Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Parkour teaches the art of moving

By Val Willingham, CNN Medical Producer
Click to play
Working out Parkour style
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Parkour, "art of moving," is a physically challenging practice designed by a French athlete
  • Participants run along a route, using obstacles to propel themselves
  • It is a complete workout that requires strength of both body and mind
  • Orthopedic surgeon calls parkour risky: "One wrong jump can lead to a serious injury"

Watch for Health Minute on HLN. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

(CNN) -- Most people know him as Sean. But to his best friends, Sean Hannah is "Spiderman." Since he was a child, Hannah has been scaling fences, climbing trees and skinning knees -- all in the name of fun. He says he just likes to keep moving. "I am very active. I like to change my routine. Keep it different," he says.

Now 27, with a degree in kinesiology, Hannah has taken his rambunctious childhood pastime to a new level: Using the skills he developed as a kid, Hannah has parlayed his passion for motion into mastery of a popular physical discipline known as parkour, which he has started teaching to others.

Parkour, which in English means the "art of moving," is a physically challenging practice designed by French athlete extraordinaire David Belle. The idea is to have participants run along a route or course while navigating obstacles that may be in the way, such as walls, tree branches, steps -- even buildings. The obstacles can be (and often are) used to propel the runner and gain speed. The idea is to get from one place to another using only your body and the objects around you.

"Parkour is sort of everything when it comes to moving," Hannah says.

Video: Parkour keeps you moving
You need agility, you need endurance, you need strength, you need power, you need balance and coordination, you need a lot of mental focus.
--Sean "Spiderman" Hannah

Although it can be practiced anywhere, most parkour aficionados choose urban settings because cities provide many structures to work with, such as fire hydrants, steps and rails. On the official parkour Web site, Belle is quoted as saying: "You want to move in such a way that will help you gain the most ground as if escaping or chasing something." Think of the first scene in any James Bond movie and you get the picture.

Hannah says it's a full workout. "You need agility, you need endurance, you need strength, you need power, you need balance and coordination, you need a lot of mental focus. Parkour forces you to move intelligently."

Hannah became so good at the "art of moving" he recently began teaching a class in parkour at The Sports Club/LA in Washington. Starting with the basics, he helps his students work their way up to performing parkour routines that are not just fun, but safe as well. Judah Kelly, a client of Hannah's who played football in college, says he loves parkour because it's different. "It's tough but cool," says Kelly. "I'm not used to throwing my body around that way."

Neither are most people; that's why classes can help. "You just can't start a parkour routine. You have to train for it," Hannah warns. "There are parkour moves that can help you break a fall, and avoid injury. That's important."

Hannah should know. In his quest for the perfect parkour routine, he's suffered a few injuries. "I broke my hand, pulled muscles in my feet," he says. "But that was before I started really conditioning for my routines."

You just can't start a parkour routine. You have to train for it.
--Sean "Spiderman" Hannah
RELATED TOPICS

Doctors agree with Hannah and say it's best to go slowly when taking on a parkour regimen.

Former Olympian and orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Johnson says the activity is risky. "One wrong step or one wrong jump can lead to a serious injury. It's not for the weekend warrior," he says.

Johnson also warns, "Parkour is not a competitive sport. It is a vigorous form of exercise."

You also have to be mentally ready. "Just like playing golf, tennis or other physical activities, you're always thinking about the next step," he says. "You need to be focused with each movement that you take and never second-guess yourself."

Hannah tries to hit his favorite courses as much as he can. He picks parks and routes where the obstacles are challenging but the chance of injuring himself or someone else is minimal. Although his buddies say he'd try to climb the Washington Monument if he could, Hannah knows safety is important when performing parkour, because when it gets down to it, it's all about enjoying yourself and staying fit.

"It's like being a kid again," beams Hannah. "I love it."

 
Quick Job Search