Walking around New York City, you're bound to encounter some obstacles physically and mentally. Whether it's a tourist stopping in the middle of the sidewalk or a bike messenger zooming through a red light — things and people can constantly get in your way.
What if you could take an exercise class that could help you learn how to navigate through these unexpected encounters? Would you try it? And could it help?
As soon I stepped into Brooklyn Zoo's Parkour training facility, I had a flashback to elementary field trips to the city park: jungle gyms, slides, see-saws, swings and bars. Big gulp. I was never "Queen of the Playground" rather I was "Queen of the Library."
But today, I was there to dominate parkour — or at least not break anything on this make-shift playground.
My instructor Jeremy Gallant, who also goes by Spyder (comforting), sure lived up to his name. He demonstrated various routines starting with easiest to hardest. Each exercise had a purpose. A constant theme and phrase was "be light on your feet." I am anything but that. Not only have I been told I walk super fast, I'm sure you can hear me down the hallway before you see me.
My first routine was a "broad jump." It's where you leap jump like a frog down a padded floor and land light on your heels. "Be light" echoed in my head like a mantra with each jump. It didn't work. With each leap, I landed heels and all.
Maybe I could nail the next one. This time, we had to swing our body using only the support of one arm over two wooden blocks. The objective again is to stay light and only use your upper body weight. Although, my purse probably weighs 7 pounds, I knew this was going to be challenge.
I faded in the background watching the rest of my participants nail the routine. I was hoping I'd go unnoticed and could pass on this one. Spyder saw me, and he and another instructor convinced me to give it a shot. After some slight nudging, very simple instructions and several attempts, I swung my body over. It wasn't graceful but I did it. I was proud.
My lack of grace continued when we did wall dips, where you use the same upper body muscles you use for a push-up, but you press your toes against the wall in front of you to support you as you climb up or vault to the next ledge. Spoiler alert: There was no vaulting for me.
I channeled my inner Laurie Hernandez and Simone Biles as I steadied my balance before proceeding to the next step. My confidence wavered as I got to the final piece of the puzzle: the jump squat. The challenge here was to jump from a ledge ... onto a mat ... in a squat position.
I'm not a fan of heights so looking straight down, in squat position, tilting over, with my feet over the edge was terrifying. But I knew it was now or never. I jumped and I survived! With each attempt, the fun replaced the fear and soon I was looking forward to the rush and the swoosh sound that echoed in my ears as I jumped in the air.
Brooklyn Zoo's Parkour Class was challenging, mentally and physically. You're leaping, climbing, swinging, balancing, squatting, jumping and doing other moves I can't even describe. You're using your entire body, and your mind, too. Not every routine will be easy and it might even force you to get out of your comfort zone or face a fear.
While, I'm still no parkour expert and probably won't be able to dodge a tourist or cyclist with my moves, but maybe I'll be lighter on my feet and try a broad jump to catch the train.