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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Parkour: From street to studio

Parkour has captured the imagination over recent years, but how can health club operators bring the buzz of this freestyle outdoor practice into the studio? Katherine Selby reports

By Katherine Selby | Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 4
From Street to Studio / photo: www.shutterstock.co/kevin wang
From Street to Studio / photo: www.shutterstock.co/kevin wang

Parkour is the sport of safe, efficient and fluid movement around an environment, including obstacles that must be navigated. Its philosophy is to be strong physically, mentally and ethically, and it’s arguably the ultimate in functional training as people must master the fundamentals of movement to carry their bodyweight over the obstacles.

It’s therefore not surprising that parkour has come onto health clubs’ radar as a great group exercise option. So what are the options for operators wanting to embrace parkour within their offering?

It’s no longer a risky option, with regulation and structures in place to ensure participant safety (see ‘Establishing a national body’, p57). Health clubs also have a range of equipment options available, and instructors can choose from a selection of accredited courses.

There are already a number of impressive indoor parkour sites in the UK, like Parkour Generations’ Chainstore in east London, The Parkour Project in Poole and the Airborn Academy in Liverpool, as well as in excess of 30 purpose-built parkour parks across the country.

But there’s also a growing movement of parkour-inspired classes popping up in gyms. Here, five operators explain how they’ve brought parkour indoors.

Establishing a National Body

Born in France, parkour has significantly increased in stature in the UK over the last five years, in part due to Parkour UK being established as the National Governing Body for the sport.

Under its regulation, awards, CPD and qualifications have been established to encourage participants to train in the sport. Further regulation in the form of the Parkour Professionals Register brings additional confidence among operators and consumers.

Some parkour organisations offer their own qualifications – Parkour Generations, for example, offers a Level 2 in Instructing Parkour Fitness.

Dave Downey,

Community sports development officer,

K2 Crawley, Freedom Leisure

Dave Downey
Dave Downey

“Since 2006, we’ve worked with Crawley Borough Council and The Urban Playground (UPG – see p59) to provide a range of Parkour workshops at K2 Crawley. These workshops have also been offered at community settings in Crawley, including the UPG-designed Parkour Training Area (PKTA) in the Pocket Park in Bewbush, which opened in 2009.

“We were granted Sportivate funding via Active Sussex to run some taster sessions and six-week programmes. Our founding coaches were youngsters who had been practising parkour locally.

We turned their enthusiasm into skills and their story helped attract other youngsters who were seeking an outlet for their physical energy.

“As our first winter season approached, demand was high for an indoor option. We set up indoor parkour in the gymnastics hall at K2 Crawley and had to put on an extra session as it was so popular. Our project won Best Sportivate Project of 2014 at the Sussex Sports Awards, and we’ve just received a £5k grant from the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioners’ ‘Safer in Sussex’ community fund to buy mobile parkour equipment to engage even more participants.

“Parkour attracts a hard-to-reach demographic of young people who don’t necessarily want to play a sport or follow a structured fitness regime. Leisure centres in particular have a role to play within their locality, and getting potentially destructive, disengaged teens into self-esteem-building physical activity is pretty much on every council’s list.”

Where parkour and fitness meet

Freemove is a specialist provider of bespoke parkour rigs that emulate urban obstacles. It has also designed and built over 32 outdoor facilities across Europe, including two of the UK’s largest parkour parks: the LEAP parkour project in London and Coatbridge Parkour near Glasgow.

“The advent of new fitness programmes such as MOV’ means parkour and fitness are becoming increasingly connected,” says Leon Wilson, urban sports manager at Freemove. “Our kit is designed to allow for movements such as jumping, vaulting, crawling patterns, balancing and climbing to help develop strength, agility, endurance, CV fitness, power and spatial awareness – delivering a full-body workout.”

Freemove’s equipment all conforms to the British Standard for Parkour Equipment BS10075:2013

Programmes such as MOV’ are bringing parkour and fitness closer together, says Freemove’s Wilson / photo: MOV’ PROGRAMS : PARKOUR GENERATIONS
Programmes such as MOV’ are bringing parkour and fitness closer together, says Freemove’s Wilson / photo: MOV’ PROGRAMS : PARKOUR GENERATIONS

Marc Dressen, MSc,

Sport scientist and personal trainer
,

Marc Dressen, MSc
Marc Dressen, MSc

“I co-founded Europe’s largest parkour and action sport gym – the Move Artistic dome in Cologne, Germany – in 2009 and witnessed its exponential growth.

“I now teach parkour classes at Fitness First Baker Street in London, UK, and I like to keep as many of the original principles of parkour as possible in my sessions. My aim is to open people’s eyes to the opportunities around them, so for example a staircase isn’t just to be walked up and down – you can crawl up it, climb down it, move sideways along it… I use the freestyle area in the gym with boxes to leap over, pull-up bars and so on.

“I teach from the heart: I believe it’s important to convey parkour’s key values, so I like to bring an edgy aspect to my classes to capture the adrenalin rush and spirit of outdoor parkour. This particularly helps engage those hard-to-reach 18- to 24-year-olds, who enjoy a deep sense of satisfaction and achievement when they master the moves.

“I relish my one-to-one outdoor coaching, as people who opt for this are looking for genuine, original parkour moves and experience. That said, increasing numbers are asking for indoor parkour as they feel it’s accessible, safe and contained. If indoor parkour brings more people to the sport, then let’s do more of it!

“Clubs that have the space and invest in decent crash mats and well-trained instructors could do very well with parkour.”

The making of a great teacher

The Urban Playground designs indoor and outdoor parkour facilities, and offers training to individuals and small groups. Some of these have gone on to establish their own parkour communities.

One such success story is Displacement Parkour in Dublin, which started as a group of interested kids. After training with The Urban Playground team, the project was then developed further to become the principal organisation for parkour in the Republic of Eire.

“The success of parkour relies on the standard of teaching,” says Alister O’Loughlin from The Urban Playground team.

“A good understanding of parkour and an ability to teach movement are prerequisites, but an outstanding teacher will understand different learning preferences and possess agility of thought. This ensures every participant is regarded in their own right and encouraged to develop their own approach, rather than drilling everyone to fit a routine or fixed outcome. To do anything else would be entirely missing the point of what parkour is about.”

The Urban Playground says it designed the first permanent site in the UK in 2009, in Bewbush for Crawley BC

Parkour teachers need to be able to encourage learners to develop their own approach to the activity / photo: williams belle
Parkour teachers need to be able to encourage learners to develop their own approach to the activity / photo: williams belle

Kirsty Williams,

Sports Development Manager,

Westminster Lodge, Everyone Active

Kirsty Williams
Kirsty Williams

“Our session was originally set up for 14- to 18-year-olds after being awarded Sportivate funding, but was then adapted to suit children aged 11–18.

“We wanted to offer something a little different and unstructured to appeal to teenagers who like to ‘create’ their session and not follow the standard set-up of a class. So we run Friday evening sessions in the sports hall with a lead coach and assistant and set it up like a youth club.

“The different genders and broad age range mean we must tailor the moves for each group. The girls tend to like more structure and like moves they have already planned in their head, whereas the boys want to bounce off the walls! We measure success by the youngsters’ progression. We had six young girls join our first session who couldn’t do a handstand. They can now all do that and much more besides. We have two boys who are able to do backward somersaults and the confidence boost they gained from mastering this is incredible.

“It’s a fantastic fitness session that particularly encourages non-sporty individuals. Leisure centres will find that youngsters who perhaps don’t want to play a sport or follow a structured set-up will respond well to parkour.”

Dan Edwardes,

Founder and Director,

Parkour Generations

Dan Edwardes
Dan Edwardes

“Parkour Generations is entirely run by parkour athletes, and our series of five MOV’ programmes – which have been designed for sports centres and mainstream gyms wanting to offer parkour-style classes – is based on the discipline of parkour offered at our facilities. This includes our flagship site, the Chainstore Gym, which recently opened in east London, offering classes, events and education.

“We have protocols for all ages, from toddlers to the over-50s, and also run adaptive parkour sessions for people with disabilities and challenged movement skills. We’ve also just introduced parkour to schools.

“Health and fitness clubs should run parkour classes because, quite simply, they work. This type of bodyweight movement-based training is what we’re designed to do. It’s absolutely necessary for health and wellbeing.

“Parkour is hugely enjoyable and engaging, meaning people keep coming back for more. With parkour set to become an officially recognised sport in the UK this year, 2015 looks set to be the biggest year yet for the discipline.”

Parkour Generations’ Chainstore Gym in east London offers classes, events and education / photo: ben curwen
Parkour Generations’ Chainstore Gym in east London offers classes, events and education / photo: ben curwen

Linda Gerstenmayer,

National trainer,

SATS-Elixia, Scandinavia

Linda Gerstenmayer
Linda Gerstenmayer

“Nordic health club operator SATS-Elixia was an early adopter of parkour, introducing it to many of its clubs as early as 2010. I now train instructors to deliver parkour classes within the group.

“Kids’ parkour is by far the most fun class I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. I’m currently working with children as young as six and I find them very responsive: with parkour being non-competitive and using fun moves, it can engage non-sporty children, boosting their fitness and wellbeing while feeling more like play than exercise. They learn the key safety techniques and how to perfect parkour rolls – one of the moves that they all want to know how to do.

“In its original form, parkour is an extreme sport with people jumping from rooftops and between bridges, and this certainly captures children’s imagination. But we do parkour indoors and instead of rooftops, bridges and tunnels we use steppers, hurdles, rings and mats. The children love to crawl like Spiderman and jump like a frog. We create a playful area and put the emphasis on working together rather the competing with each other, which teaches them excellent social skills too.”

Kids’ parkour classes at SATS-Elixia are huge fun, encouraging youngsters to crawl like Spiderman and jump like a frog
Kids’ parkour classes at SATS-Elixia are huge fun, encouraging youngsters to crawl like Spiderman and jump like a frog
Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
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Parkour has captured the public’s imagination in recent years, so how can fitness operators bring the buzz of this practice into the studio?
Katherine Selby Dave Downey, Community sports development officer, K2 Crawley, Freedom Leisure Marc Dressen, MSc, Sport scientist and personal trainer Kirsty Williams, Sports development manager, Westminster Lodge, Everyone Active Dan Edwardes, Founder and director, Parkour Generations Linda Gerstenmayer, National trainer, SATS-Elixia, Scandinavia,Parkour, group exercise, classes, Dave Downey, K2 Crawley, Freemove, MOV’, MOV, Marc Dressen, Urban Playground, Kirsty Williams, Everyone Active, Dan Edwardes, Parkour Generations, Chainstore Gym, Linda Gerstenmayer, SATS, SATS-Elixia
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features

Parkour: From street to studio

Parkour has captured the imagination over recent years, but how can health club operators bring the buzz of this freestyle outdoor practice into the studio? Katherine Selby reports

By Katherine Selby | Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 4
From Street to Studio / photo: www.shutterstock.co/kevin wang
From Street to Studio / photo: www.shutterstock.co/kevin wang

Parkour is the sport of safe, efficient and fluid movement around an environment, including obstacles that must be navigated. Its philosophy is to be strong physically, mentally and ethically, and it’s arguably the ultimate in functional training as people must master the fundamentals of movement to carry their bodyweight over the obstacles.

It’s therefore not surprising that parkour has come onto health clubs’ radar as a great group exercise option. So what are the options for operators wanting to embrace parkour within their offering?

It’s no longer a risky option, with regulation and structures in place to ensure participant safety (see ‘Establishing a national body’, p57). Health clubs also have a range of equipment options available, and instructors can choose from a selection of accredited courses.

There are already a number of impressive indoor parkour sites in the UK, like Parkour Generations’ Chainstore in east London, The Parkour Project in Poole and the Airborn Academy in Liverpool, as well as in excess of 30 purpose-built parkour parks across the country.

But there’s also a growing movement of parkour-inspired classes popping up in gyms. Here, five operators explain how they’ve brought parkour indoors.

Establishing a National Body

Born in France, parkour has significantly increased in stature in the UK over the last five years, in part due to Parkour UK being established as the National Governing Body for the sport.

Under its regulation, awards, CPD and qualifications have been established to encourage participants to train in the sport. Further regulation in the form of the Parkour Professionals Register brings additional confidence among operators and consumers.

Some parkour organisations offer their own qualifications – Parkour Generations, for example, offers a Level 2 in Instructing Parkour Fitness.

Dave Downey,

Community sports development officer,

K2 Crawley, Freedom Leisure

Dave Downey
Dave Downey

“Since 2006, we’ve worked with Crawley Borough Council and The Urban Playground (UPG – see p59) to provide a range of Parkour workshops at K2 Crawley. These workshops have also been offered at community settings in Crawley, including the UPG-designed Parkour Training Area (PKTA) in the Pocket Park in Bewbush, which opened in 2009.

“We were granted Sportivate funding via Active Sussex to run some taster sessions and six-week programmes. Our founding coaches were youngsters who had been practising parkour locally.

We turned their enthusiasm into skills and their story helped attract other youngsters who were seeking an outlet for their physical energy.

“As our first winter season approached, demand was high for an indoor option. We set up indoor parkour in the gymnastics hall at K2 Crawley and had to put on an extra session as it was so popular. Our project won Best Sportivate Project of 2014 at the Sussex Sports Awards, and we’ve just received a £5k grant from the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioners’ ‘Safer in Sussex’ community fund to buy mobile parkour equipment to engage even more participants.

“Parkour attracts a hard-to-reach demographic of young people who don’t necessarily want to play a sport or follow a structured fitness regime. Leisure centres in particular have a role to play within their locality, and getting potentially destructive, disengaged teens into self-esteem-building physical activity is pretty much on every council’s list.”

Where parkour and fitness meet

Freemove is a specialist provider of bespoke parkour rigs that emulate urban obstacles. It has also designed and built over 32 outdoor facilities across Europe, including two of the UK’s largest parkour parks: the LEAP parkour project in London and Coatbridge Parkour near Glasgow.

“The advent of new fitness programmes such as MOV’ means parkour and fitness are becoming increasingly connected,” says Leon Wilson, urban sports manager at Freemove. “Our kit is designed to allow for movements such as jumping, vaulting, crawling patterns, balancing and climbing to help develop strength, agility, endurance, CV fitness, power and spatial awareness – delivering a full-body workout.”

Freemove’s equipment all conforms to the British Standard for Parkour Equipment BS10075:2013

Programmes such as MOV’ are bringing parkour and fitness closer together, says Freemove’s Wilson / photo: MOV’ PROGRAMS : PARKOUR GENERATIONS
Programmes such as MOV’ are bringing parkour and fitness closer together, says Freemove’s Wilson / photo: MOV’ PROGRAMS : PARKOUR GENERATIONS

Marc Dressen, MSc,

Sport scientist and personal trainer
,

Marc Dressen, MSc
Marc Dressen, MSc

“I co-founded Europe’s largest parkour and action sport gym – the Move Artistic dome in Cologne, Germany – in 2009 and witnessed its exponential growth.

“I now teach parkour classes at Fitness First Baker Street in London, UK, and I like to keep as many of the original principles of parkour as possible in my sessions. My aim is to open people’s eyes to the opportunities around them, so for example a staircase isn’t just to be walked up and down – you can crawl up it, climb down it, move sideways along it… I use the freestyle area in the gym with boxes to leap over, pull-up bars and so on.

“I teach from the heart: I believe it’s important to convey parkour’s key values, so I like to bring an edgy aspect to my classes to capture the adrenalin rush and spirit of outdoor parkour. This particularly helps engage those hard-to-reach 18- to 24-year-olds, who enjoy a deep sense of satisfaction and achievement when they master the moves.

“I relish my one-to-one outdoor coaching, as people who opt for this are looking for genuine, original parkour moves and experience. That said, increasing numbers are asking for indoor parkour as they feel it’s accessible, safe and contained. If indoor parkour brings more people to the sport, then let’s do more of it!

“Clubs that have the space and invest in decent crash mats and well-trained instructors could do very well with parkour.”

The making of a great teacher

The Urban Playground designs indoor and outdoor parkour facilities, and offers training to individuals and small groups. Some of these have gone on to establish their own parkour communities.

One such success story is Displacement Parkour in Dublin, which started as a group of interested kids. After training with The Urban Playground team, the project was then developed further to become the principal organisation for parkour in the Republic of Eire.

“The success of parkour relies on the standard of teaching,” says Alister O’Loughlin from The Urban Playground team.

“A good understanding of parkour and an ability to teach movement are prerequisites, but an outstanding teacher will understand different learning preferences and possess agility of thought. This ensures every participant is regarded in their own right and encouraged to develop their own approach, rather than drilling everyone to fit a routine or fixed outcome. To do anything else would be entirely missing the point of what parkour is about.”

The Urban Playground says it designed the first permanent site in the UK in 2009, in Bewbush for Crawley BC

Parkour teachers need to be able to encourage learners to develop their own approach to the activity / photo: williams belle
Parkour teachers need to be able to encourage learners to develop their own approach to the activity / photo: williams belle

Kirsty Williams,

Sports Development Manager,

Westminster Lodge, Everyone Active

Kirsty Williams
Kirsty Williams

“Our session was originally set up for 14- to 18-year-olds after being awarded Sportivate funding, but was then adapted to suit children aged 11–18.

“We wanted to offer something a little different and unstructured to appeal to teenagers who like to ‘create’ their session and not follow the standard set-up of a class. So we run Friday evening sessions in the sports hall with a lead coach and assistant and set it up like a youth club.

“The different genders and broad age range mean we must tailor the moves for each group. The girls tend to like more structure and like moves they have already planned in their head, whereas the boys want to bounce off the walls! We measure success by the youngsters’ progression. We had six young girls join our first session who couldn’t do a handstand. They can now all do that and much more besides. We have two boys who are able to do backward somersaults and the confidence boost they gained from mastering this is incredible.

“It’s a fantastic fitness session that particularly encourages non-sporty individuals. Leisure centres will find that youngsters who perhaps don’t want to play a sport or follow a structured set-up will respond well to parkour.”

Dan Edwardes,

Founder and Director,

Parkour Generations

Dan Edwardes
Dan Edwardes

“Parkour Generations is entirely run by parkour athletes, and our series of five MOV’ programmes – which have been designed for sports centres and mainstream gyms wanting to offer parkour-style classes – is based on the discipline of parkour offered at our facilities. This includes our flagship site, the Chainstore Gym, which recently opened in east London, offering classes, events and education.

“We have protocols for all ages, from toddlers to the over-50s, and also run adaptive parkour sessions for people with disabilities and challenged movement skills. We’ve also just introduced parkour to schools.

“Health and fitness clubs should run parkour classes because, quite simply, they work. This type of bodyweight movement-based training is what we’re designed to do. It’s absolutely necessary for health and wellbeing.

“Parkour is hugely enjoyable and engaging, meaning people keep coming back for more. With parkour set to become an officially recognised sport in the UK this year, 2015 looks set to be the biggest year yet for the discipline.”

Parkour Generations’ Chainstore Gym in east London offers classes, events and education / photo: ben curwen
Parkour Generations’ Chainstore Gym in east London offers classes, events and education / photo: ben curwen

Linda Gerstenmayer,

National trainer,

SATS-Elixia, Scandinavia

Linda Gerstenmayer
Linda Gerstenmayer

“Nordic health club operator SATS-Elixia was an early adopter of parkour, introducing it to many of its clubs as early as 2010. I now train instructors to deliver parkour classes within the group.

“Kids’ parkour is by far the most fun class I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. I’m currently working with children as young as six and I find them very responsive: with parkour being non-competitive and using fun moves, it can engage non-sporty children, boosting their fitness and wellbeing while feeling more like play than exercise. They learn the key safety techniques and how to perfect parkour rolls – one of the moves that they all want to know how to do.

“In its original form, parkour is an extreme sport with people jumping from rooftops and between bridges, and this certainly captures children’s imagination. But we do parkour indoors and instead of rooftops, bridges and tunnels we use steppers, hurdles, rings and mats. The children love to crawl like Spiderman and jump like a frog. We create a playful area and put the emphasis on working together rather the competing with each other, which teaches them excellent social skills too.”

Kids’ parkour classes at SATS-Elixia are huge fun, encouraging youngsters to crawl like Spiderman and jump like a frog
Kids’ parkour classes at SATS-Elixia are huge fun, encouraging youngsters to crawl like Spiderman and jump like a frog
Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/88126_311447.jpg
Parkour has captured the public’s imagination in recent years, so how can fitness operators bring the buzz of this practice into the studio?
Katherine Selby Dave Downey, Community sports development officer, K2 Crawley, Freedom Leisure Marc Dressen, MSc, Sport scientist and personal trainer Kirsty Williams, Sports development manager, Westminster Lodge, Everyone Active Dan Edwardes, Founder and director, Parkour Generations Linda Gerstenmayer, National trainer, SATS-Elixia, Scandinavia,Parkour, group exercise, classes, Dave Downey, K2 Crawley, Freemove, MOV’, MOV, Marc Dressen, Urban Playground, Kirsty Williams, Everyone Active, Dan Edwardes, Parkour Generations, Chainstore Gym, Linda Gerstenmayer, SATS, SATS-Elixia
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A Panatta Sport Srl: Fitness equipment
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
On demand
Fitness On Demand: On demand
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Lockers/interior design
Safe Space Lockers Ltd: Lockers/interior design
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Runcorn
Halton Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
30-30 Jun 2022
The ICC, Birmingham, Birmingham , United Kingdom
Diary dates
12-13 Sep 2022
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs® Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Ibiza, Ibiza, Spain
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
17-18 Mar 2023
Tobacco Dock, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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