If walking or running gets boring, maybe you should look into the sport of freerunning. Freerunning and parkour may be based on the body’s fundamental abilities and physical growth, but many participants believe in these sports’ abilities to transform one’s life.
Senior Joel Barnes said, “Freerunning made me see the world differently. I see all obstacles as new pathways. There are no obstacles.” This isn’t just a hobby for many freerunners or traceurs (those who partake in parkour), it’s a way of life.
Parkour and freerunning are sports that have been growing in popularity for the past 20 years. The idea of parkour is to move your body from one point to another in the quickest way possible. In contrast, the goal of a freerunner is to move creatively along a path, rather than a direct route.
Barnes is a freerunner who flips his way across campus in his spare time. During his sophomore year, Barnes started a group on campus to practice his techniques and get together with other students who shared an interest in the hobby. He is looking for new participants for the club, so contact him if you are interested in freerunning. Barnes takes time to train freerunners and traceurs at any skill level.
Barnes came to Eckerd to study marine biology, but his love for adventure extended further than his studies. “I freerun because it’s the way I release stress and clear my mind,” he said. “It’s also a great workout. Running is boring and I hate lifting weights. Freerunning changes every day. You can go to the same place every day and have a different experience.”
Parkour was initially developed as a training program for the French military. When the body performs a sequence of physical obstacles, the brain stores the motor-movements.
Each time a person repeats the course, muscle memory advances, which improves spatial skills.
The activity gained a following with civilians when two men from France, Sebastien Foucan and David Belle, began imitating the training programs. Foucan and Belle became the founders of freerunning and parkour.
These sports are now practiced internationally. “The academy aims to convey my experience of movement and instill in you the confidence that comes with self-development,” Foucan said on his freerunning webpage (foucan.com). “The fitter and more able you become physically, the more well-being you will experience.”
Barnes got into freerunning while doing high school cross-country. He and his friends would turn a three-mile practice run into a one-mile obstacle course, jumping over fences or anything in their path.
Barnes didn’t realize his cross-country shenanigans were an established sport until an onlooker mentioned the terminology while he and his friends were doing acrobatics at a local park.
Barnes began practicing the sport using freerunning tutorials on YouTube. His friends would get together, exchange techniques and teach each other their newfound moves.
Freerunning is an activity that can be experienced with others but it’s also very personal.
The sport can serve a different purpose for each person. Whether you freerun for exercise, endurance, discipline, creativity, entertainment or something else, it’s a sport that is physically and mentally beneficial.
In an out of control world, total control of your own body and its movements provokes to some, a sense of peace.
The life lessons instilled in freerunners and traceurs might be subjective to each individual, but it’s bound together by a common thread of overcoming obstacles. “That’s part of the philosophy of freerunning,” said Barnes. “Everything has its own interesting part about it. It’s the ultimate form of true expression and freedom.”