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. 

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!


Recently I decided that I needed to start being more active. Hooping has been a fun way to get up and move but it hasn't done a whole lot for my endurance or overall strength. I started toying with the idea of joining a nearby gym or taking a yoga class but nothing sounded like something I would stick with in the long run. I have a tendency to start new workout regimens and get bored after just a few times. Weight lifting, running, even group classes at a gym just end up seeming tedious in the long run. A while ago, a friend told me about a local gym called Fight or Flight Academy which is the first and (as far as I'm aware) only gym in the Midwest that teaches Parkour and Freerunning. If you don't know what these are, watch the video below. Hell, watch it even if you do, it's pretty awesome. Even gives you a nice idea of what the gym looks like.

Go get lost on youtube looking at videos for a while. People are crazy talented and it's an amazing display of what the human body is capable of doing. If you decide to come back to my blog, I'll still be rambling here. If not, I'll understand...

Still here? okay, awesome.

So after tossing the idea around in my head for a week, I decided to just take a class and see what I thought. My first class was last Saturday and apparently that particular day was Obstacle Course day, which is a terrible day for a complete newb to show up. This ended up being to my advantage however because while Mitch taught the main group, Chad gave me the ultimate crash course in the basic concepts of Parkour. We went over jumps, landing, rolls, vaults and wall-grabs. By the end of the 55 minute class. I was exhausted, my arms were shaking and I was having a blast! I had started the class thinking that I wouldn't be able to do much of anything. My knees have always given me crap so I've felt extremely limited in my athletic capabilities. But there I was, doing my best and actually surprising myself.

Fast forward to the next morning...

I woke up and the mere thought of moving hurt. EVERYTHING hurt. My body was taking its sweet sweet vengeance on me for daring to put it through that. Muscles that had been hibernating since I was a little kid were angry that I had the nerve to wake them up. This was just validation that parkour was exactly what I needed. This is a total body workout if ever there was one... 5 days and a massage later, I was ready for another class.

Tonight, I got off work and drove across 169 in time to watch the class before mine do some fancy flips. Honestly, some of these guys make it look so easy... it's not fair. Beginning Parkour class tonight focused on "tic tacs" and "cat to cats" or wall jumps and grabs. I spent an hour throwing myself at a wall and hopefully jumping off of it.

I'll be honest...I sucked. My feet were slipping (because I placed them too low on the wall), and my knees were struggling to push off, I couldn't even lift myself in a successful cat to cat. But I was still having fun. Watching what the more advanced students were doing helped me at least envision the end goal while I kept working on getting the basics down. As much as it sucks to try a move and botch it, I can at least feel myself getting used to the movements. I know I just have to keep at it and eventually my body will get it right. My muscles will strengthen and my joints will react faster. As long as I don't psych myself out with thinking "I'll never be good enough", I will improve. I just always have to remember this moment in time when I couldn't even lift myself up from a cat grab because this is rock bottom, I can only go up from here. and up and up and up. That's the whole point. In a month, I can look back and see improvement. In a year, I might not recognize myself.


There was even an added benefit tonight. I got home, still in my workout clothes, still feeling a little giddy about what we worked on and my dog was begging to go outside for a walk. I decided to take him for a run instead, which he was all too excited about. I quickly learned that my dog is a terrible running partner, constantly zig-zagging into my stride or trying to pull me in the direction of a squirrel or goose... little punk is a pent-up menace wrapped in chaos. But my point was, class gave me a reason to get out there and run a little. Even though I absolutely hate running, I have a goal now. Something driving me to improve. Which feels awesome.

The next class I'll be going to is Saturday, looks like we'll be working on vaults. Hopefully my arms will be up for it by then.

If any of this sounds like fun to you, I'd love to get more of my friends going to the class, it's more fun when you have people to joke around with :)

Clearing my head with Paradox

Now that summer has finally shown it's face after a looooooong and somewhat painful winter, some of us at the EatonGolden office have been making the effort to enjoy every drop of Vitamin D we can eek out of the sun by going on 30 minute walks through the neighborhood or walking around Normandale Lake. I feel like Ms_Rezai has had a lot to do with this little culture shift because she is usually the one to burst out of her office, FitBit and RunKeeper in tow, trying to wrangle up people to go with her. Usually it will be Zach, Mahtab and I, which gives the three of us a chance to talk about UX on the road. Ideas flow a bit more freely when you are influenced by events outside of your office's walls. Although the conversations almost always stray from our current projects, it's funny how we usually end up right back to the root of what we do, Experiences. These meandering collaborations of thought help us to connect as coworkers, peers and friends. Mahtab's mentorship is already helping me to discover where I want to grow as a professional and I'm excited to work on a project with her because I have seen Zach benefit so much from the experience.

The office culture has been evolving in such a way that we are encouraged to invest this time in ourselves, to recharge and connect and I feel so fortunate to be part of a company that is on the forefront of what is being called The Productivity Paradox. I read this article today and it just reinforced my feeling that going for these walks in the middle of the day is pretty much vital for my work and mental health.

By the end of our walks, I feel revitalized, inspired and ready to dig back into the work I was doing before we left. There's nothing like knowing the work I do provides meaningful experiences for people doing tasks that aren't generally the most fun to do.

@NikkiPilkington's #30DayBlog challenge: Day 1 - "Are you ready?"

Note, these should be daily blogs but this weekend will be an exception because I'll be out of town and without internet. Not a great way to start a 30 day challenge but at least I got one done and scheduled...I promise I'll catch up ;)