Don’t Think, Just Jump

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Don’t Think, Just Jump. Photo by Pete Waterman (whoispete.com)

I just had the best solo training session I’ve had in a long time. It was the same old story… I was exhausted from a long day at work, and I was frustrated because my shoulder’s been injured which has limited my training quite a bit lately. I got home from work and immediately ditched my work dress, jewelry, and ballet flats for a pair of joggers, a sports bra, and my trainers. I felt better already.

I had no food at home and I usually walked through a park on my way to the supermarket, so I decided I’d stop and play for a bit as I went to get some dinner. I grabbed my backpack and headed out the door, putting on my headphones, letting myself get lost in the music and the simple rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement.

The light turned green and I ran across the crosswalk, putting more force into my steps as I neared the other side and went for the running precision from a fat white stripe to the curb in front of me. I felt better with every step.

I ran around the park, forwards, backwards, and side to side, my feet matching the beat as they struck the stone pathway. Lindsey Stirling’s violin-infused electronic beats pulsed through me as I went skipping, dancing, and spinning in circles along the stone walls, walkways and handrails.

I traversed the stone walls throughout the park, tic-tac-ing my way up to another wall, striding the gaps between them, balancing down handrails and leaping to the next wall. Finally, I came to a stop in front of a jump that was just big enough to make me hesitate. I almost got down but I felt that I could do it. I took a deep breath and jumped.

My feet touched down perfectly on the edge as I bent my knees to absorb the impact. I felt triumphant.

I continued my run, nearing the edge of the park where I had recently spotted a jump I wanted to try. This jump is a little far for me, it’s at a weird angle, and it is also a pretty big drop. I knew I’d have to work up to it mentally.

I ran up to the jump and felt strongly that I was capable of doing it, but I wasn’t 100% ready yet. I walked to another end of the same wall where the jump had all of the same obstacles as above, but it was less of a weird angle, making it a little cleaner and shorter.

I stood there, staring down at the wall below me, wondering why I was so afraid. I squatted down. The fear eased up a bit. I stood up. It got scary again. I repeated this exercise over and over again. Finally, I went for it. It was a horrible landing and I had to sort of catch myself with one arm as I landed, but I was glad I did it. Okay, that’s an understatement. I was ecstatic that I did  it. It meant more to me that I had made the attempt than anything else. The next hurdle would be landing it properly.

I started walking away from the park, feeling tired and accomplished for the night, but then I turned around. I wanted to try again.

I went back and repeated that fun stand up-squat-stare at wall-stand up-squat-stare at wall exercise. A stranger walked by and said something to me, pulling me out of my trance. I then felt distracted. I felt off. My thoughts started racing.

Now he’s watching me. I don’t want to have to perform for him.
I feel tired, maybe I’m too tired to try it again.
Maybe that’s just an excuse…?
The Yamakasi never gave up, they kept training. Always be prepared. Tired is never an excuse.
Okay, so I should do it.
But they’ve also said if you don’t feel it, don’t do it. You have to feel the jump to do it right.
Okay, so do I feel it? Or will I hurt myself because I’m tired?

This is what happens when I train alone… Normally, I might have had that conversation with a friend or training buddy, but tonight it was all in my head (don’t hate, you know you do it too). Finally, I decided I wanted to do this for myself. I knew that my body could do it, it was just about the fear. Don’t think, I thought, just jump.

I let myself sit there for a few more seconds as I waited for the line I needed to hear in my new favorite song. Whatever helps, right? The music was slow at first, “…and even though you’re scared, you’re stronger than you know…” then the beat picked up and gave me the last little push I needed as I took off “If you face the fear that keeps you frozen, chase the sky into the ocean, that’s when something wild calls you home…” I soared through the air, landing softly on the balls of my feet. Without hesitation, I transitioned smoothly out of my landing, down onto the sidewalk and jogged off towards the supermarket, a huge smile on my face.

My body knew exactly what it was doing. It was all in my head.

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Happy International Day of Sport for Development and Peace!

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Photo by Pete Waterman (whoispete.com). Athletes: Kate Miller, Adrienne Toumayan and Melanie Hunt of American Parkour (APK).

Today is the third annual International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) and it is definitely something to celebrate!

A few years ago, as I became more and more involved in the parkour community and I began traveling and meeting athletes from around the world, I started to recognize the profoundly positive impact parkour has on its practitioners. I started to collect these stories…

A young man in the Caribbean who used to be an angry teenager prone to violence, but since training parkour had become a much more positive and healthy person.

A young woman whose parkour journey helped her find joy again after the death of a close friend.

A group of young women in Iran, empowered by the freedom of movement and self-expression found in parkour training. Women who continue to train despite the cultural restrictions they face in this pursuit.

Young men in Pakistan who never would have interacted coming from diverse ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds, but who were able to see past their differences and keep themselves out of trouble through their parkour training.

Young men in Gaza who find freedom through parkour, bringing joy to their friends and neighbors who enjoy watching them play. They maintain hope for a better future as they jump, flip, and tumble around.

There are countless more examples I’ve found, through news stories and personal accounts, of parkour improving people’s lives and bringing people together, particularly in areas divided by conflict. I have seen examples of this throughout the Middle East, in China, Eurasia, and more.

As I collected these stories and neared the end of my Master’s program in International Peace and Conflict Resolution last spring, I saw an Instagram post with one of parkour’s founding fathers, David Belle. He was holding a #WhiteCard in his support of this International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (6 April). This was the first time I heard about this International Day and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about such an academic and professional topic. I realized that the UN has an Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) and that there was a whole field of people who shared my passion for both peace-building and sport. This is it, I thought. This is the ultimate combination of the two things I am most passionate about.

I will continue pursuing this passion, and hope to find a place for parkour in the larger field of Sport for Development and Peace. In the meantime, let’s celebrate all of the positive ways it has already helped people around the world.

Share your story. Go outside and play. Lead a class for your local community to share parkour with others (or to share another sport/physical discipline that brings you joy).

Join the conversation on social media by posting a picture of you holding a #WhiteCard to show your support for #IDSDP.

Lastly, if you’re interested in parkour & peace-building, send me a message! I’d love to talk to you and share ideas.

The Answer is Always Yes

The answer is always yes. Yes, you should move… move it… move it…

Sorry, playful mood tonight. Why? Because I MOVE(d) IT. Seriously, though. This last week of work has been insanely stressful for me and I’ve been sick at the same time. Needless to say, I have not been in a fantastic mood nor have I felt up for training much.

I’ve been taking it easy until tonight when I realized I really needed to blow off some steam, despite how exhausted and sick I still felt. I got home at 9:30pm, ate some Greek yogurt, threw on my sweats and ran down to the little park near my house.

I still thought I was too tired to do much when I left the house, but I figured I’d at least get some fresh air (even if it was in the dark) and maybe do some stretching and mobility.

Well, turns out what I really needed, more than anything else, was to play.

Don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said for a workout helping to relieve stress, but I’ve found that what really makes me feel better is when my workout turns into play and I’m having fun with my training.

I did a light warmup tonight, jogging around the park, and then I started with a few little precision jumps. There are some wide stone steps in the grass at the park that I like to do precisions and plyos on. They’re perfect for a warm up or just jumping around. There is also a wall next to the steps that I normally practice vaults on but Mr. Big Black Spider had already called dibs on that tonight so I respectfully stayed out of his way.

Moving on to a little garden patch with stone stairs of a different variety (don’t you love my descriptions?) I did some more precision jumps and plyos and strides. Then I started playing around a bit and getting silly with some plyo 180s down the stairs until I made myself dizzy. Before wrapping up my workout, I decided tonight was a great night to try 360 precisions on these little stone stairs. Why not?

I didn’t quite make it in the end, but I was having a lot of fun trying. It was so simple, and it made me so happy. I probably looked like a crazy person spinning in circles in the middle of a garden in giant sweatpants in the dark… Well, when you put it that way… But who cares, right? I was laughing at myself, getting lost in the fun of the movement. That, more than anything else, made me feel sane again.

I was sick, exhausted, had just worked a 10-hour day, but I went to the park to move around for “just a minute” and I felt a million times better after letting myself get lost in the training and just have fun with it.

So, should you go train? Yes. The answer is always yes.