Life lessons Ive learned in Parkour

For me, the year of 2018 has been about finding ways to incorporate more "play' into my daily life. Most recently, that search has brought me to the sport of parkour. If you are unfamiliar with what parkour is; Its an individual sport that focuses on blending movement and style as you attempt to navigate through obstacles (or in my excuse to behave like a kid again). It's the type of activity that leaves you feeling totally beat, but you hardly noticed as you were having too much fun along the way. With that being said, parkour has proven to be far more of a challenge than I had anticipated. And oddly enough, a lot of what I'm learning in classes has implications far beyond the gym. Here are my top 4 life lessons for living well that I've learned through my parkour experience.

Life lesson #1: Learn how to fail well

One of the very first things we learned in our classes was how to fall with proper form. Knowing how to fall, and becoming accustomed to it a) allowed me to get comfortable with the idea of "failure", and b) the confidence to know how to fall in such a way that minimizes injuries, and allows for a quick recovery. The underlying assumption here is that you WILL fail. If you cant get comfortable with that reality, progress is very unlikely. I've had plenty of classes where the majority of time is consumed by me not landing moves. It may not have been till the very end of class, or maybe not even during that hour at all, before I begin to see improvement.

We don't talk about this enough. There are plenty of experts out there who want to promise you the steps to success, without the possibility of failure, and I don't trust that message. Our lives become boxed in when our primary motivation becomes about avoiding failure, instead of being prepared for it. Imagine how different things would be if you REALLY got okay with the possibility of failing, and if you had the confidence to handle the fall when it happens. In what ways might you be putting yourself out there? Imagine how you're life could expand...

Life lesson #2: Fear can be a helpful companion, but don't let it take the lead

As beneficial as practicing falls has been, by no means does that mean I dont get fearful. In fact, with each new move or move progression we attempt, a surge of self-doubt, anxiety and fear are usually in-tow. the most challenging part of our classes hasn't been about the physicality required to complete the moves, but rather, learning to work through these feelings. All of these emotions are normal and even helpful in controllable doses. If I'm attempting to jump from a height that I've never jumped from before, my anxiety can be a helpful reminder to take the necessary precautions. I wouldn't want to be cavalier about the jump, after all. In this way, I let my anxiety inform, not control, what I do. In contrast, there have been plenty of times when those feelings have high-jacked me instead. It's easy to spot when it happens too. The moves look rigid, there is hesitation, and the form suffers.

If you're waiting until you feel fearless before you ask for that raise, move across the country, or leave that unhealthy relationship, you might be waiting for the rest of your life. Just like we cant avoid the fall, fear will be a natural part of whatever risk you chose to take. What matters is the relationship you have with it. Being brave isn't about having a lack of fear. It's taking that risk, in the presence of it.

Life lesson #3: Trust in your body

We often hear sentiments like "mind over matter" or "believe and you will achieve." Mentality can absolutely have a large impact on our success as we take on new challenges, but we often seem to forget about the rest of us...from the neck down. So much of my experience with parkour has been about learning to tune into, and trust in my body again. Although awkward at first, most moves I've learned have an intuitive or almost instinctual feel to them. Those moments when a move really "clicks" for's like my body gets what it has to do, even if I cant quite logically understand or convey why it works. Time and again I see that the less I think, and the more I "feel it out" the better I'm off for it.

This has been such an important point for me, because in many ways we live in a world that teaches us the opposite. We are told to distrust, ignore and even be at war with our own bodies. They are often seen as nuisances that need to be managed or manipulated. We hate the way they look, we hate the way they feel, we hate the needs they have.

I'm advocating for a new relationship with your body. Learning to reconnect with your body in a compassionate and collaborative way can be a catalyst for many positive changes. Whether that's learning to recognize and make room for your emotions again, trusting in your gut reactions more, or simply reconnecting with physical needs. I think you'll find that the body is more than something to be managed or dealt with.   When treated with respect and kindness it can be surprisingly rewarding back.

 life lesson #4: PLAY

To my very first point, on why this whole journey started. Play. You probably don't need any convincing that the trend as we become young adults is to lose our sense of playfulness. And this makes sense to some extent. Adulthood is about increased responsibility. But for many of us, that pendulum swings too far. We are no longer curious, or open-minded, or able to flexibly engage with our environment.    But we need play. In the same way that we need healthy connections with others and meaningful work. Play strips us of our egos and melts away that pervasive sense of self-consciousness that so many of us experience. When we play, we let go. We engage. We connect.

Everyone knows that "exercise is good for you". Counselors/therapists will recite the mental health benefits ad nauseam. But the traditional point of view is one sided. When people think of working out or exercise, a torturous image comes to mind.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  When the focus is on play,  physical movements are no longer about something you do TO your body, but rather FOR your body.  That movement could be walking, or chasing your dog, or dancing, or parkour or whatever-your-heart-desires. Let's drop the attitude that it's about forcing our bodies to do anything. Really, play embodies all the points above. Play happens when we listen to what our bodies crave, drop our egos, stop caring about looking foolish, and learn to embrace our fears.

So get out and play, folks! I'd love to hear about your experiences :)

Karly HoffmanComment