Just a few short years ago, no one had ever heard of parkour. Even today, many people don’t know what it is…or at least they don’t know it by name. Just about everyone can recall the opening scene from the James Bond movie Casino Royale, in which Daniel Craig chases a fleeing baddie across a Madagascar town (through a construction site, over and across buildings, down elevator shafts and stairwells, and so on). This method of efficient obstacle navigation, generally practiced in urban settings, requires athleticism, agility, strength, and stamina (not to mention a certain amount of fearlessness). Not just anyone can undertake the rigors of parkour and you certainly shouldn’t attempt it if you’re out of shape. But if you’re interested in trying it out as a sport or simply a mode of transportation, here’s how to prepare.
The first thing you’ll want to focus on is cardio. Since this sport mainly involves extended periods of running and jumping, your cardiac and respiratory systems need to be in top form if you don’t want to find yourself panting (or passing out) after just a couple minutes of movement. You’ll need to seek dynamic cardio exercises that involve varying levels of exertion. Jogging alone won’t do the trick. You need to use inclines, jumping, and down-and-up movements (like burpees) that make your whole body work while you get your cardio.
And you’re going to have to throw in some weight training, as well. Parkour requires gravity-defying leaps that will take you up, across, around, and over any structure that gets in your way, from fences to cars to buildings of every conceivable height. This type of climbing, leaping, and jumping is going to require some serious musculature if you don’t want to kill yourself in the process. Pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and crunches are the basics of getting in shape for parkour, but beyond that you’ll probably want to throw in a weight routine that allows you to develop lean muscles that are nonetheless rock hard. You don’t necessarily want any extra weight on your frame, so you’re going to have to turn every ounce of fat into muscle that will obey when you command it to scale a building and protect your underlying bone structure and joints when you leap off the top.
Finally, you’ll want to embrace gymnastics. The flashier part of this sport involves all kinds of jumping and flipping that you’ll really only see at the Olympics. Whether you’re vaulting over a fence, back-flipping off the top of a building, or swinging from a balcony on one side of the street to a stairwell on the other side using only a flagpole, you need to know how to calculate the height and distance of tricks to ensure that you don’t end up breaking your neck along the way.
Again, parkour isn’t for everyone. It requires a physical (and mental) discipline that is practically unmatched in any other fitness or sports venue, especially since there is really nothing to be gained apart from personal pleasure. However, if you’re interested in the ability to cut out cross-town traffic and make like Spiderman, you can definitely engineer a workout routine that trains your body to participate in parkour.