Morzine Training Camp
From the 16th to the 20th of September Parkour Generations’ very first residential training camp took place, held in the beautiful location of Morzine (French Alps) and run by Forrest and myself. When Dan came to me to ask if I wanted to do it, he jokingly spoke about it as “a nice little holiday in the mountains, to chill out doing Parkour and other fun activities”… He new that by sending Forrest (with a background as an elite professional fitness instructor) and me (an outdoors adventure-loving globetrotter), the words “training camp” would find all their meaning and the event would be nothing like a “nice little holiday”. I gladly accepted the invitation.
Forrest and myself discussed the general way we would run the training and devised a few little surprises for the blissfully unaware students that were to follow the course.
We all met at Geneva’s international airport and after introductions went off in minibuses towards Morzine, an hour away. The location was sumptuous, a big village with all the necessary comforts surrounded by mountains and split in two by a fresh little river. The gods must be traceurs, as they granted us 5 days of ideal weather (it had been raining for days before our arrival).
We checked into our new home, a brand new chalet with kitchen and living room, and while the others set off to watch a professional ice-hockey match, I stayed to check out the area and find inspiration for exercises.
The next morning at 6am, after a short night’s sleep, we were out jogging, as we would on each day of the course. We came back for breakfast and headed back out immediately for the first conditioning session: a simple and small wall run followed by a controlled climb down. The 100 reps proved deadly on the hands of the guys (especially because Forrest would make everyone start again if one of them failed to do the exercise properly) and they all carried painful blisters until the end of the course. And we had just started…
Over the first 3 days we willingly deprived everyone of sleep by going out to train at odd times of the daily 24-hours spectrum, to the point where it became hard to distinguish the imaginary line separating one day from the next. The nights were short and the resting time between sessions even shorter. Muscles quickly became sore, minds tired.
On one occasion, I had everyone walk in balance on a thin rail of a bridge over the river, then traverse under another bridge. I grinned as tired arms gave in, letting their load drop into the chilly water. One of my favourite moments was when I took the group into a nearby forest and had them all strip down to their underwear. The interrogative eyes turned worried when the monkey-walk session I was leading brought us straight into the river.
At this point we just had our already numb hands and feet in the water but I pushed further and after balancing on a fallen tree across a section of the river, we all went for a dip and had to monkey-walk out of the river by forcing our way against the current.
I felt very proud that everyone (very reluctantly for some) did it, however difficult they may have found it. It’s true that cold water is something I’m used to and the thermal shock wasn’t too bad on me, but Forrest didn’t feel the same and a quiet “Thomas, I hate you now” managed to slip out, to my greatest delight!
We continued barefoot through the woods carrying a heavy log each. After a while, I obliged everyone to carry it on both arms, at stomach level, which is a killer on the biceps. The only resting position I allowed was a crouching one with the log resting on the legs. This position is not so comfortable and prevents over-resting. We continued up a little trail that took us back to our starting point where everyone expected the exercise to end, only to discover that we were going for another round (not knowing when it’s going to end is a fantastic morale-breaking torture).
Forrest also had his very own fun surprises in the form of sets of press-ups in larger amounts, day after day: what started as 130 press-ups on day 1 became 500 on the last day!
Of course, “Parkour Camp” also means parkour techniques, not only conditioning, and we used the environment we had to the fullest over the week and found a host of tricky jumps and movement challenges to lose our temper on. We even headed to the deserted ski resort of Avoriaz (packed with tourists in the cold season) to face a few more arduous experiences. Although the training regime we had imposed was quite intense, at no point did anyone complain; each student went on with his task, suffering in relative silence.
A really cool white-water rafting session took place one morning, which did a great job at temporarily taking our minds off our muscle pains and waking us up as the cold water splashed us over and over (we ended up jumping from boulders into the river anyway).
Throughout a big part of the course, we were happy to have among us Dan from Loaded Magazine -a young journalist working on an article about our training in Morzine- who bravely followed the sessions. Considering he had no background in Parkour, he showed tremendous courage and motivation by pushing himself to the very limits. If he couldn’t do an exercise because of a lack of strength or technique, he would adapt it to his abilities and find a way to train anyway, although the temptation must have been strong to just say: ‘I can’t do this, I’ll just wait for the next exercise…’. He went far beyond his professional commitment of writing an article, his efforts were truly inspirational and gave an extra reason to everyone to keep on trying hard. I was told that he later said that these days with us had been the hardest in his life. Bravo.
On the last day, I was sick for an unknown reason and very reluctantly had to skip the morning warm-up: hiking to the top of a nearby mountain. Since this had been my idea, Forrest decided to replace it by a walk during which press-ups had to be done every 5 minutes, no matter where the group was. I used this time to rest my ill and already sleep-deprived body but joined the guys in the afternoon for the last session, a summary of all that had been done during the 5 days, including the dip in the river.
Though several doubts emerged as to whether it was another sneaky joke or not, I think everyone felt relieved when Forrest announced that the Morzine training camp had officially reached its end!
We all gathered one last time for dinner in front of a reinvigorating ‘raclette’ dish and a glass of wine, sharing our opinions and ideas about the course. It had been the first of its kind and proved to be very successful, as most if not all the students discovered something about themselves that had cost them a great deal of sweat and pain to reach.
Another camp is already planned for next year, and using our respective experience, Forrest and I have tons of fun ideas for the unsuspecting students. The ranks should then be reinforced by a handful more of Parkour Generations coaches and a whole lot more students (including a few female practitioners this time) to make it a parkour adventure such as has never been done before.