Jamming with Chicago Parkour


Leap beyond your regular fitness routine.

I left the workout satisfied, but my hands burned. I didn’t expect the soreness that kicked in full-throttle the next day. The workout was exhausting, but exhilarating. But therein lies the magic of Parkour.

Parkour is an activity in which participants aim to move rapidly through an environment using any means to efficiently and quickly surpass obstacles such as fences, walls and rocks. The non-competitive discipline usually involves a range of movements and actions like jumping, climbing, running and leaping.

Chicago-based Parkour Ways instructor Kurt Gowan held the first-ever monthly Girls Jam on Saturday, June 21. After noticing an influx of females in his class, Kurt said he wanted to start a monthly Parkour jam so local women have a place to practice the discipline with other women. “Our aim is to get more [girls ages 13 and up] into Parkour and help the public become more aware that Parkour is not just for elite-level athletes or careless young men with a death wish,” he explained.

A two-hour jam sounds intense. And with such a wide age range, I wasn’t sure who’d participate. About 10 women came, and neither age nor skill level seemed to bridge the sense of community that formed. Most had no experience with Parkour, so it was largely a shared new experience.

We started with a warm-up outside in an area adjacent to the intersection of Wisconsin and Sedgwick Street, which got my blood pumping. I’d never done a lot of the stretches before, but Kurt did an excellent job ensuring that our bodies were ready for what would follow.

We then did what several participants later deemed the most difficult part of the jam: we crawled. Crawling? Intense? Imagine yourself in a push-up position, back parallel to the ground. Now you have to arch your back a little so you can extend one arm forward. At the same time, your opposite leg is supposed to move in a lunging manner. Your hand reaches the ground, relying on it for support to push you forward, and you’re ‘crawling.’ My hands weren’t prepared. Cue the blisters.

When the treacherous crawling stopped, we worked on landing exercises. We started on a platform just a few feet away from another raised step. Our mission: to take one or two steps and land on the edge of the higher step with our heels up and bodies balanced. I didn’t have much trouble with this, but this ease would come back to bite me the next day with a soreness I felt everywhere.

We then went to a nearby kids’ park to work on vaults. Vaults were a challenge, especially if you decided to wear the wrong pants like I did. While doing Parkour, you need to be able to move your body in the ways your task demands, and my harem-style pants were working against me, preventing me from reaching my knee as high as it was needed to get over the fence. I decided to take a step back during the vaulting over the fence exercise to observe the other women. To my surprise, everyone kept up a good attitude.

We finished with a game and no serious injuries, which was a pleasant surprise to me. As we started a cool-down stretch sequence, I began to take note of how I felt. My hands were worn down and stung when I touched the ground. So for anyone looking to try this, make sure to bring tape or gloves.

Ultimately, engaging in Parkour is worth the experience. With no fees and no experience required, why not propel yourself toward a new fitness experience and meet new people along the way? Visit www.parkourways.com to find out more about future jam sessions.

By Bailey Williams | Araceli Pacheco Photograph


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