Lessons From an Urban Interlude

FALL TRAINING SEASON BEGINS

Around the middle of August, summer starts to drag and I’m officially over it. The midwestern days and nights are uncomfortably hot and humid and life slows down accordingly.  My thoughts drift ahead to cool air, crunchy leaves, hoodies, and football.

 

Enter Fall. So much room for activities, it’s by far my favorite season.  But fall will ghost on you if you’re too concerned that winter is coming.  Resist or deny the passage of time and you end up missing out on all the good things; I’ve learned this lesson in years past.  At least there’s no Ice King or army of the dead on the way, so we’ve got that going for us. 

 

These are the days, right now.  The ones that are simply too beautiful to not immerse myself in; I’ll call today the official start of Fall Training season.  As usual, I spent the morning glued to my computer.  Eventually, I closed my laptop and wandered towards downtown.  I found myself at the base of Milwaukee’s iconic orange statue in O’Donnell Park (I never knew this but its appropriately named "The Calling”).   Perfect place to land today.

 

The air holds a touch of crispness while the sun warms the entire landscape.  A fleet of clouds drift through the sky; abstract reflections on the face of the Northwestern Mutual building.  The dull clap of Feiyues meeting the pavement.  The roughness of the stone scraping the skin of my fingertips.  I’m just saying, when you step back and take in the full experience, damn, it’s inspiring.  

 

MOVEMENT BREAKDOWN

This is a huge outdoor pavilion characterized by concrete structures, railing, and open grass space.  I rarely train here and I have no idea why; the opportunities are exceptional. It’s well suited for how I train in the fall - parkour and calisthenics, somewhere between work and play.

 

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by what to do in such a large space.  Choosing boundaries and focusing on 2-3 movements provide just enough structure to guide the practice.  I sectioned off the area to practice jumping, squatting variations, and handstands.  A session like this I love to freestyle for a bit to see what kind of drills emerge; after that, repeat and polish.  My warm-up was two rounds about five minutes each; the video captures round two.  Here’s a list of the movements and a short description.   

 

Single-leg Balance / Falling Step - It always amazes me how basic single-leg standing wakes up the hips and core, great stability.  Falling forward steps build “touch” and hip mobility. Developing sensitivity to accept weight dynamically through the legs and a nice dynamic stretch.  

Deep Knee Bend Step - From the falling step transitions easily into a single-leg knee bend. Engage the single-leg and torso (push into the ground, brace the abs, draw shoulders back)  to step the back leg forward and back.  Knees and quads are getting some serious work with this movement.  It’s one to work up to, but once it’s locked in it’s a very useful balancing position.

Deep Knee Bend / Forward Fold - Standard deep knee bend, I always emphasize the upright posture for alignment.  In the fold, the heels drop for a deeper stretch in the posterior chain and the feet & ankles get some extra activation.  Practically, this is a nice little counterbalancing movement should you find yourself flailing. 

Squat Side Stepping / Shifting - An essential variation for me, I love it. The ledge makes this one much more challenging.  That single-leg deep knee bend comes in handy right about now.  Shifting weight with a wide stance builds hips that are strong and mobile.  This is one of those “fountain of youth” type of movements. 

Lateral Shuffle Crawl - I was surprised I didn’t fall off at some point, maintaining balance between each stride is tough. The ledge really challenges you to keep your body in-line.  If the forward fold mobility is present, it's a great drill for press handstands and cartwheels.  

Handstand - Small variables makes a significant difference in a precision practice.  In this case, the little bit of height and some gusty winds made handstands extra challenging.  Later, I trained my 1-arms on the ground…because I’m not that cool yet.  However, I did manage a little weight shifting at height. 

Split Jump - Warming up this sneaky complicated movement. Approach, take-off, landing- in each phase a lot goes into the split jump.  This little ledge is a perfect way to reduce impact and practice precision landings.  And of course you gotta train taking off of both legs.  Shout out to my homie, Brandon Sewall, who is even more obsessed with the idea of "both sides” than I am.

Squat Spiral / Crawl -  Single-leg knee bend, again! Now spinning on the toes, it’s tricky, tricky, tricky…Spatial awareness, rotation around a central axis, and just a badass looking transition.  Right into a crawl, exit stage right. 

 

TAKEAWAYS

So many little lessons show up in training if we take the time to look closely enough. These same lessons typically apply to life in some way.  They usually serve to reinforce what we already know and keep important themes at the forefront of our attention.  So here’s what I took away from this particular session.

 

The warm-up set the tone for the rest of the session. The movements naturally progressed to more challenging expressions. It was a very playful session but also very productive.  Building out some parameters kept me reigned in just enough.  

Takeaway:  When creating anything: set an intention and work from an outline. Not having a plan can be as paralyzing as an overly restrictive one.   

 

There’s a kid in the candy store effect on a day like this. It would’ve been easy to skip a proper warm up, but I resisted the urge to dive right in and indulge my desire to soar through the air.  As a result, my practice had a definite crescendo and come down.  No injuries or major mistakes. Win.  

Takeaway:  Slow your roll. Exhibit some patience. It ultimately makes the whole experience more fulfilling. 

 

I wasn’t very concerned with the people around me, but I did make a conscious effort to approach my training in a certain way.  I understand that my monkey behavior is a bit deviant. From the outside, there are a lot of questions or assumptions.  In our litigious culture, everyone is concerned that you’re going to get hurt and sue.  I strive to make it clear that I’m working with rhyme and reason.  I don’t push to be daring, so much as dialed-in.  If conversation arises, I love the opportunity to share what this is all about.

Takeaway:  DON’T be concerned with judgement from other people.  DO be conscious of how you’re actions are being perceived. Always be an ambassador for your values.

 

I could’ve just pushed through my intuition and trained at the gym.  It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.  I could’ve trained all the same movements, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near the same experience.  The walk, the training, the sunshine, the wind, the people, it all created an experience to renew and challenge me on a higher level.

Takeaway:   Work needn't be a grind all the time. Stop, check-in, listen to your body, and consider what it would benefit from most. Sometimes it’s ok to just savor the flavors.