it's not challenging enough, ask how to make it harder!
It’s not a competition. Parkour is all about overcoming challenges specific to you. You’ll be good at some parts of the class, maybe struggle with others. Try to avoid comparing yourself to others in the class.
You can step away or rest whenever you need (or want) to.
You’re brave for trying something new! Be proud of that.
WHAT TO BRING
There’s no need to bring any special equipment. Just wear clothes that are comfortable to move in, and a favourite pair of runners. (If there have several to choose from, go with ones that have the lightest and thinnest soles.)
It’s important to stay hydrated, so remember to bring a bottle of water. If it looks like it’ll be a chilly one, we recommend wearing several layers as we can warm up very quickly. Remember to wear sunscreen, and to bring a hat and sunglasses too.
BEFORE CLASS STARTS
Be sure to let the coach know about any injuries or niggles that might affect your movement; It won’t mean you can’t join in. We’ll just find a way to work around your limitations, and more importantly, to avoid making it worse. If you are likely to need any medicines (like Ventolin, for example) please bring it along, and make sure to let the coaches know where to find it, if relevant. You can include that information at time of booking, but we also recommend reminding the coaches of it verbally too, just to be double sure.
We’d also love to hear anything we can do to make you more comfortable (including pronouns if you feel comfortable to, or any particular language or approaches that to avoid). The coaches are there to make a learning environment that’s as safe and welcoming as possible.
The sections below won’t necessarily happen in order (although the warm up and cool down will obviously be at the beginning and end respectively.) And some of the sections may bleed into each other, or become part of a game or challenge. But this should give you an idea of what will happen in an average class.
This part of the class is to prepare your body for training, and will generally include rotations, and something to get your heart rate up.
‘Rotations’ is a simple process, where the coach will lead the group through rotation of all the major joints of the body. So, big circles with the arms to rotate at the shoulder, “opening the gate” or leg kicks to rotate at the hips, etc etc. Very similar to warm ups for any other physical activity, this section helps prepare the joints and warm up synovial fluid to help lubricate them. It’s also a great time to mindfully check in with your body. Are you feeling any pain, stiffness or impingements? Is mobility in each joint symmetrical, or is one side stiffer? Are you feeling tired or grumpy? This is great information to keep in mind as you start to move.
The rest of the warm up will be about challenging your body a little, to get your heart rate up. It might include running or jogging, quadrupedal movement, drills to target specific muscle groups, or even games. Remember that ‘warming up’ is a process. Start slow and ramp up the intensity.
The weather may have some effect on the warm up. If it’s very hot the warm up might be shorter; because we’ll already be quite warm, and want to avoid overheating. (Remember, the warm up should never be skipped entirely!) If it’s cold, the warm up might be longer or more intense, to combat the cool temperature. If it’s very cold, the coach may include several mini-warm ups throughout the class to make sure we’re all staying warm and ready to move.
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING
Building up your strength and conditioning is the best way to minimise risk of injury, and to stay mobile and pain-free in both your training, and your day-to-day life. Not to mention getting a bigger jump! So, we’ll include in each class some aspects to improve your strength, power or endurance, and to build up conditioning.
This might include a short ‘workout’, that has familiar things like push ups, squats or sprints. It might be a circuit, where a coach sets a route using parkour techniques, and your task is to run through that circuit several times. It might be set up like a game or challenge!
Remember you can always ask for modifications or substitutions. If there’s something that might exacerbate an old injury, or that you feel you can’t do safely, the coach can always provide an alternative.
LEARN SOME SKILLS
This is the meaty part of class! Time to learn how to run, or roll, or climb, or put together a route, or any other of a million things.
Remember that you won’t necessarily work on a discrete and specific movement each class. Some classes will include drills or repetitions to help you perfect a specific vault, or a climb up or whatever. Some may focus on a theme or a more intangible skill; like improvisation, or flow. While one style of learning may well suit you better or be more enjoyable, try to approach all the challenges with an open mind.
This is the warm up in reverse, and we do it for a similar reason. This section is about returning your body to the state it was in before you started moving. It might include light and playful movement to bring the intensity levels back down. Cool down will also include dynamic (and some static) stretching to help improve your flexibility and mobility, and might also include some guided self massage. The weather may have some effect on the cool down: if it’s very cold or wet outside, the coach may make this section more dynamic to keep your body warm. The coach might also make the cool down shorter, and then recommend you do some stretching at home when you’re warm, if it’s too cold for a productive cool down.
It’s not the time to go all-out on your flexibility routine though; you don’t have to stretch further than you’ve ever stretched before! Try to approach the cool down mindfully and with attention to how your body is feeling. Overstretching will be counter productive.
AFTER THE CLASS
When you get home, that’s a great time to do a few more stretches, maybe bring out the foam roller for a bit of self-massage, and check in with your body. Be sure to have a nice big meal to give yourself the calories (and protein) you need to recover, and to stay hydrated.
The next day (or if you’re unlucky, the second day after the class) you may experience delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. While experiencing DOMS is not a requirement for getting stronger, t can be a side effect of sudden increase in exercises with a high amount of eccentric load (like, say, jumping.) If you do, it should pass in two to five days. If it lasts longer than that, or is very severe, you may want to check in with your doctor. Remember, DOMS is muscular soreness; if you’re experiencing pain in the joints, that might indicate injury or strain.
There are a few things you can do to ease the discomfort of DOMS. While it’s probably the last thing you’ll want to do, some light movement will help a lot (with an emphasis on light; strenuous exercise is to be avoided.) A brisk walk or gentle jog or swim will help get the blood pumping through your sore muscles and ease those DOMS. A nice hot bath or shower can help achieve the same thing, and give some immediate relief as well. Wearing compression garments, like Skins, can aid recovery. Stay hydrated (some people like to use electrolyte supplements to get through DOMS, but water works just as well.)
Also be sure to get enough rest, including both bodily rest and sleep. That’s one of the most important parts of training - if you don’t get enough rest, your body won’t have the resources to build up back up stronger, and you won’t see as much progress as you could.
Book in for another class.
Find local parkour spots or places to explore using the Victorian Parkour Map
... and get jumping!
Look out for the next blog post, where we tell you what to expect at a parkour jam!
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