NE Spahtens Parkour Workshop – 2013

* From: Sandy Rhee
* Event: NE Spahtens Parkour Workshop

* Event Details

Michael Bernier held a Parkour workshop with the goal of teaching moves that will help obstacle racers specifically. Anyone who has watched Ninja Warrior or American Ninja Warrior knows that the field of athletes running the courses is increasingly made up of free runners and parkour experts. The reason for this is obvious. Parkour proficiency will definitely give you an advantage on a great number of the obstacles that we face when running different races. Obviously, there are parkour moves above and beyond those that will help with obstacles, so that is why the training was specific to our group.

The training was held at Michael’s house in Wells, ME. It is a short 3 miles off I-95 and very convenient from that standpoint. It is a bit of a drive from NH or MA, but was very much worth the drive time. Michael has built a series of practice props such as vaults, quad steps, a 5.5′ wall, and a large 8′ wall platform. These are well built and safe. In addition, he had bananas, apples, donuts, and bottled water available for us. This was above and beyond given that the training was free for participants.

* Race Details

After a good, dynamic warmup, we began the training day by learning how to roll out of falls and jumps. I am still not likely to jump off an 8′ wall, but might with a 5′ or 6′ now that I know how to do so without injuring a knee or an ankle. Since we do a lot on trails, this is also good to know for the inevitable trips. After that, we began working on vaults. These movements are good for the shorter walls and barricades that many races have. We vaulted over right and left, using one hand or both, and in one fluid motion or in two parts with a sit on top to separate the movement. For those looking for speed, he also spent a good amount of time helping us each to get the movements right while still maintaining forward momentum. Learning to vault over shorter obstacles was my number one goal for the training and I am happy to say that I have a great deal more confidence in my ability to do so than before. Even if you aren’t looking for speed, the chance at repetition with someo

ne who understands exactly what you’re doing and what you need to do differently for maximum effectiveness is great. Plus, it is a chance to build the confidence that we don’t really get the opportunity to do elsewhere. We could have stopped there, and I would have been thrilled. Luckily, though, we didn’t stop there.

The next focus for the training was on using momentum and foot placement to get over walls. We started on the 5.5′ wall and Michael paid attention to where we were planting our feet on the wall. Too low and you slip down, too high and you bounce backwards. If you get it at the right height, your push off the wall can propel you high enough to get on top of the wall (if it is shorter) or grab the top (if it is taller). I mostly hit too high and bounce backwards instead of using the momentum to go up. I knew that before, but I didn’t know why. I still need a good bit of practice, but now I know that I’ll be practicing something that will lead me to be successful rather than getting muscle memory at the wrong height. In the end, all three of us were successful to some degree and just need more practice to master it.

After practicing the foot placement to get to the top, we focused on what to do if the walls are tall enough that you are able to grab the top but no more. A move called the Cat can help to propel you from a hanging position. For me, this was the hardest to do because I simply don’t have the finger strength I needed for the wall Michael has. I’m used to walls that are the width of a 2×4 on top so I can get my fingers around to the backside to fully grab. His was a 2×2 frame with plywood facing it. I do know how to adapt the move though, so I can use it on the walls that I am used to. He also showed us how to use it coming down off a tall wall where you don’t want to just hang and drop.You can also turn yourself to be facing forward and use the roll technique to prevent injury.

During the afternoon, we also had a chance to watch Michael and his friends show off a little bit which was a lot of fun! And, finally, he also had a set of 4 steps like the obstacle in Ninja Warrior called the Quad Steps. After watching the show for years, that was the one obstacle I thought I could actually do and I was right. They also are as much fun as I thought they’d be, so it was a huge bonus.

I highly recommend attending a training with Michael if you want to get faster or if you just want a chance to build up your confidence to tackle some of the obstacles more efficiently and quickly. He does a great job keeping things at the level that you are at. There were three of us at the workshop and he progressed at our individual paces and was very patient and encouraging as well. He knows the body mechanics behind the movements and can pick up on the subtleties that you aren’t even aware of when you are moving through an obstacle. In other words, he knows how to teach effectively. I am really looking forward the the next session he holds and hope that many Spahtens will be able to make it.

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