Parkour heads indoors at new Calgary facility

A deep foam pit catches backflipping athletes while others in loose-fitting sweatpants and bare feet tumble over obstacles and swing on metal bars between tall wooden ledges that simulate urban structures. Breathe Parkour in northeast Calgary is the latest base for parkour and freerunning.

Matthew Talbot-Turner manager of the gym says his focus is to give the parkour community in Calgary a home and a safe indoor place to practice away from the city’s often harsh elements. He says parkour is popular in Calgary and he’d hate to see the sport disintegrate due to the weather.

Parkour is an urban sport involving running jumping and climbing between obstacles — stairs retaining walls and rails — while incorporating rapid stylized movements such as flips and twists. Parkour was created by David Belle who was inspired by the obstacle courses (parcours du combatant) employed by Georges Hebert for military training.

Breathe is the second parkour-only gym to open in Calgary following the closure of No Limits AFC in January due to lease issues. Not only will the facility be a place for people to go practice and learn parkour but it will also host special events on the last Friday of every month. “One night it might be DJs another it might be an obstacle course competition” says Talbot-Turner.

In addition to the special events Breathe works closely with the Autism Aspergers Friendship Society (AAFS) providing movement therapy through parkour to children with the disorders.

One of Breathe’s sponsored athletes Andrea Ross took the initiative to introduce more women to parkour which tends to be dominated by men by creating a women’s-only parkour group called Varkour.

Ross 31 created the group as a way to “introduce women of all backgrounds to the art of parkour.”

The name isn’t based on what you might think. It was created by combining the elements of strong female names in mythology like Valkyrie and Vixen — all names that start with ‘V.’

Ross also created Varkour Day a special event just for women to learn parkour in a safe environment the second of which takes place on June 21 at Breathe.

The predominance of men in the sport could be the result of its reputation as an extreme series of stunts but Talbot-Turner stresses it’s more than that. And while it’s mostly youth who come by the gym to try parkour he says they’ve had 63-year-olds in classes as well.

“Most adults view it as something scary or as something only kids could do or should do and that’s just not true” says Talbot-Turner. “It’s going to get you back in touch with your body it’s going to teach you to move in ways that you knew how at one time but forgot.”