Back to Basics

Hard to believe another month has gone by and we're already in April! Days move quickly when you've got a lot to keep busy with. March was filled with more training, adventuring to the ice caves in Bayfield, WI, and wrapping up a couple of chainmaille projects for some dear friends of mine. Plus, I got a new car! Pretty exciting stuff.

April is going to be another great month for improving my skills in parkour because I've signed up for Fight or Flight Academy's "Foundations Course". It's a program they just started offering to help new students get the basics down before jumping into FOFA's main class schedule.

Speaking from experience, it can be very daunting to start taking classes with students who have been around for a while. Even the easiest vaults pose a challenge if you're starting from scratch, especially if you're an adult with a mostly sedentary lifestyle. I think this new course will be a great way for people to explore what they learned in the Free Introduction Class more in depth and develop the skills they will need as they continue training.

I've been a dedicated student at FOFA for about a year (give or take a few months where I was a weiner and didn't show up),  and there are still a lot of basic moves I struggle with. Shoulder rolls are the bane of my existence and yet they're an integral landing that everyone needs to master, especially when you start jumping off of taller obstacles. I've taken the intro class at least a dozen times and I still just can't get it right consistently. I hate practicing it because I look silly. Then there are the two vaults I find absolutely terrifying: Kong and Dash vaults. I just can't convince myself that I'm physically capable of doing them. My brain is great at getting in the way. 

See examples of the 5 basic vaults in this video!

I'm hoping that after taking the Foundation Course, I will be more comfortable with all of the basics so I can focus on training the more interesting techniques they teach throughout the week. 

I know I've grown a lot in the past couple of months, but I've got a long way to go and a hell of a lot to learn. I'm looking forward to writing a review of the course at the end of the month to encourage others to give it a try. If I can do this stuff... anyone can!

We had a brief reprieve from winter's grasp so we did some training outside at Hidden Falls!

February Challenge Summary

We're getting close to the end of February and I'm happy to report that I finished my challenge ahead of schedule this month! I'd like to take some time to summarize how the experience has been for me and talk about what I think is next. 

Just to recap, my February goal was to go to a class at Fight or Flight Academy once for every day I could be there. This month, the gym was open for 24 days, so that meant 24 classes. In addition, I wanted to start going to open gyms to start focusing on specific skills on my own. You can read about the challenge and why I felt it was important in the original post, "Exorcising Weakness".

I completed my 24th class tonight, making this challenge a success in my book! There are multiple dimensions that were dramatically affected simply by showing up and they can be categorized as physical, mental, and social. 

Exorcising Weakness

Well, the new year buzz has died down and the jinx of new years resolutions is safely behind us. I spent some time in January reflecting on 2013; the things that I tried for the first time, things that I continued working on, and old hobbies that I rediscovered. After some consideration, I developed a challenge for myself that I would like to pursue over the month of February to help me overcome some pretty major mental roadblocks.

Another Year of Happy

Yesterday was my 27th birthday. I spent Friday evening celebrating with friends at my favorite restaurant, Wok in the Park. After that, we saw Ender's Game for opening night. With over 20 people that came to dinner, I was blown away with the amount of love and awesomeness I have surrounded myself with over the past few years. I think birthdays are a great chance to remind me of the people that have come together to make my life amazing. 

Como Lake

Como Lake

Live your Legend

On Saturday, my actual birthday, I went to an event called "Live your Legend: Twin Cities" . The best way I can describe it is that it was a meetup of like-minded individuals who wanted to pursue their passions. It was based on some of the theories and practices of Scott Dinsmore (check out his TEDx talk). Having a group that can support, encourage and keep each other accountable seems like a great approach for entrepreneurial thinking.

I got some great feedback on my questions and struggles, along with some books, online resources, and activities that I can use to create goals for my professional development and potentially turn hobbies into something more. When I got home, I created a mind-map of where I am today to help visualize my current priorities. This might become a new tradition for each birthday to capture a snapshot in time every year. The next step is to identify what my priorities are, think about how I spend my time, and create a plan for advancing my goals. The idea of a personal renaissance intrigues me, I can't wait to see where this goes. 

Life at 27 Mind Map

Life at 27 Mind Map

October Progress Video

And with the beginning of a new month, that means one has just ended. Here is my progress video for October. This video is pretty much all vaults and momentum transfers because I was only able to go to 3 or 4 classes this month thanks to an angry ankle. Fortunately the ankle is better now, so it's time to beat it up again!  

This video really brings my knee issues to my attention. I'm favoring my knees by using my back to absorb landings...which is dumb and useless. Definitely have to work on healing/strengthening my knees.  

September Progress Video

In August, I started to record video of me practicing various hobbies so that I could track progress over time. The main focus is tracking improvements with parkour and freerunning because I'm so new at it. 

This process of putting the videos together is a quite painful, self-criticizing all the things newbies do when they aren't familiar with new movements. My arms flap around a lot. My landings suck. Why can't I jump farther? Do I really look like that in class? But so far, I've been able to see improvements already, even in individual training sessions. That feels pretty awesome. Seeing what I'm doing wrong brings issues into greater focus and motivates me to work harder. 

Eventually, I'm sure I'll look back on these videos and feel good about how much I've learned.

I 'm posting both August and September because I didn't do a post last month. So enjoy a double-whammy of silliness!

September 2013 

September felt like lots of botched precisions. I think my biggest take away from watching this collection of clips is to stop flapping my arms around so much and absorb more of the landings with my knees. My precisions look pretty close but I keep bailing at the last moment.

 August 2013

This is the first in a hopefully long lasting tradition of posting videos of my progress in various hobbies including fire dancing, hooping, parkour, freerunning and weaponry. We'll see how this format goes, I'm sure it will evolve over time depending on what I'm focused on. This was a pretty busy month!

Fools, Flips, and Flops

Well, FOFA classes continue to go well and I'm comfortably past the point of my usual drop off time. It just might stick! I didn't get to go to many classes this week but I did manage to go on Tuesday for a Beginner Parkour class. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to look at it) the calendar that Mitch put up on Monday that shows what the weekly rotation of topics are was completely wrong. So when I thought it was a "B" day which meant I would be going to a class about Slap Outs and Landing Continuum 5-7 (honestly I have NO idea what that is, which is why I was curious enough to check it out), it was actually an "A" day which meant we were working on various Flying and Soaring Vaults.

Between not having the muscle memory of what each vault should look like, not feeling able to get the power from my legs and not feeling like my arms are strong enough to support me through the jump, vaults and I don't get along very well. Making them start sooner and end later with "flying" and "soaring" did not help matters at all. I'm not too proud to admit that my fear of vaults is so great that I was terrified of doing vaults in front of so many people. People that for the most part know vaults and can do them with all the fun flair that I can barely dream of achieving.

As panic stricken as I was during the first five minutes when I heard we were doing vaults, I ended up really enjoying the class because it got me doing something that was out of my comfort zone. I got to hang out with some great people and work on getting better at something I might usually avoid. I need to get over that silly fear, this was just more proof that showing up is 99% of the battle for me.

Tonight I decided to check out the "Flips!" class and see if it's something I should bother with. My knees are still being cranky little jerks about all this fitness stuff so I had my doubts. I'll be honest, as the title of this post implies, my attempts at flips were pretty much all flops. But I had fun. I'm slowly getting over my paranoia of being the only woman in class and realizing it really, truly, absolutely doesn't matter. The guys are all great and welcoming, and they never do anything to make me feel awkward.

The random doodle below is a reference to one of the guys in class constantly wanting to add fire to things to make it more fun. The original is from the amazing Hyperbole and a Half, you should go read it now.


Time for bed, we'll see how angry my knees are in the morning. My goal is to go to two classes tomorrow, Weaponry and Workout with Chad...(they need to come up with a better name for that class...)

Russian Pull-thrus!

Class last night provided what felt like a huge personal win! The focus of the Beginning Freerunning class was called "Russian Pull-thrus" and it was not the first time I had attempted them. About two weeks ago, during the Women's class, we started doing some underbar work and spent about 15 minutes on Russian Pull-thrus. They are these really neat suspended flips using two bars at a 90 degree angle. The basic variation uses one hand on a horizontal bar at about head level, and your other hand on the vertical bar next to you. As your arms extend, you kick your legs up in front and through the square-shaped opening  between your arms, you end up landing facing the same direction you were originally. Anyway, the first time I was supposed to do this move, I was still recovering from a weight lifting session I had had a few days prior and my back/shoulders/arms were useless. I felt weak and embarrassed when I was the only one who couldn't do it. My feet kicked up and smashed into the bar without being able to clear it. I kept getting freaked out when I doubted my arms could support me through the twist. To be fair, I seriously don't think they could in the state they were in, but I hated looking weak.

Last night, I got off work a little early and decided to go to the gym to hoop a bit, knowing that the Freerunning class was covering these again and doubting I would actually stay for the class. I'm finding that showing up is 99% of the battle. Once I'm there, my fears are pretty well gone and I can just give it my best shot. I'm glad I did because the feeling of getting it on the first try, with fully recovered arms, felt AMAZING!!! I don't care that Skinny says it's a stupidly easy move. Little wins like that are the best. :)

Making friends is becoming easier as well. I feel like I hide my insecurities with bitch-face sometimes and it makes talking to new people very difficult. The more I lighten up, the more I realize that just about everyone there wants to see everyone else succeed at whatever pace they are going. There are a few that probably couldn't care less about fluffy crap like that, but that's okay. I was praising this adorable 10-year-old kid for is awesome monkey-like skills, telling him how much I wish I had this kind of thing when I was his age and he just beamed with happiness while swinging into another impossibly effortless one handed pull-thru with that care-free "look what I can do" attitude.

Tonight I'm going to another weight training class, hopefully I won't be too broken for the next week. I'm looking forward to the time when working out doesn't feel like being run over by a steamroller the next day. My body just isn't used to this stuff because I've always wimped out before I saw results. The fact that all of this is helping my confidence so much is fueling my desire to go more often. I'm even getting over my fear of the "normal" classes!

Motivation and Mobility

I'm at the point in a new habit where I have been most fragile. The 3-4 week mark is where I get a little self-defeatist, lose the spark and get distracted by something new and shiny. I've done it before with parkour when I tried starting last year. I made excuses for myself to quit, I wasn't strong enough, I wasn't making friends, I was afraid I would ruin my knees, etc. I saw all of the guys doing things I couldn't, vaults, jumps, rolls... I felt inadequate and weak so conveniently other things started coming up and I couldn't make it to training days any more. I'm not sure why this time feels so different. A good chunk of it is probably because I got in the habit of going to the gym for something I could do right away. When I started taking Krav Maga at Fight or Flight Academy in mid-December last year, I was able to catch on quickly and everyone in the class was welcoming. I started making friends on the first day. The community of a hobby is generally what draws me in and keeps my attention the longest. Seeing people do amazing things makes me happy and gives me hope that I can overcome my own limitations. I needed that to get my foot in the door and after training in Krav 1-3 times a week for 4 months, I feel more confident.

Earlier this month, I saw that the owners of the gym were offering a women's parkour class. It kind of felt like they were meeting me half-way; they offered a more comfortable environment for me to start training in, I just had to show up and show that it had value. After three weeks, I can say that the classes are still humbling, but I'm not comparing myself to guys that already have the upper body strength to do practically anything they want. I'm to the point where I actually kind of want to start going to the normal Beginner Parkour and Freerunning classes to get more training time in. I don't think I'm much farther along in my ability to overcome the physical obstacles, but some of the mental blocks are more manageable than they were before.

Last week I officially made myself an Unlimited Member at FOFA, which means instead of only being able to take 8 classes a month, I can take whatever I want, whenever I want. Two months ago I was struggling to make it to the 8 classes a month and feeling like I was throwing money down the drain, but this month I was having trouble choosing between classes I should take without going over my limit. I took away that barrier and now I'm just running with it.

As a nice bonus, I'm starting to see and feel results. My weight has remained pretty constant, but I'm feeling more toned, which is a bigger win in my book anyway. More importantly though, my knees are slowly getting used to the idea that their vacation is over. After years of telling myself "I can't do that, I have crappy knees", I've silenced the excuses and decided that if I never try, I'll never be able to do anything. With the number of knee replacements and severe joint pain in my family, I'm realizing that if I don't do anything now there could come a day when I can't do anything at all. Over the past month or so my range of motion has improved greatly. I feel myself actually wanting to crouch down, making my knees do more of the work than my back and arms. I still feel a little grindy pain, just not as much. I'm not entirely sure if it's the classes or if it was a mental block the whole time and I'm just giving myself permission to move now. Crazy how things work.

I'm going to wrap this up now, but I want to leave you with a video that really drove some of these things home for me. Rooster didn't let Cerebral Palsy stop him from doing what he wanted to do. Major props to his mom and his training-mates that encouraged him instead of holding him back.

My Training Wings

After training on Tuesday at Fight or Flight Academy, I decided to splurge a little and purchased a pair of their fancy sweatpants. The pants that I've been wearing during class were catching on my feet and generally better suited for Krav Maga. Apparently training in sweatpants that could double as oversized clown pants  is a good thing in the parkour community because they are HUGE! They recommended I go with the 3XL. I have to say, they're quite comfortable. I want to wear them all the time. Something possessed me to add a bit of personal flair to these sweatpants so I got to work designing my own pair of wings to embroider onto the legs, a la the Greek god Hermes. The sketching process was fun and reminded me of Graphic Design at MCAD. Drawing multiple options, choosing the best concept to move forward with and refining it in Illustrator. Embroidery is a bit of a new hobby for me and I've only done patterns that someone else created. This felt pretty cool doing something that was completely custom. Because I'm a nice person, I've included the design as a PDF here in case anyone wants to use it. The wings measure 8" when printed on legal size paper. Have fun and if you decide to use it, send me a photo of the finished product! :)

Anyway, the project came together very quickly and I was excited to wear them for the weight training class I took this evening. I know it's silly to fancify your workout gear but hey, whatever it takes to motivate me to go to the gym. I don't mind being silly once in a while.

Here they are! The finished product. Now I just want to run around in them all day!

While I was working on the embroidery, I started thinking of them as my training wings. They're kind of a mental burst of energy to help me through the difficult phase of trying something new. Parkour has felt exceptionally difficult for me because in high school, I developed Patellofemoral pain syndrome when I played basketball. I ignored a lot of physical therapy recommendations because I lacked the discipline to follow them and didn't feel like they were worth my time. I wanted instant gratification and wasn't willing to put the time in. Silly me.

Since then, I've become very good at telling myself I can't do various things because "I have bad knees". The first time I tried parkour, vaults, jumps and any kind of knee bending actions seemed impossible. I told Chad and Mitch "I have bad knees, I can't do it." and they told me to try it anyway. As I tried some moves, I actually surprised myself with what I was able to do. Sure, I failed at most of the movements, but that's reasonable when starting something new. I'm realizing that most of my issues have been mental blocks, working through those is the next challenge.

During parkour training days, if I can't do something, I just need to modify it so that I can. On non-parkour days, I'm focusing on strengthening my legs and doing myofascial release exercises with a foam roller. Tonight I started taking a weight training class to help speed up the process of being physically capable of key moves like jumps, kong vaults and pulling myself up walls. I think it's a little funny how I couldn't motivate myself to care about my knees before, but now that I have found parkour, I'm excited to test my limits and push past them.

I want to wrap this post up with a video I found tonight while browsing Reddit. This video really gets to the heart of why I think parkour is amazing. Enjoy!