If you go to a regular gym, you know that every piece of machinery has a guide stuck to it, instructions or maybe a helpful diagram. It tells you how to use the equipment, gives you a few warnings and sometimes even tells you what muscles you'll be working out. At Tempest, the "equipment" is stairs, poles, ramps, walls, mats, the floor and your entire body. There are no instructions, it's up to you and you alone to figure out some combination of pipes, trampolines and your arms that somehow results in a rewarding workout experience. And, remember, you don't know how to do that.
Don't get me wrong. As is the case with most gyms, everyone at Tempest is incredibly helpful, both staff and other gym-goers. They offer classes and will generally be able to answer your questions. The problem is, I don't even know what questions to ask, because I don't speak the same language as people who are really good at parkour and freerunning. They don't understand me when I say I want to "Do the flips," or "Spider-Man some shit," and I don't understand them when their advice to me is "Do it again, but tighter, and with your core." A lot of the skills you need for parkour can't really be taught, especially if you're kind of dumb (me!). I saw a guy run up a wall and do a back flip, and I asked him for tips, and he very helpfully explained, "I put one foot on the wall at first and couldn't do a back flip. But then I put a second foot on the wall, and then I just did the back flip." And, 15 minutes prior, he'd never done that before in his entire life. If your How-To-Do-A-Backflip advice is "Do a back flip," you and I are on different levels, sir. There's nothing you can do to teach me.
"Basically when I got to the wall I was like 'back flip.' Does that help?"
Because, honestly, a gym like this isn't for everyone. If you have terrible balance,or if you're horribly uncoordinated or the kind of guy who says things like "amuse-bouche" in a gym setting, this probably isn't really your scene.
This might seem like a given. Every physical activity is going to hurt at first. If you play basketball for the first time after sitting on your ass for six months, you're going to be very, very sore the next day. Still, I've been to gyms, I run around, I'm aware of sports- I do enough physical activities that, at this point in my life, I'm never really too sore for too long, as long as I stretch first. Here's the thing with parkour: the most important muscle that you need to stretch before you do parkour is your Parkour Muscle. I have no idea where this muscle is, or how to stretch it.
I've highlighted what is, in my best estimation, the Parkour Muscle.
Before I start running around Tempest, flailing and jumping and coming up with creative ways to disguise my falls as things that aren't falls, I always stretch and warm up, but it's pointless, because I'm functionally paralyzed for the next few days. My eyebrows ache, my kidney is sore, my back will hurt but only in a way that my arms can feel, somehow. There are also just more opportunities to physically hurt yourself in a freerunning gym, and I'm not just talking about emotional pain (although, yes I am). I left last weekend with blood running down my knuckles after I spent thirty minutes trying to learn how to jump back and forth between two walls.
That kind of thing. I was doing that kind of thing, except instead of gracefully gliding from one wall to the other while a loyal dog looks on in awe, I was fartfully cursing as I punched each wall instead of grabbing them while a crowd of people, all of whom know not to physically beat their training equipment, looked on in shame and disbelief. I raised my bloody hands, explained that I was merely establishing dominance to get inside the wall's head, and kicked the floor a few times for good measure. I woke up the next morning covered in scabs and afraid to breathe, because one part of one of your lungs is also part of the Parkour Muscle, and I didn't want to cause any further aggravation.
I never thought parkour would be easy, because nothing that's awesome ever is, but I did believe, as most people who grow up reading comics and watching action movies do, that I'd have some edge over the average casual enthusiast. I always assumed, if a murderer was chasing me, I could do a back flip off of a wall or dive over some cars or shoot some web, like I could just pull out those skills and use them when I needed them. Actually attempting parkour in a controlled setting assures me that, no, I cannot. But I will keep trying. I'll return to Tempest next week, as I do every week, and train as hard as I can to become the physical embodiment of Spider-Man. And, with time, focus and dedication, maybe I will be someday.
OR, someone can create a superhero that's, like, wicked lazy and whose superpower is writing articles for the Internet. If that ever happens, fuck Spider-man, I'll just train to be that superhero instead.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's Senior Writer (ladies), and he also loves pretending to be a super hero (Edgar Wright).
Check out more from Dan in The 5 Most Badass Presidents of All-Time and Mercy Kill: 6 Shows (Thankfully) Canceled After One Episode.