If jumping over benches, somersaulting fences, sliding down rails and leaping onto walls sounds like your cup of tea, then freerunning could be set to become your new favourite hobby...
What is Freerunning?
Freerunning is ‘the art of expression through motion’. Started in France, freerunning involves the runner, or ‘traceur’, attempting to pass static obstacles in the fastest and most direct manner possible, using skills such as jumping, vaulting, rolling, spinning, flipping and climbing. Freerunners use obstacles and the spaces between them to create a forward flow, taking physical objects intended to restrict motion and using them to enhance it instead. The obstacles can be anything in your environment, so parkour is often practiced in urban areas because there are a bundle of suitable structures, such as buildings, fences, rails, and walls.
How To Start
There are many freerunning clubs and organisations, with new ones starting up all the time. Try meetup.com for a club near you, or pop 'freerunning' into Google to find an organisation in your area. Many clubs accept new members, and will teach you the basics, as well as guide you on exercise and fitness. If you can't find a local club, why not get some of your friends together for s spot of freerunning in the streets around your home. After all, one of the best things about freerunning is that it can be done anywhere - just don't get arrested!
It's important that you have a good all-round level of physical fitness before you even attempt freerunning, with emphasis being on the core muscles, as well as stamina. Exercises such as press-ups, stomach crunches, and chin ups will go a long way to building your shoulders, arms and core strength. In addition, you should be jogging or running on a regular basis to keep your all-round fitness, legs and joints in top condition. Make sure you always stretch and warm up before a freerunning session to prevent any nasty muscle and joint strains and sprains.
Jumping & Landing
Getting over obstacles in your path is what turns a run into a freerun. As a beginner, you should be starting off with small objects, just a couple of feet high at most. Try some simple vaults over low railings and benches, and work your way up from there. As you take on more and more obstacles, you'll learn to spot more opportunities and more challenging routes, but don’t take on too much, too soon. Accidents do happen, but are easily avoided if you know your limits.
It doesn't cost the earth to kit yourself out for freerunning. Freerunners generally wear a light, comfy clothes. The emphasis is on freedom of movement so anything you wear should not impede your ability to complete the various movements you'll need to do. Some people wear thin athletic gloves to assist with grip and protect against abrasive surfaces, such as brick and concrete. One important part of your arsenal should be a good pair of freerunning shoes. Running shoes are good, but rarely offer the grip you'll need to take on vertical objects or slippy rails. There are a number of freerunning-specific shoes available if you have a hunt on the web.
For more top tips, head to the Urban Freeflow freerunning website.
In the interest of practising what we preach, we sent Cooler intern Elisa Routa off for a freerunning lesson…
Early on a Tuesday morning, I could be snug in bed, or beavering away in the office, but instead I’ve decided to start the day the Relentless way, with two hours of freerunning training with a professional. While I’m excited at what’s in store, having not exercised in almost three months, I’m hoping I’ll survive being put through my paces…
It’s 8.30am and I’m outside the iMax Cinema in Waterloo, waiting to meet Blue, one of the world’s best freerunners. By 9am we’re kicking off with an energetic warm-up. After plenty of stretching and a two-lap run, I’m starting to think this freerunning lark isn’t too difficult after all... That was just before Blue asked me to jump onto a 1-metre wall. After rather ungracefully trying to scramble up the solid wall, that frankly may as well be the Great Wall of China, I admit defeat and Blue shows me how it’s done. He leaps up so fluidly, simply by pushing his foot on the wall and hauling himself up with his arms. He is just amazing.
As we stroll down the Thames, a few metres further down by the National Theatre, Blue makes another display of his talent, strength and skill. Among impressive jumps and cartwheels, he is also incredibly agile and precise in his moves. “It is all about the notion of distance," Blue says. “Some people often tell me that if they could run as I do, they would never be late. But to be honest, outside the freerunning I am lazy!"
By 11am, I am exhausted and it’s time for some well-earned relaxation and a can of Relentless energy drink to give me a boost. I’m certain that I’ll sleep well tonight, and I also leave thinking I’d love to have the opportunity to try out freerunning again. I coped pretty well with the embarrassment of my physical incapability and quite enjoyed the fact that I was desperately unable to do a third of what Blue showed off! But while I’m certainly not a natural, my first experience of freerunning was great fun and it was really interesting to view the space we live in a completely different way.
However, even if I have enjoyed climbing walls, jumping over benches and sliding down rails, I’ve developed a new appreciation for walking on pavements and think I’ll stick with them for now...
Thanks to Relentless and Blue for a great day.
The advertising campaign for the new Relentless Juiced energy drink, featuring Urban Freeflow Freerunner Blue, will be on screens soon, with Relentless Juiced available in stores from March. For more information go to the Relentless website.