How to get fit with Parkour

Parkour for fitnessPic: AFP

From astonishing YouTube videos to the Bourne Ultimatum and Casino Royale, people across the world have marvelled at the 'free sport' of Parkour.

And while the daredevils leaping across rooftops and scaling walls are undoubtedly impressive, there is more to the sport than stunts, and even at beginner level, it makes for a fabulous full body workout. So if you're looking for a fun way to get fit, here's where and how to get started.

What is Parkour?
The idea of the sport is to move through your environment efficiently and naturally, making use of the obstacles to propel you forward. Running, jumping, climbing and balance are the key skills you'll need to master, with awareness of both your body and your environment essential. Co-ordination, strength, agility and balance will improve as you practise and challenge yourself. It's fun - the world becomes your playground - and better still, it's free.

Getting started
The best place to start if you're keen to try Parkour is to look for a local class. There are a growing number of Parkour classes in the UK ADAPT-qualified coaches to help you develop a good, solid foundation in the sport. Parkour Generations is an excellent online resource both for beginners and for the more experienced, and you'll be able to search for your nearest coach or classes via the website. Usually starting you off in gyms, beginners' classes or sessions will teach you the basics of the sport, and help to boost your confidence and fitness in a safe environment.

What equipment do I need?
Not only is the environment you'll need for Parkour free, but you won't need to spend a bundle on pricey equipment either. Non-restrictive clothing and a decent pair of trainers or running shoes with good grip and flexibility are all you'll need to get going.

Start slow
Watching the pros will no doubt whet your appetite for the sport, but it's important to know your limits when you begin. Don't be tempted to run before you can walk, so to speak. Experiment with balance, and keep practising small jumps, even if that's just using your whole body to take one or two steps in a flight. Once you have mastered one jump or movement, you can start to challenge yourself further. Practice and repetition will give you confidence, and get your body used to the various movements until muscle memory begins to set in.

Next steps
As you begin to improve your various Parkour skills, the next step is to begin linking them in sequence. At this stage you don't want any unwelcome surprise obstacles, so it's best to start in a location you know well, with obstacles that you are familiar with.

Working out with friends is a great way to motivate yourself and to try new challenges, so whether you get together with pals or join one of Parkour Generations' classes or outdoor sessions, make it a social thing.

Like any sport, there is always a risk of injury with Parkour, so a thorough warm-up is a must before you train, as is regular hydration as your workouts become longer and more intensive. As long as you don't push yourself too hard, too fast though, you'll benefit from a fun, free, full body workout, so why not give it a try?

Have you tried Parkour? What advice would you give to beginners? Leave your comments below...