The Cat’s Out of the Bag

(Part 2 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

If you want to repeat that little jump at an angle to a moss covered wall all day until you can do it with your eyes closed… well my friend, you are not alone. I want to repeat that jump with you. But let’s do 50, just to be sure. And one more for the others who can’t join us. That’ll do us both more good than that big roof gap whilst you hold the camera.

~ Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat, from A Call To Arms

By now, all of my friends know I practice parkour with Lehigh Valley Parkour. I’m pushing 42, with graying hair and the BMI calculator says 34.9, (which is “obesity.”) So when people first find out, they raise an eyebrow and say, “You’re a brave soul!” or “Huh? The jumping from roof-top to roof-top thing?!”. …my answer is ‘no’ to both of those.

Please do not go to TouYube and look up parkour; Total waste of your time. This is one of those Catch-22 things where the people who believe — quietly, to themselves — that they “get it”… well, those people aren’t posting spectacular videos on TouYube. So you don’t notice their point of view on the whole thing.

I am not saying, “those people over there have it wrong.” I am not saying, “parkour is the One True Path(tm)”. I am not saying, “these ideas are to be found only through parkour.”

I am saying:

Parkour is…

…a journey composed of tiny steps so easy that failure is impossible.

…the grueling, deconstructing, work of self-improvement.

…that well-earned sense of accomplishment.

…the joie-de-vivre that I hadn’t noticed I let slip away.




 “…and one more for the others who can’t join us.”  :*)

It is done fast enough when it is done well.

(Part 3 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Uncle Bob, from The Frenzied Panic of Rushing:

Getting done right does not mean getting done slow. Getting done right means getting done fast. You will go faster if you do things right. You will go faster if you come down off the “high” generated by the illusion that effort is speed. You will go faster if you calm down, follow your disciplines, and refuse to rush.

exclamation-point-150x150While he’s talking about software development in general, and test-driven development specifically, this is true for – I think – everything. My experience is that this is true for software development, and other technical work. But it is also true of martial arts practice, parkour, games, building model airplanes… you name it.

The pervasive admonishment should be “do it well,” rather than, “slow down.” Do it well and you’ve – by definition – done it as fast as possible. What’s the point of doing it poorly? What’s the point of rushing to completion; If you didn’t do it well, then it’s not done.

Make the most of this life

(Part 4 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

carl_saganI would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

~ Carl Sagan

Start now

(Part 5 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)


“finished last”
is better than
“did not finish”
which trumps
“did not start.”

~ unknown



Be kind,
for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

~ Plato, cf. “finished last”


Never throw in the towel.
Use it to wipe the sweat from your brow.
Then keep going.

~ unknown, cf. “did not finish”


The hardest part of any journey
is believing you are able to begin it.

~ unknown, cf. “did not start”


Be mindful of your negative thoughts

(Part 6 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

negative_thoughtsWhen we are unaware of our thoughts and urges, which arise in the back of our mind mostly unnoticed, they have a power over us. We are unable to change if these unbidden thoughts control us. But when we learn to observe them, we can then release their power over us.

Meditation is practice for observing those thoughts, for being more mindful of them throughout the day.

~ Leo Babauta, from Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit,

Meditation is literally the easiest thing you can add to your life — 5 minutes, 2 minutes, even 60 seconds will do you good. As I wrote elsewhere:

 If you were handed a large bucket of sloshing and disturbed water and told to calm the water, you should simply set the bucket down and wait for the water to calm. You would definitely NOT shake the bucket in an attempt to convince the water to calm down.

Driving, texting, walking, rushing, typing, watching TV, playing games, talking, frenzied eating. Set the bucket down for a few minutes.

To be and to last

(Part 7 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

To be and to lastTo last? That old lesson about the brightest flame burning the quickest is particularly true in Parkour. What use is a person who lasts five years and has to stop training due to bad knees and a broken ankle? How useful is a body that can’t move pain free due to years of neglect and abuse? The journey of Parkour was never meant to be a brilliant flash of spectacle and show, it was always intended to be a lifelong pursuit of improvement and one that doesn’t need to end once the body begins to show signs of age.

~ Chris “Blane” Rowat, from 50 Ways To Be and To Last in Parkour

Ignore the show reels. Ignore the spectacular. Those MAY be inspirational to you, but your journey SHOULD be a long series of small, eminently POSSIBLE steps. Go to your first class and try anything; try SOMETHING. Stop when your body has had enough. Repeat. In a few months, you will have grown so much that you will hardly recognize yourself.

A deep sense of malaise

(Part 8 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

You can harness and channel these needs, but a man completely ignores them at his peril. Modern men are told there’s nothing real about manhood — that it’s all a silly, outdated cultural construct — and they sure work hard to believe it. And yet they cannot shake a deep sense of malaise, and they don’t know why.

~ Brett McKay, from Where Does Manhood Come From?

I consider myself very lucky. I’m expressing my mid-life crisis in some pretty healthy and productive ways. Instead of going on a more traditional bender, I’m shaking off shackles and bindings that I in fact put on.

One day I realized that there is no longer anyone left to tell me what to do. Certainly one has responsibilities, but there are precious few of those which are immutable bedrock. You look at your life and think, “Look at all these ideas I’ve accepted.” When you pick idly at some of the threads, the whole thing comes apart, and you find yourself in a row boat on the sea — or on a bicycle on the open road (choose your own metaphor). On the open sea in a good way; You realize you are free, that in fact you have NOT always been free, and that there’s an awful lot of life left to live now that you’re ready to start.

A most sincere thank you

(Part 9 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Two years ago today, I showed up at Wescosville Elementary at 4pm and tried parkour. A very big thank you to everyone ( Adam, Josh, Joseph, and Miguel in particular) who has been friendly, happy, and encouraging these last two years. This week I will be attempting the ADAPT 1 certification; I could not have accomplished what I have without all the help from the wonderful men and women of lehigh valley parkour. “allez, allez!”


(Part 10 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

My suspicion is that, in our convenient society, we don’t need to be acutely aware of our balance and body positions vis a vis the ground because many of us don’t do much physical labor anymore, or play freely as kids outdoors now that we have so many enticing computer games to entertain us.

~ Wayne Muromoto, from The base: close to the ground

More than a year ago, I wrote that parkour is about freedom (and much more.) There is also a visceral component that I’m finding is playing a greater and greater role.

Visceral, adj.
characterized by, or proceeding from, instinct rather than intellect: a visceral reaction; characterized by, or dealing with, coarse or base emotions.

When you treat your body like a Cadillac meat vehicle – that is, when it’s just a mode of conveyance from one creature-comfort to the next – you soon cease to be intimately aware of what your body is feeling. A large part of the allure of parkour is the immediate and clear, honesty and reality of the experience of training. It’s obvious that your body and mind are not readily separable, but in normal daily life, one mostly ignores the body. In parkour, the body and mind have to work in harmony.

I have a lot more to say about this harmony (my personal interpretation, and explanation, thereof.) But for the moment, I’m just going to start with the above.

How To Live on 24 Hours a Day

(Part 12 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

As you look back on the year that has just past, do you feel as though you spent another 12 months merely existing instead of truly living? Do you often go to bed at night with an anxious, sinking feeling that you wasted away another precious day of your limited time here on earth? One of my all-time favorite old books addressed this very concern better than anything else I’ve ever read.

~ Arnold Bennett, from How To Live on 24 Hours a Day

104 years old, still readable, and totally apropos of our lives today.

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day on Amazon.

What’s the constant?

(Part 13 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

This change really seperates people. It’s not going to be like it used to be. You can’t ‘go back to training’ as you once did. That one Jam that you remember is a small part of your whole experience that you remember fondly. It’s one highlight in a long journey, which isn’t just highlights. What’s the constant in these memories?

It’s Parkour.

~ Chris Grant, from Change

A person should be strong

(Part 14 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

It suggests that a person should aim to be strong, but not just in a physical sense. They should aim to be resilient, free thinking, confident and yet remain humble. They should learn to be self-sufficient and useful to their loved ones and they should be aiming to always progress in some way.

~ Chris Rowat, from 50 Ways To Be and To Last in Parkour

Written to have 5 parts, plus the introduction, he’s only completed two parts so far. But if parkour/art d’déplacement/free running you love, read this you must.

If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat

(Part 15 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. That’s what I have to say. The second is only a part of the first. Don’t ever forget what a friend once wrote to Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator had decided not to run for reelection because he’d been diagnosed with cancer: “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

Don’t ever forget the words on a postcard that my father sent me last year: “If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”

~ Anna Quindlen, from Maria Popova’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life: Anna Quindlen on Work, Joy, and How to Live Rather Than Exist

My oath

(Part 17 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

I’ve been slowly collecting small thoughts so that I could begin writing something about my journey. Over a year ago, I found an oath on Nerd Fitness, but hesitated committing; There are bits in this oath that will demand 40+-years-big-ship-small-rudder sorts of changes of me. I’ve been revisiting it periodically to see how it felt each time I tried it on.

I love it. I’m committing to it.

My oath:

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I shall make no excuses and hold no grudges.

I care not where I came from, only where I am going.

I don’t compare myself to others, only to myself from yesterday.

I shall not brag about successes nor complain about my struggles, but share my experiences and help my fellows. I know I impact those around me with my actions, and so I must move forward, every day.

I acknowledge fear, doubt, and despair, but I do not let them defeat me.


New toys

(Part 18 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

So many people have been talking about rings recently… we are upping our push-up game with new toys! Yet another great use for a pullup bar. Also. wow, this is tough…

FitBit Charge HR

(Part 19 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

I’m working with a friend of mine — Mike Bowyer — on a designed, intentional, training program. One of the critical components is working for specific times in very particular heart rate zones. So I’ve bitten the bullet, and am trying a FitBit1. Online commentary seems to be that it’s not super-accurate, but I’m hoping it will do at least an ‘ok’ job of thoroughly recording heart rate during — saw this coming didn’t you? — parkour activities.

…until I smash it on a brick.


Boston Gauntlet 2015

(Part 20 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Group photo from the end of the “Gauntlet” event in Somerville.

I think my biggest accomplishment was the “didn’t hurt myself.” I certainly did a lot of physical things that were impressive (for me, and my ability.) But just being able to continue to ‘dig deep’ for hours on end — that was great.

As usual, I want to avoid name-dropping. But we did this one neat turn-vault landing on one foot and continuing on to step down and off the wall… that was something very different! Also, one of the first times I’ve EVER just “done” something and actually felt like I was really moving simply.

Videos from BKB

(Part 21 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Some videos I took in April 2015 when I was last up in Somerville. This certainly isn’t a great answer to “what is parkour” in the global sense. But it will give you an idea of what I was working on when I had several hours to play on some scaffolding when I had unstructured time to just train.

Continue Reading…

Sorry, no actually I’m not

(Part 22 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

So this happened in Cartegena.

This is funny, but that’s not why I posted this. See the bottom.

Imagine if you will, a bus load of 45 tourists — a perfect stereotype bus tour from a cruise ship. We all walk up a hill/road to see the Castillo overlooking Cartegena. (Very nice by the way! Photos coming soon.) Then we walk all the way back down. We reach an intersection, near our bus in the home stretch, and across the street is a small park with one of those long railings meant to keep people from J-walking.

The cross-walk says “go”, so there’s no traffic. Without thinking, I J-walked straight across and vaulted the rail.

…and I hear 44 people do a group groan. They had all followed me across the intersection and everyone had to walk all the way around the railing. (My mom shouted out, “Brat!”)

SO? Well, I did it without thinking, but FORGET ME.

Imagine what YOUR LIFE would be like if you vaulted a little railing after a long walk AND THOUGHT IT WAS FUN. What, really, is your excuse?

(…and if you’re in shape, or under 20, or can already vault a rail. Kudos to you! …but I’m not talking to you.)

Is motivation useless

(Part 23 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Instead of berating yourself when you’re not motivated to exercise, or getting mad at yourself when you struggle with eating unhealthy food, take a step back and look at it from a different angle:

“How can you build the habit of success and put your focus there, instead of chasing the motivation to make it happen?

It’s easy to become ensnared – to chase motivation and fail – or rationalize inaction and never try. Every single one of us has fallen into this trap. I’d love to hear about your experience with this, and how you plan to (or already have) overcome it.

~ Steve Kamb, from Is Motivation Useless1

In a vague sort of way, I found this idea in my own training. As usual, Steve Kamb brings clarity to the party. This idea of incremental actions, of habits, and little processes that make success a foregone conclusion is at the core of my Parkour training.


A student of Parkour

(Part 25 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Parkour is a method of improving oneself through challenge. The founders say that to practice the art means to work toward: Being mentally and physically strong; being useful; being a positive contribution to your community; being better than you were yesterday.

But what about competition, flips, stunts, jumping roof gaps and gymnastics tumbling? …are those things parkour? Certainly, some people do those things as part of their parkour practice. Competition can make you physically stronger. Jumping roof gaps can make you mentally tougher. So these things can be parkour practice, but your practice does not have to be these things.

For me, swallowing my pride and starting over in physical fitness with a group of people about half my age… That was a challenge. For me, pull-ups are a challenge. But that’s the whole point. Parkour is about me improving me, and you improving you.

But I didn’t know that when I first tried Parkour in the spring of 2012. I had met Adam McClellan during a martial arts demonstration and he talked me into coming out to play with the growing Lehigh Valley Parkour community. I am continuously delighted to be the big, old, slow, lumbering gorilla in a community of enthusiastic, supportive and happy people. After two years of serious training, at the age of 42, I passed the ADAPT Level 1 certification through Parkour Generations. Parkour, and this unique community, have changed my life.

Kee Klamps!

(Part 27 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Yeeee-Haw! The UPS driver, (aka ‘our brown Santa’,) just surprised me with this…. didn’t even know it had shipped! Off to Home Depot for steel pipe . . . *squeeeeeeeee*

Shut up and train: Self-directed advice

(Part 32 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue – to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.

~ Socrates

I think that “shutting up” has been the most difficult aspect of my Parkour journey.

In my youngling days — let’s define that as sub-30-years-old — I was always the clown: obnoxious; rude, crude and ill-mannered; smart ass. When you have a big ego and low self-esteem, you seek attention to try to make those ends meet. That’s probably a good benchmark definition of dysfunctional. Worse, I had no idea such was the case. Over the next ten years, (or so,) I started to realize that such behavior was dysfunctional and pathetic. That decade was finally followed by my beginning to try to change about 40 years of ingrained behavior.

It was at this point — just as I was trying to change the course of a very large ship with a very small rudder — that I started Parkour. At the time, I simply jumped into Parkour being my usual self. But two pushups into my first class I was stripped of my delusions of grandeur. Two minutes in, and I figured out that I was an out-of-shape pile of bacon. After two hours of trying to do something, anything, and failing and sweating and flailing and sweating more… Well, shit got real.

That first class was followed by a solid year of me having an argument with myself, in real-time, at every class. Every time I’d exhibit some variation of my dysfunctional behavior I’d mentally berate myself; Shut up. Train. After each class, I’d think back on all the cringe-worthy moments and think: Next time, shut up more. Train more.

Somewhere around two years in, my ship’s course had shifted far enough that the dysfunctional behavior was noticeably tailing off. Certainly, the behaviors I disliked were still frequent enough to bother me, but they WERE tailing off.

Now, three years in and going stronger than ever, I’ve made a lot of progress in terms of fixing myself mentally and physically. I can now say, with an air of experience: Everything has changed. And nothing has changed.

Shut up more. Train more.

I have awesome friends

(Part 33 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Eric and Anabella left me a bday gift bag on my desk… this is several levels of awesome: A *large* shirt. The meme is perfect. It’s really good rum. And, inconceivably, it’s the same rum I selected from a huge Rum list at the Jerk Chicken place where everyone had dinner in Toronto after the event.


(Part 34 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

I spent Saturday in Philadelphia training with a relatively small group of people.

Honestly, I was pretty beaten up, broken down, and tired before we even started. Brutally honestly, I need a break; I have simply been doing way too much for way too many weeks in a row for these old bones. So right out of the gate on Saturday, I could tell I was going to be dragging my a** all day.

And then the entire day unfolded in so many ways I could never have imagined.

I’d have to write a small book to tell all the stories; The people, the names, beautiful smiles, sketchy Philadelphia parks, smiling strangers, wall runs, jumps, cats-to-climb-ups, people who have grown and changed so TREMENDOUSLY since I’ve last seen them, old friends, new friends, people with broken hearts who are an inspiration in the way they continue to crush challenges, people ahead of me laughing and playing and urging me on by simply “being”, people behind me yelping approval that I can’t comprehend, and dinner and milkshakes and conversations and shared thoughts with people I expect I will never forget.

Long was I Marcellinus!

(Part 36 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Nevertheless I shall brave this danger and be bold enough to show [Marcellinus] his faults. He will act in his usual way; he will have recourse to his wit, – the wit that can call forth smiles even from mourners. He will turn the jest, first against himself, and then against me. He will forestall every word which I am about to utter.

~ Seneca1, from Letters From A Stoic: Letter 292

Many of Seneca’s letters are pretty obtuse after all this time. But this one… this one jumped out at me as being really apropos of modern life. And, uh, painfully on point for myself.



A thought on health

(Part 40 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Of this I am certain: Unless you take the time to study how your body’s biology and chemistry work, you will never figure out what you should actually be eating. Your health is your number one priority — your children, your parents, your spouse/significant-other… you cannot help them if you don’t have your own health.

Take just a bit of time to start reading about metabolism, diet (the general idea of what you should consume, not a specific set of instructions to lose weight), biology, and chemistry. Just spend a little bit of time reading to investigate the things you believe are true, and to verify the things you believe are false.

30/30 squat challenge redux

(Part 41 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Back at the end of October, I decided I was going to try Ido Portal’s 30/30 Squat Challenge. Basically, attempting to sit (a rest position) in a deep squat for a total of 30 minutes, every day for the month of November.

How did I do? Actually, not so well. I only racked up an average of 11 minutes per day. A few days had only a few minutes, and only on TWO days did I get the full 30 minutes in. It turns out, that making time to sit (squat) down isn’t easy. Most of the time, I just plain forgot. I did best when I set a timer while working at my desk. Every 10 or 15 minutes, the timer would go off and I’d do a one-minute squat.

But, I can see/feel the improvement in ankle and hip flexibility. Initially, I could only manage to squat on the balls of my feet, or rest flat footed if I held onto something VERY sturdy to keep from falling over backwards. Now, it only takes a gentle assistance to sit flat footed. So I think with another, more serious, go at this challenge in December — I’ve gotten all 30 minutes in for the first three days of December —  I can finally reach a flat footed, deep squat.

What’s up for 2016?

(Part 44 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

I’ve recently started thinking about 2016 goals. These aren’t “New Year’s Resolutions”; When I pick up a goal, it’s only after a lot of thinking and planning. Most importantly, I only commit if I believe the result of reaching the goal is worth it.

I’m considering things like the following:

  • Hip/ankle flexibility: Achieve being able to sit, relaxed in a full squat. (I’ve been working on this for 3 months already.)
  • Reach a lower weight; I’m thinking 210 is probably a good goal for about 6 months out. (Currently about 223.)
  • Run 10 minute miles; Maybe run a 5K in 30 minutes in October. (I think this would be pretty easy if I was 210.)

…and then a bunch of non-physical training things:

  • Become fluent in French. (A big challenge!)
  • Develop a solid writing habit.
  • Develop a solid reading habit. (I already read a lot; It’s consistently finding/making the time.)

Allez! Allez!

It’s not a priority

(Part 49 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Starting today, you are no longer allowed to utter the words: “I don’t have time.” Instead, you will say, “It’s not a priority.”

~ Steve Kamb, from Why “I Don’t Have Time” is a Big Fat Lie1

Years ago, when I discovered the Lehigh Valley Parkour community’s inside jokes, I started avoiding the word “can’t” — if another LVPK member hears you, there’s an immediate 5 pushups penalty. (Very annoying in markets, subways, when driving, you get the idea.) Instead of saying “I can’t do that…” you start to say “I can do that when I am able to [insert something I need to work on].” Changing your words, changes your thoughts, changes your actions, changes your life.

Well, this one is my newest addition. No more “I don’t have time”; It’s all going to be, “It’s not a priority.” Go ahead, try a few of these out loud:

I don’t have time to eat healthy, becomes… Eating healthy isn’t a priority.

I don’t have time to exercise, becomes… Exercise isn’t a priority.

I don’t have time to sleep, becomes… Sleep isn’t a priority.

Oh, well brain, if you’re going to think about it that way… our whole life is going to change.


That which gets measured

(Part 50 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

I’ve often heard, “that which gets measured, gets improved.” (…and you have to actually plan and work to realize improvements.)

Ten years ago, I saw 270 pounds on the scale and decided to start tracking. The first step was to work on getting proper sleep (followed by many more steps – but that’s another story.) I’ve been tracking health related things – weight, hours of sleep, dietary supplements, habits like stretching (whatever little projects I’ve had going on) for almost 10 years. This enables me to trot out amazing things like this when I’m looking for some inspiration…

Highest weight from memory: 270
Dec 2006, earliest recorded weight: 265
Jun 2012, started Parkour: 254
Jun 2014, ADAPT 1: 240
Aug 2014, rock climbing in Colorado: 232
Mar 2016: 221

Me, excited? You betcha!!

I’ve said it before: Find the smallest first step you can make towards your goal. Take that step. Tomorrow, look back and say, “well… I’ve come this far, may as well take the next step!” The hardest part of any journey is believing the journey is possible.

Moving forward

(Part 54 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

I really struggle with believing that small, daily efforts lead to long-term changes. On the treadmill of life, I always seem to want to start sprinting to get ahead, especially when the treadmill picks up speed working against me. I find little injuries or other setbacks are really demoralizing. Curiously, I don’t seem to be demoralized by the things I’m not yet able to do. (“Scale that wall? meh. Some day, maybe, not really a major concern though.”)

Continue Reading…

When the ‘me’ is obliterated

(Part 55 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

When the ‘me’ is obliterated by fear or the demands of immediate survival, action is no longer constrained by social forces, and the individual is left with a sense of self-determination. […] Behavior in edgework appears to the individual as an innate response arising from sources deep within the individual, untouched by socializing influences”

~ Stephen Lyng, from Edgework, 2004

A couple years ago I tried to write something explaining what exactly it is about practicing parkour that I like so much. It turns out others are way WAY ahead of me. Julie Angel (you have read Cinè Parkour, right?) talks a bit about “edgework”; The idea of negotiating the “edges” between things like consciousness/unconsciousness, sanity/insanity, and life/death. Others (H.S. Thompson and Lyng) have talked about “edgework” in depth.

And I agree. My experience is that being in the parkour practice — even just the visceral edges where I’m pushing my physical limits while exposing myself to only manageable levels of risk — just totally strips away all the context of my work-a-day life. Everything — all the way down to my thoughts — everything falls away.

My martial arts teacher has a great phrase related to edgework: No this. No that. No delay.

The little box on my desk

(Part 56 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

A long long time ago I began collecting inspirational quotes and aphorisms. I kept them on the first version of my web site, where they were displayed randomly. But as time went on, I realized I wanted them where I would see them. Eventually I copied the fledgeling collection onto 3×5 cards and put them in a small box. As I find new ones, I add cards.

I keep the box on my desk with one card showing — just wedged in so it stands up readable. I change the card randomly, whenever the urge strikes.

Countless times I’ve pulled another card and found it eerily appropriate to the challenges of the day.

Countless times I’ve returned to my desk and felt inspired upon rediscovering an old card’s whispered counsel.

Countless times, just as I was about to throw in the towel, I was saved by an echo from the little box on my desk.

I work like a gardener

(Part 58 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

I work like a gardener… Things come slowly… Things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. I must graft. I must water… Ripening goes on in my mind. So I’m always working at a great many things at the same time.

~ Joan Miro, from I Work Like a Gardener

In the beginning, my Parkour practice was simply “push. push! PUSH!” with the only moderating factor being to avoid serious injury.

Continue Reading…

Yes you can

(Part 59 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Hello there! Welcome!

This post is where I’ve dumped a bunch of things intended to convince YOU that you really can do Parkour.

Why do I think you can do Parkour? Because, basically, everything the general public has heard about Parkour is wrong. You could totally do Parkour because…

I’m too old, over-weight, out of shape…

I did it, so can you.

I simply mean that when I started, I was very over-weight (BMI well over 30, definitely “obese”), very out of shape, and I was just over 40 years old. That combination is probably “worse off” than most people who end up reading this.

However, if you are older, in worse shape, or fatter than that, I do still think you can do it . . .

Do you think you can improve yourself?

Parkour is about improving yourself through challenge. So whatever is challenging for you, that’s going to be your practice. Maybe for you, it’s a warmup and then start working on some shoulder strength, but you spend a majority of the time watching class so you’re not over-exherting yourself. Maybe it’s a long talk about nutrition and diet (generally what you eat, not a specific diet fad) combined with your initial Parkour efforts.

What about that crazy stuff on TouYube?

It is NOT about big jumps! Why does everyone see the EXTREME movements, and then assume ALL Parkour has to be like that?

You can drive a car without getting into auto racing. You can do a cart wheel without being an Olympic gymnast. You can go for a jog without running a marathon. You can practice Parkour without jumping between roof-tops across an alley!

There’s nothing wrong with the extremes (in the “ultimate level of performance” sense) in any of those activities, but those extremes are NOT representative of the average activity of “driving”, “cart wheeling”, “running” or “Parkour”.

And anyway, here’s a link to my all-time favorite video of some Parkour. I think it’s spectacular, but not in the “huge jumps”, “extreme movement” sense: Julie Angel’s, Movement of Three (2’33”)

But I’m a woman…

The answer is still: Yes. Yes you can.

I do understand that there are issues (not just in Parkour) that only women face. But those issues are either societal norms, or other bullshit caused by men. That has nothing to do with Parkour per se. (It’s about men. Actually it’s about boys. Real men don’t pull misogynistic crap.)

HOWEVER, do not take my word about anything regarding the woman’s point of view. Instead, go read this:

And the question almost no one asks…

How do I figure out where and with whom to train?

This is ACTUALLY the hard part. It’s always the same: finding the right coach is mission critical. And you have to perfom this most-important step BEFORE you know much about the thing you want to learn.

So here’s how you do it: You find the nearest place/people/group that purports to teach the thing. You go there. You put your “vibe radar” on and you don’t go back if anything weirds you out. If anything is high pressure (“Jump this! NOW!”, “Sign up for a year! NOW!”) then you back away slowly, and never return. They should be welcoming, intelligent and you should feel supported by most (if not literally) everyone in the class.

Patience is the master key

(Part 60 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Patience is the master key to every situation. One must have sympathy for everything, surrender to everything, but at the same time remain patient and forbearing… There is no such thing as bending or breaking. It’s a question only of overcoming, which begins with overcoming oneself. That cannot be avoided. To abandon that path is always to break in pieces. One must patiently accept everything and let it grow within oneself. The barriers of the fear-ridden I can only be broken by love. One must, in the dead leaves that rustle around one, already see the young fresh green of spring, compose oneself in patience, and wait. Patience is the only true foundation on which to make one’s dreams come true.

~ from Kafka on Love and Patience

Patience with myself is a huge hurdle. I’m my own worst critic. One critical comment from me, and I crumble. I regularly beat myself down and out with negativity, self-doubt and unreasonable expectations.

New mantra: Patience is the master key. Patience.

Life Return On Exercise Invested

(Part 62 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

Life Return On Exercise Invested – LROEI

Exercise has been show to correlate1 with longevity; The people who exercise more are also the people who live longer2.

I had never thought about exercise in quite this way: If I’m going to exercise, and if the exact details of the exercise aren’t so important, WHICH exercise would I prefer to do?

Would I rather spend time indoors or outdoors?
…in a gym, or at a playground?
…alone, or with my friends?
…in a familiar place, or some place new?

There are many types of exercise. The way I’m pursuing exercise through Parkour ALSO happens to generate a greater LROEI.



Parkour as a technology of the self

(Part 63 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

I’m working on a crazy idea as a side project. Totally unrelated, I’m reading Julie’s CinéParkour. I’m just reading along this evening, and I get to this paragraph. This is so apropos of my train of thought these past few weeks.


Julie Angel, from CinéParkour, pg 152:

Traceurs are active subjects within dominant power relations who use parkour as a technology of the self; an active transformative tool, to create and understand themselves and move away from fixed notions of identity and behaviour. Through a process of critical thinking and self-awereness traceurs problemitise and set ethics by which they adhere to. Parkour becomes a ‘practice of libery’, where traceurs practice freedom as a lifestyle, based on inventions and styles, that create ethics centered around creative environmental interactions and connections, to reclaim the body as an autonomous vehicle, away from the dominant notion of ‘bio-power’ and other dominant discourses.

‘technology of the self’
‘freedom as a lifestyle’
‘ethics centered around creative environmental interactions and connections’
‘reclaim the body as an autonomous vehicle’

How do I stay motivated?

(Part 64 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

My level of motivation varies tremendously, and it took me far too long to learn that it was cyclical. I used to think I had these huge swaths of motivated productivity with an occasional, unexplained crash. I used to think I just needed to figure out how to avoid those anomalous crashes, and I spent too much precious time fighting with myself in the down-turns. I now see that I was wrong; My motivation is inherently cyclical.

When I am highly motivated, it’s alluring to believe that I should spend my time working only on focused and directed things. I used to fall into the trap of trying to focus all of my time and energy on moving forward. I felt that if I wasn’t on-task, then I was wasting time, and that feeling fed into my sense of guilt.

Because I now expect the inevitable down-turns, I feel justified spending time on things which support my motivation in the long run. I work intermittently in two directions: I spend some of my time working on-task towards achieving my goals, and some time goofing-off cultivating my motivation and inspiration. In effect, I’m prolonging the motivational peaks by spreading them out wider. At the highest points, I may not be as motivated as I once was, but I maintain a productive level of motivation for a much longer time.

(To be fair, I have a pretty organized way of goofing-off. I read from a wide range of online sources and books, from health, wellness and exercise blogs to physiology text books. I constantly fiddle with new exercises to try, places to go, health tweaks, and habits. I make plans to travel near and far, where I can meet new people, and visit old friends. I even have no-thinking-required things — music playlists, and monotonous chores — which I can draw on when I need to be off-task.)

But eventually, I head into a down-turn. They vary from mild bouts of, “meh,” where I simply feel unmotivated to do any of the things I’ve set out for myself, to dark moods of depression. Regardless of the depth, when I’m heading into a motivational down-turn, my best tactic is to stop doing — to stop trying — and to simply be. It’s as if I’m at the crest of the first hill on a roller-coaster; I see what’s coming, and prepare for the inevitable ride.

At the bottom of that huge, thrill-less, depressing hill it is agonizing to lay in a puddle of “meh” and believe that this is exactly what I need to be doing right now. But that is the truth. After countless cycles of ebb and flow, I’ve learned to think: “Right now, laying in this puddle is exactly what I need.”

…and that is the key to my success.

I remind myself to roll with this down-turn, guilt-free. I try to avoid “should’ing” on myself. (I should stop this. I should do that.) I remind myself this down-turn is only one phase of a healthy cycle.

I rest.

I mope.

Maybe I watch a movie and have some popcorn. Maybe I nap. Maybe I nap in the hammock if it’s warm outside. Maybe I bask before the fire, or lay in the sun. I do whatever it is I feel like doing, which may well be absolutely nothing at all. I throw down the reigns which my executive-level mind normally holds with an iron grip. I set my thoughts and body free. They weren’t listening anyway.

And then I could write a long diatribe where I try to explain how it feels as if there’s this big, gloomy, moping, dog that sits around keeping me stuck in the down-turn. And eventually that dog gets bored and I can convince it to go away. And, honestly, it’s a stupid metaphor. Except for the fact that here I am, stuck writing some lousy metaphor, making me hate writing this, which — it turns out — is exactly the sort of perfect metaphor for feeling lousy when I’m stuck in a down-turn…

I’m going for a walk.

Just the tiniest little stroll.


Walking invariably loosens up my mind. Sometimes it takes days of doing nothing interspersed with some walking before I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Soon, I find I have at least a few things on my mind that need to be unloaded. When I hear that quiet calling, I write whatever-it-is into my journal. Writing things down — moods, worries, plans, ideas — unjumbles my mind. So I record my thoughts as inspiration for future projects, and as reminders to expect future down-turns.

Eventually, I simply find the thought of working on something might actually be fun. At which point I realize I’m headed back towards the next up-turn.

When things go badly, relax; It will not last.
When things go well, relax; It will not last.


(Part 65 of 65 in ~ My Journey in Parkour)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an idea I call “bookending.”

While most of life is reasonably flexible, there are certain important events which are scheduled at firmly fixed times. Bookending is planning, starting with the fixed event and working backwards. From the fixed event, I can imagine in reverse all the preceding steps, and how much time each requires. I can then determine the time at which I must begin the first step in the chain. From the beginning of that first step, through to the fixed event, defines a wide bookend during which all my actions are more or less known.

As I was writing my series on Parkour Travel, it became clear that bookending is critical to my success with traveling. A Parkour trip tends to be very random and unorganized (those are good things,) but that means it’s even easier to get surprised by firmly scheduled things sneaking up.

Bookending is simply a visualization practice. Various professions use visualization to minimize mistakes. They visualize each step happening successfully, as a complete chain of events, which leads to the desired outcome. When they face time constraints, visualizing the important details of each action they will take reduces errors and increases the likelihood of success.

Here’s an example from traveling:

My flight leaves at 11:00. I don’t have any checked luggage, so I’ll plan to arrive an hour and a half before my flight departs. I’m now thinking, “9:30.” There’s a bus which leaves at 8:00 and arrives at the airport at 9:27. That’s too close for my personal preference. I’ve already bookended the time before the flight: It’s not, “flight at 11:00”, the fixed event is now “be at airport at 9:30.” The previous bus leaves at 7:00, I’ll plan on that one. Now I’m thinking, “bus leaves at 7:00.” I need 15 minutes to drive to the bus terminal, and let’s aim to be 15 minutes early for the bus. That’s now 6:30. I need to park, buy a bus ticket, probably stop at the bathroom, and I need a cup of coffee somewhere along the way, so I’ll throw in another half an hour. I’m now thinking, “6:00.” My bookend is from 6:00 through 11:00. When I begin at 6:00, everything falls into place, bumps in the road don’t cause significant problems and I’ve plenty of time at each step of the way.

Before I learned to bookend, I used to remember the time of the firmly scheduled event (“my flight departs at 11:00”), and then I’d have in mind how long I needed before that (“I need five hours to get there.”) People would ask me, “What are you doing tomorrow?” and my train of thought each time was always, “Flight at 11, I need 5 hours… Five hours? Really?! Yes, I’ve already thought about this. I should leave at 6:00. Ouch. That’s pretty early.” And then I would finally say, “I have a flight at 11:00 and I want to leave about 6:00.”

With my old “method” is was, “Flight at 11:00 and then here are more details that aren’t important, but actually 6:00.” In my mind, and everyone else’s, it’s 11-and-then-all-these-other-details. In my mind, and everyone else’s, we’re always second-guessing why I seem to want to start so early. How did a flight at 11:00 lead to wanting to leave at 6:00?

A large part of what makes bookending useful is that it flips the thinking to, “I would like to leave at 6.” I’m thinking 6:00. I’m saying 6:00. 6:00 is what’s bouncing around in my head. 6:00 comes around and the entire planned sequence of events for the bookend is cued. Off I go, and on time I am.

As I got used to this process, I discovered other benefits: People who host or who are helping you when you travel, understand when you do NOT need their help. If I say “I have a flight at 11:00,” does that imply I’d like a ride to the airport? Perhaps. But if I say, “I’m leaving at 6:00,” that implies I have a plan to get wherever it is that I’m going.

There’s another huge benefit that sneaks in. Having extra time padded in, leads to little chunks of time for me to read. I keep a collection of read-this-later items in my phone (via services like Pocket or Read It Later.) As I find pockets of spare time I always have things to read rather than wasting time in social media or bookface.