In January, Britain became the first country to recognize parkour as a sport. Most avid runners have heard of or seen parkour — free running — in action, or read about it in Chris McDougall’s “Natural Born Heroes.” Taking up parkour could benefit a runner’s technical skills and agility.
Parkour classes are often held at public parks or playgrounds, and include core work, stretching, sprinting and plenty of technical instruction on jumping and vaulting. You might not be sprinting at a park bench and clearing it on the first day, but you’ll definitely improve your footwork.
Blake Evitt, a track runner through high school and college, discovered parkour in college. He was instantly hooked. Enthralled with the sport, he founded Parkour Generations, a school of parkour. Though he took time off from competitive running, he’s recently found his way back to the sport as a marathoner and integrated his run training with parkour.
“Runners tend to do runner-based weight training and not much else,” Evitt says. “But what parkour has taught me is that the more movements I can teach my body, the better a runner I am. It’s not all about mileage. I can do less mileage and more other activities like parkour as cross-training, and now I perform better in running than I did before.”
Here are 5 ways parkour benefits your running game.
“I see a lot of recreational runners who come to try parkour and are shocked at how bad their balance is,” says Evitt. “Try running backward and see how straight a line you can run. That’s a good indicator of your balance.” Jumping up and not falling off a railing takes coordination, which is why practicing parkour can progress your running technique. Developing these skills helps you navigate a gnarly trail or improve the flow of your road running.
“Parkour takes strict focus on one movement at a time,” Evitt says. That means you’re constantly in the zone when you’re practicing. Running often involves zoning out, but parkour can teach you to come back to the present, and that can help you find more enjoyment in your runs, or even edge out a competitor in a sprint finish.
HONED TECHNICAL ABILITY
Good trail runners are essentially free running — especially when the trail slopes downhill. Parkour teaches you to jump, vault and navigate obstacles that otherwise would have slowed you. With parkour under his belt, Evitt started choosing the hard line in rocky sections of trail, consequently gaining time on other runners.
In something like a Spartan race or mud run, obstacles often stymie runners. Parkour’s body awareness and mastery make negotiating things like climbing nets easier. The focus on core and upper-body strength (pushups and planks are common in classes) preps you for any obstacle you face.
Whether trail running or running in a group on the road, the straight line is always the shortest. If you’re pro at parkour — and can easily negotiate the potted plant on the sidewalk in front of you — you’ll get a better, more interesting workout and save energy otherwise spent ducking around obstacles.
A parkour session combines a cardio workout and full-body strength-training session. You’ll likely enjoy the new movements enough you won’t notice you’ve done five minutes of planking and 100 pushups until the next day, when your muscles are feeling sore.
If you’re nervous about joining a running club or group, but crave community, parkour classes can fill that void. A typical class attracts a range of athletes, from beginner to pro, and chatting between practice sessions, plus partnering up for exercises, makes it a great way to find camaraderie.
BONUS: YOU’LL ALREADY BE AHEAD
A lot of parkour practitioners aren’t necessarily runners, so if you already have a decent aerobic engine when you show up for your first class, you’re more likely to have a great time, Evitt says. You might not be great at parkour right away, but your endurance will help you get through a class without huffing after a couple warmup jogs.
Intrigued? Check out Parkour Generations to see if there’s a class near you. If not, sites like MeetUp.com are worth checking; you might not find an ultra-formal class, but most cities have a club or two of people dedicated to running,hopping over benches, dancing around town and having a blast.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT