We're getting close to the end of February and I'm happy to report that I finished my challenge ahead of schedule this month! I'd like to take some time to summarize how the experience has been for me and talk about what I think is next.
Just to recap, my February goal was to go to a class at Fight or Flight Academy once for every day I could be there. This month, the gym was open for 24 days, so that meant 24 classes. In addition, I wanted to start going to open gyms to start focusing on specific skills on my own. You can read about the challenge and why I felt it was important in the original post, "Exorcising Weakness".
I completed my 24th class tonight, making this challenge a success in my book! There are multiple dimensions that were dramatically affected simply by showing up and they can be categorized as physical, mental, and social.
Whenever I was able to do something markedly better than before, I felt like I "leveled up". If you could visualize the excitement I felt, it would probably look like a big golden light shining around me and some fancy chimes would be heralding the achievement to onlookers.
A pretty major milestone I hit was climbing up a taller box than I was able to previously. One of the main parkour topics this month was climb-ups and top-outs, which are two key parts of getting on top of an obstacle. Before this month, I was only ever able to get up walls that were significantly shorter than me. A 4-foot box was the best I could do consistently. But last week, I kept throwing myself at the 5-foot box until I got on top of it. And then for good measure, I did it again! When I focused on improving my wall run, I was able to get higher up the wall initially which helped me not have to put so much effort into the climb-up. I need to improve my upper body strength quite a bit to be able to pull myself up, but having a better wall run made the movement more efficient, which is what parkour is all about.
Of course, this is a baby-step in training and there will always be taller obstacles to overcome, but feeling progress is a huge motivator. It feels a little embarrassing to be excited about climbing up a wall that is shorter than me, but hey, it is what it is. The 6-foot box is calling my name now!
For more information about the topics we focused on in classes this month, check out Fight or Flight Academy's February video.
I realized something about myself with this challenge and I am somewhat ashamed to admit it: If a new hobby doesn't come to me relatively easily, I will more than likely quit after a few attempts. Things like hooping and poi are not only fun, but super easy for me to catch on for whatever reason and crafty things I can pick up really quickly.
Parkour has been a major challenge for me to get into because I'm just not physically capable of doing most things right away. I struggle, fail, and earn more than a few bruises regularly. If you look at my track record of attending classes, you'll see that I have good months with 8-12 classes marked off. Then I have bad months where I didn't show up at all. Then I guilt myself into making another half-hearted attempt at showing up.
For example, check out my card for December, January, and February...
After some reflection, I realized I was too good at making excuses for why I couldn't go to the gym. Too tired, wanted to work on chainmaille, too afraid of the topics at the gym, etc.
With this challenge, I took those excuses away and just made myself go. There were a few days where I was too tired to go, or I wanted to do something else (anything else!) but I made myself go to class anyway. Often, the days I wanted to bail on class the most were the days I pushed through a significant barrier. Funny how just showing up ends up being 75% of the battle.
Now that I've proven to myself that going to class is easy and rewarding, I don't think I'll have trouble maintaining this frequency.
While parkour is primarily about overcoming your personal limits, it is a very social and collaborative endeavor. Learning from skilled practitioners and training along-side other newbies creates a fantastic community. Coming to class more regularly allowed me to become more integrated into the gym dynamic by getting to know the instructors and fellow students on a more personal level. This reinforced my desire to be at the gym more often because it meant I got to see my friends.
Honestly, the open gyms that I went to were spent just hanging out with Josh and Mitch playing Magic the Gathering. I don't feel guilty about it, nor do I feel like it was wasting time and not contributing to my goal. I got to see how open gym time works and get to know people better while I was at it.
Bringing the social aspect outside of the gym was even more fun! I saw Infected Mushroom, enjoyed cupcakes, played MtG, and saw Bill Nye the Science Guy at Mall of America, all with people from the gym. They're such a wonderful group of people and it's been a blast getting to know them all.
After a month of consistently showing up, I was encouraged to try to take the level one parkour chevron tests. Fight or Flight Academy developed this system to help assess and track a student's skill in 4 different areas, vaults, landings, walls, and conditioning. There are three levels in each and you must pass all three levels in all four categories to move on to Intermediate Parkour classes.
I never really paid attention to the testing because I just didn't think I was good enough at anything to merit going through the trouble. I honestly didn't even look at the chevron information board to know what the requirements were.
Well, tonight, the open gym was dedicated to chevron testing. I attempted 3 categories and successfully passed one of them, Vaults! I surprised myself because there was something in every category that I knew was going to give me trouble. And even though I failed the landing and wall categories, I now know what I need to focus on in March to pass next time they test. So it's a complete win.
With the end of February rolling around, I'll be planning my March challenge soon. Stay tuned and feel free to ask me questions about my experience at FOFA. I'm all too happy to talk about how wonderful they are!
If you are interested in taking classes at FOFA, they have an incredible deal going on right now too! You can take the free class (Wednesday at 7pm or Saturday at 2pm) and if you decide to sign up, you get 8 regular classes and a t-shirt or water bottle for $20. That's basically buying a t-shirt and getting 8 free classes. These classes don't have to be parkour, you can also take Krav Maga, Karate, weaponry or anything else they offer, it's completely up to you. It's a crazy good deal.